Alves saves Brazil against South Africa in Confed Cup

JOHANNESBURG: Barcelona defender Daniel Alves spared Brazil's blushes as his late goal earned the five time world champions a 1-0 win over spirited South Africa here Thursday to book their place in the Confederations Cup final.

This semi-final against the hosts was heading for extra time until Alves, in an inspired move by coach Dunga, replaced Andre Santos and broke the stalemate with a curling free kick in the 88th minute.

Explaining his master move Dunga said: "We knew it was going to be difficult, we knew South Africa were going to attack, to defend and counter attack.

"The game was very tight so I sent on an aggressive player (Alves) who is very quick and a specialist in set pieces, he practices set pieces every day.

"We had to make use of any opportunity that came our way so a foul in fornt of goal was perfect for us."

Brazil now face the United States in Sunday's final with South Africa heading to Rustenburg for the third place play-off with Spain.

"I think we played very well against a team recognised as one of the best in world and even surprised Brazil. I'm very proud," said Brazil-born South Africa coach Joel Santana.

"It seemed as though it would be 0-0 but then Brazil had the set piece relying on its experience placing three players in our wall to make it difficult for our keeper.

"We showed we were able to hold our own. Now we have another year to prepare for the World Cup."

South Africa were without suspended midfielder Macbeth Sibaya, his place taken bySiphiwe Tshabala, while Brazil midfielder Luisao started for injured Juan.

The two adversaries made it into the last four in wildly contrasting ways - Brazil sauntering through as Group B leaders with maximum points, South Africa edging through on goal difference as Group A runners-up.

With President Jacob Zuma watching, about the only one of the 48,000 fans not blowing into a vuvuzela, South Africa made a promising start as they fought to make their first final since the 1996 African Nations Cup.

Against the run of play Itumelang Khune was forced into action to save a Ramires effort while shortly after his counterpart Julio Cesar was in full flight to cover a long range effort from speedy defender Siboniso Gaxa.

South Africa were giving as good as they got as Brazil tried to work the ball repeatedly down the left flank using Inter Milan back Maicon as the key link.

On 21 minutes they should have scored only for Tshabalala's header off a freekick to go high.

As the half hour beckoned the Kaizer Chiefs midfielder unleashed a carefully constructed 30 metre freekick with only Cesar's palm preventing the hosts taking the lead.

Down at the other end Khune safely held onto Andre Santos' volley.

Kaka produced his first bit of magic as he darted through the South African defence but the Real Madrid forward's curving shot drifted wide of the far post.

Brazil were fortunate not to go into the break trailing as Steven Pienaar had Cesar beaten with his stinging 35 metre shot from the right but the status quo was upheld when the ball edged wide.

The holders were not at their brilliant best against a South African side that were scampering after every ball as if their lives depended on it.

On the hour, with Dunga looking on pensively,Teko Modise's close range shot deflected off Luisao before hitting the beaten Cesar's right post in a period of domination from Joel Santana's side.

With eight minutes left and as extra time loomed Dunga introduced Alves into the fray and the Barcelona defender repaid the confidence when he beat the Bafana Bafana wall with a thundering freekick two minutes from time.