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Kaka wins his fitness race

Kaka, the Real Madrid playmaker, looks injury-free in Brazil's first full training session in South Africa.
Kaka, the Brazilian forward, stretches after a training session yesterday in Johannesburg.
Kaka, the Brazilian forward, stretches after a training session yesterday in Johannesburg.

JOHANNESBURG // Kaka, the Real Madrid playmaker, looked injury-free in Brazil's first full training session in South Africa yesterday. Kaka had been practising separately from the rest of the team because of a left thigh muscle injury and there were fears that he would join the growing casualty list of high-profile players who will miss the tournament.

But he completed all the drills and appeared unaffected by the ailment that has affected his performances during his first season in Spain. Dunga, the coach, had said Kaka would take it slowly in the team's first days in South Africa but would eventually be ready for Brazil's World Cup opener against North Korea on June 15. Brazil arrived in South Africa on Thursday are aiming for a sixth World Cup title.

"Kaka himself knows what he can do and he will feel when he is fully ready," Dunga said. Luis Fabiano, the striker, also arrived in South Africa with an injury - a muscle ailment that kept him from playing with Sevilla when it won the Copa del Rey title last week in Spain. But he joined Kaka and the rest of the players in a practice session with ball drills and tactical exercises. Dunga wants to the players to spend as much time together so they can work better as a team.

"We have to gain a group aspect again," Dunga said. "It's been a long time since we played together, so there are many details that we have to adjust before the World Cup begins." The coach said the team's two warm-up matches against Zimbabwe in Harare on Wednesday and Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on June 7 will be valuable to their preparation. "We will try to use these matches to make adjustments and test our options," Dunga said.

The five-time world champions are practising at a school in Randburg. The session was opened to journalists but closed to fans, although several school employees and some students sneaked in to watch the players. "It's just fantastic to have these guys here in our school," said 28-year-old teacher Xander Vandyk. The team later practised at the team's hotel in a closed session. Meanwhile, Julio Cesar, the Brazil keeper, is horrified by the ball which will be used at the World Cup, likening it to a cheap one bought from the supermarket. "It's terrible, horrible," said the Inter Milan player, widely considered to be the world's top goalkeeper.

"It's like one of those balls you buy in the supermarket." Wendell, the Brazil's goalkeeping coach, said the new ball was highly unpredictable when hit from long range. "The danger for goalkeepers is when they come off their line," he said. "They need to stay in a safe place otherwise the ball will drop behind them (and into the goal)." The World Cup ball, named 'Jabulani' which means 'to celebrate' in the Zulu language, was billed as the first perfectly round ball and the most accurate yet when it was unveiled by Fifa.

Among those quoted at the presentation ceremony in December was Kaka, Cesar's Brazil teammate, who said in a statement: "For me, contact with the ball is all important, and that's just great with this ball." * Agencies

Published: May 29, 2010 04:00 AM

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