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Another World Cup let-down for Kaka

By Pedro Fonseca

PORT ELIZABETH (Reuters) - Brazil's Kaka has bowed out of the World Cup for the second time in a row with the frustration of failing to produce his best on the biggest stage.

Four years ago, the playmaker was in a star-studded albeit overconfident Brazil side that failed to meet expectations and were knocked out in the quarter-finals by France.

This time Kaka was given a much more prominent role but, still battling for full fitness, was only able to provide much-needed midfield inspiration in small doses.

Luck was also against him.

He was wrongly sent off in Brazil's second game with Ivory Coast and denied when his curling shot in Friday's quarter-final with Netherlands was brilliantly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg.

If his chipped effort had gone in, Brazil would might have had a potentially decisive 2-0 lead before halftime. Instead, the Dutch fought back for a stunning 2-1 win.

Kaka came into the World Cup after an injury-plagued debut season with Real Madrid.

Brazilians hoped he would peak at the right time and find the form that saw him named World Player of the Year in 2007.

But, like the rest of his team, he showed only exasperating flashes of his true potential, despite improving slowly as the tournament wore on.

"There were moments when I didn't think I was going to make it to the World Cup but my team mates gave me support and helped me to keep fighting," he told reporters. "Only I know how much I fought to get here."

"We lost on the details, on two set pieces, and this causes a feeling of pain and frustration.

"I know how painful it is for those who are suffering with us and they can know that we are suffering as well."

Curiously, Kaka's most successful World Cup was 2002 where he left with a winner's medal but played for only 20 minutes as a substitute in the group game against Costa Rica.

The 28-year-old said it was too early to think about playing in 2014, when Brazil will host the event.

"I don't know what's going to happen from here on," he said. "It's a very difficult moment for me, in my career.

"It's still a long way off and this defeat is very recent. At this moment, I have to reflect."

(Writing by Brian Homewood, Editing by Ken Ferris)