Brazil - youth, power, and a distaste for the passing game
Sunday was the 39th anniversary of a previous Brazil victory over Italy by a three-goal margin. One of the main architects of that 4-1 win in the final of the 1970 World Cup was Pele, who last week was criticising the current Brazil side.
He gave an interview during which he was drawing tactical diagrams, explaining that in comparison with his day, the team's central midfield play is "bureaucratic." It is an observation that many purists would agree with - for what it's worth, the present writer among them.
Dunga's Brazil don't care - and, while they are racking up wins as convincing as Sunday's against Italy, why on earth should they?
Whether or not they go on to win the Confederations Cup, the most important thing is that Brazil have put their cards on the table and shown that in a year's time, in the real thing, they will be right there among the favourites to lift the first World Cup on African soil.
Dunga's Brazil, with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo in centre midfield, are not and will never be Pele's, with Clodoaldo and Gerson. The change reflects a switch in philosophy of Brazilian football which is a reaction to two things. Firstly, the rise in northern European football in the 60s and 70s, and especially the pressure that the Holland side of 1974 put on the ball. Second, the failure of Brazil's wonderfully gifted 1982 team.
The thinking is as follows - the physical development of the game has made it much harder for teams to play an expansive passing style through the middle of the field. Instead, matches are won and lost at two key moments - set pieces and transitions (those moments when possession changes hands from one side to the other).
A glance at Brazil's recent performances will show how much attention they pay to these two situations.
They have been scoring lots of goals from free kicks and corners. Brazil count on players who can whip the ball in at pace, lots of tall players to attack the ball and an impressive variety of options. My favourite was the free kick from which they were awarded the last-minute penalty which won the game against Egypt.
They had already scored from a corner to the near post, where Egypt were having defensive problems. So that was the expected target area, but instead Daniel Alves chipped to the far, where Lucio got in a volley that was handled on the line. But more than intelligent and effective set pieces, the hallmark of the current Brazil side is its devastating counter-attack. They are probably the only team in the world who, when the opposition have a corner, can legitimately see this as a goalscoring opportunity for themselves.
Coaches all over the globe will be thinking of ways to protect their team against these weapons, studying the trajectory of the free kicks and trying to work out how to stop the counter-attack at source. Before next year, then, Dunga will have to come up with some variations. In the evolution of the team, he has already made one interesting switch.
Last year Brazil were having real problems at home. The away results were good - the opposition were pushing up and playing into their counter-attack. In front of their own fans, though, it was a different story. Being held 0-0 at home by Bolivia was one of the most surprising results in the history of South American football. Their previous home match was a goalless draw with Argentina. The next one was a 0-0 draw with Colombia.
In none of these matches Brazil looked like scoring. The solution was to free Maicon to crash forward from right back with his terrifying physical power and considerable technical ability. This was done by dropping an attacking midfielder (effectively Ronaldinho) and bringing in Elano on the right of midfield, to cover Maicon, double up down the flank or cut inside as required.
In the last couple of matches, this role has been filled by the livewire Ramires, giving Brazil another rapid option to launch the counter-attack. But this comes at a price. It pulls the midfield over to the right, and leaves the left back unprotected - a problem exacerbated by the fact that neither Kleber nor Andre Santos look entirely convincing in the position.
On Thursday we will see if South Africa can exploit this gap. In the semi-final Brazil will get a taste of their own medicine. The Bafana Bafana are coached by a Brazilian and, on the evidence of Saturday's match against Spain, Joel Santana has them looking a bit like a current Brazilian team.
Spain are a side of nimble ball players who look to pass their way through the opposition - the very style Brazil have abandoned. For a while South Africa had some success against them, packing central midfield with three markers and seeking to spring forward down the flanks, where roving full-backs were linking up with the wide, creative midfielders - just as Dunga's Brazil did when they beat Argentina, another old fashioned passing side, in the final of the 2007 Copa America.
Assuming that Brazil beat South Africa and Spain get past the USA, that could also be the blueprint for the final of this year's Confederation Cup.
UK users can watch all of the Confederations Cup games live on the BBC Sport website, while television coverage is on BBC Three as well as the red button.
Comments on this week's piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to firstname.lastname@example.org I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag;
Q) I noticed my club Liverpool were linked with a move for a Uruguayan midfield player, Nicolás Lodeiro, who is playing with Nacional. Just wondered if you could tell me any more about him? I saw reports suggesting that Barcelona were also monitoring his progress, would you say that Liverpool/Barcelona were a level he was capable of reaching? I also saw some rather fanciful comparisons with Leo Messi, but is that simply lazy stereotyping? Any information would be appreciated.
A) He's my favourite thing this year. Little left-footed attacking midfielder - but less of a dribbler than Messi, more of a passer. Makes the game flow so well because he usually knows what he's going to do before he receives the ball. Made a big impression at the start of the year in he South American Under-20 Championships, then went straight into the Nacional side and is their top scorer as they've reached the Libertadores semis for the first time since they last won the thing in 1988. I think he's starting to look a bit tired, which is no wonder.
I have very high hopes of him, but would hope that he doesn't move right away to a club where he won't be getting a regular game.
Q) Sao Paulo's star player Hernanes has been doing pretty well by all accounts in Brazil and many commentators over there have said he is ready for a big European move. Do you think AC Milan supposed interest make him automatically 'Kaka's successor', or do you think he's a different player altogether?
A) I rate him very highly and think the time has come for him to move. He's not Kaka at all - rather than someone who runs at the opposing defence with the pace, power and directness of Kaka, he's someone who should be used a bit further back. He is versatile, but stands out for his ability to pass the ball well off either foot. For reasons mentioned in the article above, nowadays Brazil can be cruel on this type of player - they would rather fill central midfield with athletes and markers - and confusion about his role has been a factor in a slump of form recently.
For last week's key quarter-final match in the Libertadores Sao Paulo left him on the bench in favour of a bully boy marker who was sent off in the first half. It is one of the most depressing selections I've ever seen and it got what it deserved.
Rather than Milan, I'd prefer to see Hernanes in Spain - as soon