Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Menenzes Precarious Perch

By Bagga Wilks

Brazil and the Netherlands in a friendly on Saturday, June 4, 2011 played to a scoreless draw. The Brazilian national team will play another friendly on Tuesday, June 7 against Romania. That will be the last the team will play before the squad is reduced to 22 and to make final preparations for Copa America which begins in early July. Copa America will be a big test for Mano Menezes. If Brazil does not do well that will be his final curtain as Coach of the National team.

Menezes started out splendidly. Under his stewardship, Brazil seemed to be on a role. The team played exceedingly well against the United States. Against France, they were dominant until their mid-field player who was representing the Brazilian team for the first time received a red card. The task of keeping eleven men on the field is a new and vexing problem for the Brazilian squad. In the quarter-final of the World Cup against the Netherlands, Felipe Melo was sent off. In the recent game against the Netherlands, Ramires was sent off ten minutes before the final whistle. Ramires seems to be having a problem staying on the pitch for 90 minutes. In the Champions League game against Manchester United, his persistent fouling also led to an early shower.

There is no room for error when one is selected to coach the Brazilian national team. Dunga had his run and transformed Brazil into a defensive Italian –like makeover. Scolari who has returned to coaching in Brazil was successful in 2002 but he had Ronaldinho and Ronaldo when they were both at the top of their game.

Menezes’ task is to find an eleven with the right chemistry that can return Brazilian football to the top of the heap. There is an abundance of talent in the making. Against the Netherlands, Menezes started Lucas and Silva as his central defenders, Fred Neymar and Robinho as his strike force, Andres and Alves as his attacking full backs, and Ramires, Eleano and Lucas as his midfield players.

The defenders will not be problematic. What remains unresolved is the chemistry up front and the need for a playmaker. Ganso who appears unquestionably the burgeoning playmaker that is head and shoulder above his counterpart is not yet fully recovered from injuries and may not be ready for Copa America. Neymar is the new sensation and Robinho has survived Dunga’s demise. But there is still the search for a quintessential striker with a commanding presence in the air. It is left to be seen if Fred or Damiaco can effectively fill that void.

Spain has jumped to the front of World Football. Players like Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Silva, Bousquet, etc. play better Brazilian football than the Brazilians. Time is not on Menezes’ side. Not only is Copa America a few weeks away but the World Cut will be staged in Brazil in 2014.

Mr. Menezes has a full plate, a lot to chew on, and even more to digest. Julio Cesar, Brazil’s goalkeeper, has pleaded for more time for the Menezes methodology to take hold but Brazilian fans are not known for their patience. The team was booed after the scoreless draw against the Netherlands. Mano Menezes is cognizant that there is no room for failure. In the world of Brazilian soccer, winning is not everything, it is the only reason for soccer being.

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