The Rebuilding of the Brazilian National Team
After being knocked out in a humiliating fashion, a disastrous second half display against the Dutch at the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup, Brazil found itself lost, in search of its soul. Ever since the tragic defeat to Italy at the infamous Sarria Stadium in Barcelona in the 1982 World Cup, Brazil’s approach to football (soccer) became a more cautious one. This cautious method was always contested by many, coming to the pinnacle of its criticism, after the defeat to the Holland team led by Wesley Sneijder. The football structure in Brazil was being criticized once again, from player coaching, managerial approach and up to the most notable liability which is the vision and direction of CBF (The Brazilian Football Association). Brazilian fans were viewing teams playing more stylish football than the legendary yellow & green, which is unbearable for a Brazilian fan. Change is the number one priority for Brazilian football.
For starters, the 2010 South African World Cup call up of the Brazilian national team squad, indicated that failure would be almost
inevitable. Despite being able to rely on better quality of players, manager Dunga’s persistence in calling up players based on his
personal relationships, or disciplinary record indicated that the most talented Brazilian players would not participate of the starlet 23 men squad. After the victorious Confederation Cup win over the USA in July 2009, Dunga wrongly closed its squad for the world cup one year before. That meant, if a player was not figuring in the Confederation Cup squad of 2009, he would have to play exceptionally well to have a chance to figure into the World Cup squad, while other mediocre players were being called. The manager based his conceptions on average players such as the aggressive Felipe Melo (Juventus), the over the hill Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), the average Elano
(Galatasary) and the overated Robinho (Santos) among others. On the substitutes bench, Dunga named was what arguably the worst bench Brazil has ever taken to a World Cup since 1930 (probably the worst Brazilian squad ever). He called names such as the outdated Kleberson (who was bench at mid table Flamengo), the average Julio Baptista (bench at Roma), the clumsy Grafite (Wolfsburg) to name a few. Players that were unable to change a game’s rhythm or even call the responsibility of defining the match themselves. While he left out others with a very good skill set, that were in good form such as Ronaldinho Gaucho (the best Brazilian player in Europe last season at Milan), the ever sufficient Hernanes from Lazio (ex- Sao Paulo FC). More notoriously, he left the two new golden boys of Brazilian football from Santos FC, Paulo Henrique Ganso and the rebellious Neymar. Brazil lacked quality in its squad, and that was clear for critics and die hard fans. One journalist, while in the press conference of the World Cup squad, thanked Dunga for not being the manager of the 1958 world cup as he would have left a young Pele at the age of 17 out of the team due to his “coherence and logic”.
Off Brazil went to its Johannesburg camp at the South Africa World Cup. Dunga, while in his playing career embodied the new pragmatic
approach to Brazilian football, setting up a team that was his translation of football. His tactical style of heavy marking in defense and midfield would create gaps in the opposing team’s defense, allowing quick counter attacks, killing the game with a deadly strike
from its center forward (Luis Fabiano) or a set piece play. The problem, as stated above, was that Brazil did not have enough options
on the bench if the system did not work. The tactical scheme was laid out one year before at the Confederations Cup. It worked well in that competition. However, soccer is a very dynamic game, in which form and current mental state of players and teams change within even a course of a game (as exemplified in the Dutch game). It would be naïve to close the options of strengthening the squad with new players or even working on weak links that the squad had (such as a proper replacement for an injury prone Kaka). So Dunga, going against critic and public demand for changes which the moment required, stuck with his players and even placed an average Grafite to be a replacement of the forward line (due to the scandals surrounding Adriano). Fans protested as did the media, and Dunga closed his team in a military style regime in South Africa. Since the team met in Curitiba (South of Brazil) in mid May 2010, until the end of the defeated campaign in early July, the squad of players only had one day off! On top of that, unless it was an official FIFA press conference, the players had no contactwhatsoever with the outside world, apart from phone calls of family and regular TV and Internet connections! The recipe for defeat in a high level mentally draining competition was set, and the result was a barbaric looking leader (Dunga) and a psychotic group of playerscompletely lost in the first face of adversity in the competition.
