RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 19 (Reuters) Central defender Juan, rather than Ronaldinho, Kaka or Robinho, won the plaudits after Brazil ground out a 1-1 draw away to Peru in their World Cup qualifier.
The unflappable AS Roma player commanded the Brazil defence in yesterday's match in Lima, repeatedly clearing dangerous home attacks with expertly-timed headers and tackles.
He had been similarly impressive as Brazil held on for a 0-0 draw in Colombia in their opening match last month and yesterday's display was the latest indication that Brazil's defence, traditionally seen as their weak point, has now become their main strength.
Peru defender Juan Vargas's second-half goal was the first Brazil have conceded in their last four competitive internationals and the first of the South American World Cup qualifying competition.
Juan and Lucio have now been together at the heart of the Brazilian defence for more than two years.
They were two of the few players to emerge from last year's World Cup with any credit after Brazil conceded only two goals in five games.
Although Lucio missed this year's Copa America through injury, Juan's partnership with Alex Costa was equally impressive as they won the trophy, keeping clean sheets in three of their six games.
''I would go further to say than we have found the ideal couple,'' said coach Dunga recently.
''You can easily find 10 or 15 top level defenders. All the ones I've picked have lived up to expectations.
''We Brazilians have tended to worry about this area in the past, but now we are exporting defenders and goalkeepers as well and this makes me happy.'' Juan also came within a whisker of giving Brazil a late win when he headed against the crossbar in the last attack of the game.
A Brazil win, however, would have been harsh on the hosts, who despite their own poor form took the game to the five-times world champions.
Brazil were hustled out of their stride and neither Ronaldinho nor Robinho made much headway.
Kaka showed up in flashes, which included another stunning long-range goal and a delicate chip which Peru goalkeeper Diego Penny managed to tip away.
Peru have not qualified for a World Cup since 1982 and Robinho admitted that a draw was a poor result, given the apparent gulf which separates the two sides.
''I think Brazil have to play to win wherever we go,'' he told reporters. ''I don't see a draw away from home as a good result, not for the Brazil team.'' Reuters AB RN2028