Could personal technology stop a winning World Cup squad spirit?
I have been back in England for a quick visit and I was struck by an outburst that Hull boss Iain Dowie aimed at his squad.
"Sometimes the players have to forget about the iPods," he said. "They need to think about what really matters."
He went on to admit: "I'm not a big fan of these big earphones on the way to games," and that "my thing with the iPod generation is that when they leave the ground and go away to their closeted little lives they shouldn't forget what's got them where they are and what impact they can have."
It is, of course, the complaint of a member of one generation about the desocialising effect of technology on the next.
Argentina star Lionel Messi in his own bubble as he listens to his headphones
Towards the end of his international career, England defender Gareth Southgate observed that when the squad were together at the end of the day, those sitting round a table having a chat and swapping experiences were the older players. The younger ones had scuttled off to their rooms and their laptops, DVDs, video games and so on.
So how can the coach create and maintain a collective spirit among his squad in an age when the players are willing and able to stay in their own private little world?
This is a question that is especially pertinent for national team coaches as the 2010 World Cup approaches. True, they can count on a certain linguistic and cultural harmony among their players. But they operate under huge time restrictions. Outside tournaments, the squad are together for just a few days. In these short periods, how can a collection of individuals be moulded into a team?
Seen as a stop gap when he was appointed after the World Cup in Germany four years ago, Dunga has taken his team to victory in the Copa America, the Confederations Cup and first place in South America's World Cup qualifiers. Many will dispute his methods but his results are beyond reproach - Brazil go to South Africa on a run of one defeat (and that at extreme altitude) and 18 wins in the last 24 games.
He had no previous coaching experience. But he did have experience in the threat that technological advance can pose to group spirit.
He was captain of the side that won the World Cup in 1994. "That team had something fundamental," he said. "It was a group that taught the country how to win. We went without for 24 years, with exceptional players, but unable to take that step. And that 94 generation did it, showing that work comes first."
Four years later in France the team never looked as solid, and fell apart in the final against the hosts. Quite apart from any technical or tactical deficiencies, Dunga acknowledged a small piece of technology played its part in their downfall - the mobile phone.
In 1994 they were almost unheard of in Brazil. By 1998 all the players had them. And so the outside world was continually allowed in, interfering with the focus of the group, undermining the process by which a team gels and the collective unit becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Back in 94, Brazil's coaching staff were worried about Romario. The little striker was extraordinarily talented. But he was a born individualist. Could he be relied upon to tow the line, to be part of a team effort on and off the field over the course of an entire World Cup campaign? The fate of the entire endeavour was hanging on finding an answer.
The solution? Put Romario in the same room as Dunga. The combative midfielder helped keep him in line, and the rest is history.
It is also an inspiration for the present day. When Dunga took over as coach, one of his early moves was to stop the players having individual rooms. They should share, and they should bond.
This process seems to have taken place with enormous success. Players such as Elano and Robinho may have had problems with their clubs, but on national team duty they are seen as paragons of commitment, ready to carry out any role required of them. Dunga has been able to bring their talent into his project. They are part of his group.
It is for this reason that Dunga looks like holding out against a form of pressure traditionally exerted by the Brazilian media in the build up to the World Cup - the campaign for star names. Two months ago it was all about Ronaldinho. Now, Santos wonderkid Neymar is the peoples' choice.
But they are not part of his group - and Dunga can argue that individuals might win matches, but groups win titles. But the knives will be out if his group do not prove good enough to bring the glory back from South Africa.
Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to email@example.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag:
Q) We all know about the fortunes of Adriano, Ronaldo and Robinho, but I was wondering what you could tell us about other players who have returned to Brazil - namely, Roberto Carlos, Fred, Vagner Love, Cicinho and Kleberson. I hear that the two full-backs in particular have struggled.
A Still early days for Cicinho, who has been struggling for fitness. Roberto Carlos had early problems with the criteria of the referees - these days in Brazil everything is a foul, and he was sent off a couple of times. But as he's found his feet there has even been speculation that, with Brazil having problems at left back, he could sneak into the World Cup squad.
Fred had some injury problems last year. Since coming back he looks impressive, giving a terrific platform up front and leading the charge as Fluminense had a miracle escape from relegation.
Kleberson of Flamengo was excellent until getting injured last year - recapturing his 2002 form and winning an international recall. The club are going through some turbulence at the moment. Vagner Love has been scoring goals for them, after an unhappy return to Palmeiras, but his partnership with Adriano has been hit by the latter's injury.
The Brazilian Championship kicks off in a couple of weeks time - boosted by the presence of all these players.