Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brazil Falters

By Bagga Wilks

Mano Menezes has been experimenting with the Brazilian squad since he succeeded Dunga as the coach of the Brazilian national team. In essence the experiment has come to a close as Menezes has settled on his squad of 22 that he has selected for Copa America. A squad is not a team and that was obvious from Brazil’s goal-less draw with Venezuela.

Menezes has adopted a 4-3-3 formation and on paper, the aggregation has the potential to be one of Brazil’s great national teams. Up front, there is Neymar, Robinho and Plato. In the mid-field, there is the highly touted Ganso, and there is Ramires and Lucas as the defensive mid-fielders. Brazil is quite solid in the back with Lucio and Thiago Silva as the central defenders and Dani Alves and Santos as the two full backs. And there is Julio Cesar in goal, one of the best between the sticks in the world.

In recent World Cups, Brazil has produced great teams. The 1970 team with Pele, Carlos Alberto, Gerson and Jairzinho was formidable. That team destroyed Italy in the 1970 World Cup Final.

The 1994 Brazilian team that edged out the Italians in penalty kicks included Romario and Bebeto as strikers, the indefatigable Mauro Silva in mid-field and the indomitable Dunga as the defensive mid-fielder. The two central defenders, Adair and Santos performed brilliantly as the World Cup staged in the United States.

The 2002 World Cup team was comparable to the 1970 team although for some people that would be tantamount to soccer sacrilege. But the 2002 team included Cafu and Roberto Carlos, two full-backs who transformed that position. During the 2002 World Cup, we saw Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo at the peak of their careers. No one can forget the scintillating dribble of Ronaldinho against England ending up with the body-shift that left Campbell and Ferdinand spread- eagled and the killer pass to Rivaldo that broke the back of England’s hopes of advancing in the 2002 World Cup.

The performance in South Africa in 2010 was not up to the celestial world standard that is expected of the Brazilians. Netherlands knocked them out in the quarter-final. Dunga had built the team around Kaka who was recovering from a serious injury and was only a shadow of himself.
Brazilian fans and the Federation are not known for their patience. Prior to the start of Copa America, Julio Cesar in response to the fans booing the Brazilian team after a scoreless draw against the Netherlands, the Brazilian goalkeeper pleaded for patience.

In Copa America 2011 in Argentina, Brazil like Argentina is off to an inauspicious beginning. On July 9, they will face Paraguay who drew nil all with Ecuador. Menezes’ squad must save Menezes’ job by at least emerging from the round robin stage and into the quarter finals.

Brazil dominated the first half against Venezuela but even though chances were created, Brazil failed to score. Both in the first half and the second half, Brazil’s build up was too slow and the running off the ball was non-existent. Neymar and Ganso, two up-and-coming stars failed to put their stamp on the game. But this was the opening stanza of a protracted drama. This is a team inundated with talent. Copa America will tell if Menezes is capable of blending this abundance of talent into a formidable strike force. Against Paraguay and Ecuador, we will see if the aggregation can forge a pathway and achieve some level of greatness.

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