A day after Brazil cruised past Ghana into the quarterfinals in 2006, Robinho predicted his next match would be Zinedine Zidane's last in a France shirt.
"He's a great player and teammate but I think this will be his last international match," Robinho said. Both played for Real Madrid then. Zidane's masterclass wowed Brazil into submission in Frankfurt and as Robinho went home, France made it to the final.
Whether that's been a chastening experience couldn't be confirmed but after Brazil beat Chile in Johannesburg on Monday, Robinho did sound markedly different. "We can't afford to be big-headed. We need to stay humble…," he said.
With a playing style that is often extravagant, Robinho, for all his talent, could have been a misfit in Dunga's Brazil. Instead, he has been a key player, starting in three of the four games.
His stepovers and dribbles have wowed audiences worldwide but what's more important for Dunga is that Robinho's helped set up two goals and scored one. He was adjudged Man of the Match against Chile. Against North Korea when Dunga pulled out Kaka, he got Robinho to fall back into midfield, a ploy he could contemplate repeating in Friday's tie.
"I am happy for my goal but I think, I could have played better," Robinho said, after his eighth goal against Chile. Only Pele has that many. And though Kaka said the "group" was happy with Robinho's first one, the little forward himself felt he didn't deserve the award.
More proof of humility in the player Pele found shades of himself as a youngster at Santos came when asked about the match against Holland. "I am confident and we are prepared but it will be a difficult match."
If Robinho can help Brazil win, it could get his club career back on rails. On loan to Santos by Man City, the Robinho story in England has been one of promises he's failed to keep following a £32.5 million (Rs 230cr) transfer from Real Madrid, a British record. "He has an incredible ability and I am hoping he will be brilliant in these few matches to come," Tostao, a 1970 Cup winner, was quoted by BBC. Greater freedom given by Dunga is how Tostao explained the transformation to a match-winner from being benched by City.