The five-time champions played well in their 3-1 victory Sunday, advancing to the last 16 with a game to spare in Group G. But the physical match could have created difficulties for the Brazilians, coach Dunga said.
"The players have passed a tough test," Dunga said. "They showed a lot of maturity because they got hit from the beginning to the end and never hit back."
The Ivorians played with intensity, coming in hard into every ball dispute and posing challenges the Brazilians are not used to facing. There were hard fouls from both sides, players confronted each other several times at Soccer City Stadium and Kaka was ejected after drawing his second yellow card. Ivory Coast finished with 23 fouls, Brazil 17.
"I always tell my players that they have to play hard, but they have to play football," Dunga said. "If we lose the focus and start getting into a shouting match with the opponents, we are not going to be able to play as well as we can."
Dunga said the maturity showed against the Ivorians may give Brazil a much-needed edge for the remainder of the competition. The only downside was the late ejection of Kaka, which the coach said was "unfair."
Kaka was sent off in the 88th minute after a collision with Kader Keita, infuriating Dunga and the rest of the Brazilian players. Keita appeared to run into Kaka while going for a ball, but the Africans were upset with the play because they said Kaka dropped his right elbow as Keita moved in.
The Brazilians quickly came to defend Kaka and a shoving match nearly began.
"(The match) was very complicated, very physical and with a lot of fouls," Dunga said. "Everyone who likes football cannot accept what happened. Those in charge of controlling the spectacle need to know what is football and what is not. It's hard to play football with art like everybody asks for if the referee allows this to happen."
But the former defensive midfielder known for his tough play said he would have loved to be playing in the match refereed by France's Stephane Lannoy on Sunday.
"I would be very comfortable in a match like that, the referee would even come congratulate me at the end," he said.
Despite being pleased with his team on Sunday, Dunga isn't quite so happy with the media, keeping alive an ongoing spat with Brazilian journalists.
In the news conference after the match, Dunga interrupted one of his answers and got into a discussion with a TV reporter who apparently was shaking his head as the coach spoke. Dunga asked the reporter if there was anything wrong, and the journalist replied that he wasn't even looking at the coach.
Dunga then started muttering curse words that were caught by microphones. The coach kept looking at the reporter throughout the interview, and at the end he went to one of the reporter's colleagues and said some more harsh words.
FIFA suspended Argentina manager Diego Maradona for two months following a profanity-filled rant after his team qualified for the World Cup. FIFA said Monday it was not aware Dunga had cursed during the press conference.
Dunga will be able to rest some Brazilian starters in the match against Portugal on Friday in Durban. Although Brazil has already clinched a second-round berth, the match may still be important to decide which team goes through as the first-place team. Brazil will play the round of 16 against teams from Group H, which has European champion Spain, Chile, Switzerland and Honduras.
Elano should be fit to play despite being substituted in the second half against Ivory Coast because of a right ankle injury, according to team doctors.