Brazil’s look into its current national team was of big disappointment. The so called “futebol de resultados” (soccer of results) that was established in Brazil after the defeat to Italy in 1982, had reached its lowest point. Playing with two defensive minded midfielders was not a guarantee of success. Even worse, the fans witnessed teams such as Germany and Spain practice convincing attack
minded soccer with many tactical variations that produced positive results. The idea of change was imminent in everyone’s mind, with the exception of Dunga and his loyal assistant Jorginho (legendary right back from 1990 & 1994 World Cups). The need to go back to the roots of Brazilian football was a demand of the public, to show the world the true character of Brazil; joy, authenticity and flair. A new manager would come on board and the President of CBF (Brazilian Federation), Ricardo Teixeira invited Muricy Ramalho of Fluminense. A manager known for having defensive pragmatic tactics. Unbelievably and luckily he turned the job down!!! Teixeira’s next call, would be Mano Menezes of Corinthians. A manager who has been the biggest success of the new generation of coaches, linking the qualities of extreme tactical knowledge while maintaining great relationships with star players (more notably Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos) and with the demanding press.
Mano Menezes had only 48 hours to give his first squad list for the game against the USA in early August 2010. The list, despite initially
thought to be a base from his club Corinthians, was the opposite of that. He only called one player from his old club, that being Jucilei.
The base of his squad was the Santos team, who days earlier had been champions of the Brazil cup. Robinho (now Milan), Paulo Henrique Ganso, Neymar and Andre (now Dinamo Kiev) were in the headlines for the first squad. Mano Menezes, utilize the scheme that he has used so well before in Gremio and Corinthians, which is the 433. He only called 4 players that went to the South Africa World Cup, sinalizing a wish of Ricardo Teixeira to rebuild a whole new team for the 2014 World Cup which will be held in Brazil. The call up was of many young players that will have possibilities to perform to a high level of soccer at the competition. Mano is putting, in the initial phase of his era in the national team, the chance to test many young players, before he calls the high profile players such as Julio Cesar and Maicon (both Inter Milan) into the group. He will have an attacking team that values the possession of the ball and the positioning of players with 3 men in the forward line and always 4 men in the defensive line. Sometimes he may play a 442 formation, depending on the players he has available and the type of opposition he faces.
The first game against the USA, his team had a very positive display, with playing a 433 formation. The line up was Victor (Gremio); Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Thiago Silva (Milan), David Luiz (Benfica), Andre Santos (Fenerbache); Lucas (Liverpool), Ramires (Chelsea), Ganso (Santos); Robinho (Milan), Neymar (Santos) and Alexandre Pato (Milan). The team played with many debutants, more notably Ganso and Neymar. Ganso, who was unfortunate to have an injury playing for his club, is set to have the national team built around him after his recovery. That means that Kaka (the only true Brazilian star of the Dunga era), will either have to make Mano Menezes change his favorite formation from 433 to 442, or will have to settle in fighting for another spot in the team or face being placed on the subs bench.
Mano Menezes’ Brazil has faced, this previous week, the teams of Iran and Ukraine. In the game against Iran, the team had a couple of
changes from the first game. However, the players did not perform well, despite having an easy 3×0 victory with goals of Daniel Alves,
Pato and Nilmar. The Ukraine game, Mano Menezes placed a 442 formation, adding the multifunctional Elias (Corinthians) to the place of Philippe Coutinho (Inter Milan). The team played well, winning the game 2×0. With the result Mano became the first manager since Carlos Alberto Parreira in 1991 to win its first 3 games in charge of the Brazilian National team.
Next month, Brazil will face its old rivals, Argentina in Abu Dhabi. Mano Menezes should call a more European base of players to continue his tests. As the Brazilian league is reaching its climax, the clubs will not want to release their main player’s at the most important part of the season (Brazilian league finishes in early December 2010). He has stated that Ronaldinho Gaucho may have a chance in future call ups, and will look closely into the former World’s Best Player in the games against Chievo in the Italian Serie A and Real Madrid in the Champions League. The idea now is to start molding the team to play the difficult Copa America 2011 that will be held in Argentina. That will be the first big test of Mano Menezes Brazilian era. He also has the incumbence of building a competitive Olympic team (U-23) to win the obsessive Olympic gold medal at Wembley Stadium in 2012. As Brazil will not be participating of the World Cup qualifiers by being the hosts of 2014 World Cup, Mano Menezes will have the tough job to get the team ready for the competition in international friendlies, the Copa America 2011, 2012 London Olympics and Confederation Cup 2013.
Not an easy task for a manager being handed the tough job of having to regain the lost soul of Brazilian football, plus win and entertain the 2014 World Cup in a mesmerizing fashion in front of ultra demanding fan(atic)s. Victory with style is the only acceptable outcome, and he knows it.
Thanks for reading my text. Stay tuned for my blog as I will bring you more insight into Brazilian and European soccer.
About the Author
Written by Dennys
Soccer fan with knowledge from Brazil and European Soccer!