Dunga shows way to Maradona
Dunga and Diego Maradona - two World Cup winners as players, who are going through contrasting fortunes as novice coaches.
Dunga has steered Brazil through to World Cup qualification with matches in hand, and has picked up the Copa America and the Confederations Cup along the way. Maradona, meanwhile, is sitting in the hot seat with his Argentina in danger of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1970.
So why has one of them taken so easily to coaching and the other is floundering?
Of course, in one important sense this is an absurd comparison. Dunga has had far more time to get his feet under the table. Maradona took over with Argentina already in trouble in their 2010 qualification bid. As I pointed out in last week's blog, his predecessor Alfio Basile resigned after a run of one win in seven games, with fixtures easier than those Maradona has had to face.
Maradona shakes hands with Dunga before the World Cup qualifier in Rosario
Dunga, meanwhile, was appointed straight after the last World Cup, and enjoyed nearly a full year of experiments before his first competitive game. Maradona was thrown in at the deep end, while Dunga could pick up momentum from the shallow.
Dunga has also enjoyed a couple of key moments of luck. The first was in the 2007 Copa America semi-final when Uruguay's Pablo Garcia struck his kick against the inside of the post in the penalty shoot-out. Had it gone in Brazil would have been eliminated and Dunga may well have fallen.
As it was they stayed in, went on to win the shoot-out and came home in glory after beating Argentina 3-0 in the final.
Just over a year later, though, the scores were reversed when the two great South American rivals met in the Olympic semi-final. Brazil were having a bad time in World Cup qualifying and it was widely felt that only by winning the elusive gold medal could Dunga survive.
But the next rounds of qualifiers came so soon after the Olympics that there would have been no time to bring someone else in. Dunga was given another life, and took full advantage.
Perhaps in comparison with Maradona, Dunga's greatest stroke of luck is that he can count on a goalkeeper like Julio Cesar and a centre-back like Lucio. Argentina have nothing similar. It has been years since they produced a world class goalkeeper, and since the international retirement of Roberto Ayala they have a glaring lack of a top-class centre-back.
Not conceding goals increases the coach's margin of error and serves as an excellent confidence booster. Time and time again Dunga has had cause to thank his two defensive giants.
Some five months ago Argentina went down 6-1 to Bolivia at the altitude of La Paz. Brazil's trip to the highlands to face Ecuador a few days earlier could have been equally humiliating. The entire game seemed to be played in their penalty area but Julio Cesar stood tall and Brazil came away with a point.
Putting all of Dunga's success down to luck is clearly a nonsense. A long unbeaten run like the one his side have put together is clearly the result of competence and commitment. Perhaps, with time and the odd favourable wind, Maradona will be able to do something similar.
But there is an important difference between the two men. Maradona has been told that he is something special ever since he was an adolescent. Dunga has grown accustomed to hearing exactly the reverse.
The holding midfielder at the 1990 World Cup, Dunga was pilloried and held up as a symbol of the limitations of failed team. He gritted his teeth and developed his game. Recognising that he had grown too comfortable in the position of ball winner, he worked hard at improving his passing until he became the key link between defence and attack in the side that came out on top in USA '94.
As he held the trophy aloft as the World Cup-winning captain, he had some choice words for those who had written him and the team off.
Dunga lifts the World Cup after Brazil's win over Italy in 1994
This seems typical of the man. Named after 'Dopey' from 'Snow White', his nickname has always struck me as right film wrong dwarf. 'Angry' might be more appropriate, or perhaps 'Downright Truculent.' He stomps his way through life seemingly fuelled by the desire to shove it back in the faces of all his detractors.
That is the spirit he has taken into the job as Brazil coach. Boo him, call for his sacking, criticise his team selections, dislike his team's style of play - millions can do it and it won't change his course by an inch. He'll keep doing it his way, come what may.
Such strength of conviction helps explain why Dunga qualified Brazil for the World Cup using 36 players in 15 matches. In his six rounds in charge, Maradona has already used 30 - with more changes likely.
Early in his reign, Dunga said that one of the most difficult aspects of making the switch from player to coach was acquiring patience. This, for Maradona is almost certainly even harder. Firstly, he was clearly the far better player, secondly he is a man who seems to run on emotion.
In his box at Boca Juniors' stadium, if he wanted to take his shirt off and swirl it round as he led the chanting, then off it came, caught up in the emotion of the moment.
As a player Maradona was a great strategist, but his game was undoubtedly aided by the capacity to channel his emotion into physical activity. As a coach he can't do this. So what does he do? He changes the side - three goalkeepers in six games, strange substitutions, some players selected on emotional grounds, either because he seems too close to them or the consequence of a nationalist folly that home-based players will give more for the cause.
All these changes are not leaving him any closer to having a team. It might be different in South Africa when he will have to restrict himself to a squad of 23. But first he has to get there.
Comments in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
In all the excitement of World Cup qualification, last week I forgot to give out the e-mail address - and while I got some great comments, I didn't get questions in. Normal service should be restored next week.