Stage is set perfectly for Kaka resurgence
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Kaka has not been quite himself for the last two seasons but the signs are good that the Brazil playmaker and former World Player of the Year can showcase his best form at his third World Cup.
With the spotlight firmly on Argentina's Lionel Messi, Kaka will not have to deal with the huge expectations which invariably surround the world's top player and took their toll on his team mate Ronaldinho four years ago.
Real Madrid's failure to reach the last eight of the Champions League and nagging injuries which recently sidelined the midfielder for six weeks could also yield benefits as he is less likely to be burned out.
Brazil certainly need Kaka at his best.
His power, acceleration, vision and finishing, often from distance, make him a permanent threat and he fits in perfectly with Brazil's physical, counter-attacking style.
Dunga's team have suffered badly when he has been absent. Their friendly defeat against Venezuela, 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss in Paraguay and goalless draw at home to Bolivia all came with Kaka injured.
Dunga has a natural aversion to big-name players and had no hesitation in leaving out Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and, more recently, Ronaldinho.
Kaka, religious and known for his charity work off the field, has escaped Dunga's axe. He was even excused after asking not be picked for the Copa America three years ago, saying he needed a rest.
The World Player of the Year in 2007, Kaka has been relatively subdued for the last two seasons, especially following his move to Real Madrid, where he has suffered from a series of injuries.
Kaka, who damaged his spine in a swimming-pool accident at 18 and attributed his recovery from potentially crippling injuries to his faith in God, even suffered rare off-field criticism after donating his Player of the Year trophy to the controversial Reborn in Christ (Renascer) church.
He won a winners' medal eight years ago in Japan and South Korea but played only 25 minutes of the finals, in a group match against Costa Rica.
Four years ago, he floundered along with the rest of the so-called Magic Quartet as Brazil went out at the quarter-finals after a limp campaign.
South Africa is the perfect chance to make amends.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Robert Woodward)