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Brazilian football needs to take the opposition seriously

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Tim Vickery | 08:48 UK time, Monday, 28 November 2011

I flew back to Brazil from London on the day that the group phase of the Champions League kicked off. I well recall that the talk in England at the time was that the entire group stage was dull and predictable. It was almost too easy for the Premier League sides. But that is not the way things have turned out.

The gods of football have a tendency to punish such hubris. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the England national team. Begged to appear in the first, pre-war World Cups, England stood imperially aloof. In 1950, when they finally did deign to appear, fate laughed in their faces, reserving for them a sensational 1-0 defeat by the United States.

Albeit with more justification, Brazilian football can occasionally trip up on a tendency to underestimate the opposition.

I have always been fascinated with Brazil's displays in the 1974 World Cup. I was nine, it was the first World Cup I had followed and my head was full of tales of how astonishingly brilliant Pele and company had been four years earlier. What would they produce this time?

Not too much, as it happened. Full of internal problems, the team proved unable to play to anything like its potential.

I can still remember the glamour of Rivelino's rocket free-kicks, and, in the early stages at least, right winger Valdomiro produced some touches and made everyone fight for the right to 'be' him in the park after school.

But the overwhelming memory, right from the first game against Yugoslavia, was one of intense disappointment. In the end, in what was effectively the semi-final, the Netherlands put them out of their misery, with the air of the dynamic new force knocking out the declining old champion.

About 10 years ago, I came across some copies of 'Placar,' the excellent Brazilian football magazine from the early 70s. It was full of information about how the Brazil team of the Mexico 1970 World Cup had been rebuilt on the road to West Germany four years later.

There was one article that stuck in my mind. In 1972, Brazil organised a big international tournament - in effect part of Joao Havelange's campaign to secure the Fifa presidency. Invites were sent out to teams all over the world. Many declined. This particular issue of the magazine registered the fact that the Netherlands had refused to participate. "Just among ourselves," said the magazine, "Holland will not be missed."

Johan Cruyff

The Brazilian press underestimated Johan Cruyff's emerging Netherlands side. Photo: Getty

Admittedly, the Dutch national team had not done too much by 1972. But Feyenoord and Ajax were already major players at club level, the latter with a philosophy of play that would revolutionise the game - and would be employed with success against Brazil in that decisive game two years later, when the gods of football demanded their revenge.

The gods were busy again last week in the first leg of the semi-final of the Copa Sul-Americana (as it is known in Brazil, or Sudamericana elsewhere - however you spell it, the competition is the continent's Europa League equivalent).

Vasco da Gama of Rio were at home to Universidad de Chile, who this year have been one of the sensations of South American football.

'La U', as they are nicknamed, have been dubbed 'the Barcelona of the Americas'. Their coach, Jorge Sampaoli, recognises that this is a massive exaggeration, but he is rightly proud of what his men have been achieving over recent months.

Their style of play is an indication that Marcelo Bielsa planted some interesting seeds in Chilean football before he resigned as national team coach and ended up at Athletic Bilbao, where he has made such an interesting start.

Sampaoli is a Bielsa disciple. Like his mentor and fellow Argentine, Sampaoli wants his teams to attack at all times, regardless of the opposition or the location of the game.

'La U' defend high, looking to win possession in the opponent's half of the field. Compact, dynamic, aggressive, they attack with a centre forward and two wide strikers, with Eduardo Vargas on the right the team's most dangerous player.

In style and with a swagger, they have now gone 30 games unbeaten. The undoubted highlight of the run was a 4-0 win away to Flamengo of Rio, Ronaldinho and all. And the most astonishing thing is that the scoreline was an injustice. 'La U' would not have been flattered by a seven-goal victory margin.

But before Wednesday's first leg, none of this seemed to impress Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Fernando Prass.

There are solid reasons for Prass to be full off confidence. Vasco are having an extraordinary year, winning the Brazilian Cup, in with a chance of the league title going into the final round and also into the last four of the Sul-Americana.

A thoroughly competent keeper, Prass has made an immense contribution to the cause. But last week he missed an excellent opportunity to stay silent.

Unimpressed with all the 'Barcelona of the Americas' stuff, Prass played down the threat of Universidad de Chile. The Chilean Championship, he said, was well below the Brazilian in terms of technical quality. Fair enough, 'la U' had thrashed Flamengo, but he was unable to judge them on a couple of games.

Prass seemed to be overlooking the fact that the good results of 'la U' were not restricted to Chile. Vasco have struggled away from home in their Sul-Americana campaign. 'La U' have sailed through, winning away to Arsenal of Argentina after disposing of Flamengo.

They looked like dangerous words from the Vasco keeper, and so it proved.

Vasco had the better of the first half and took the lead. Sampaoli, though, had misjudged his selection, and needed an early substitution to put things right. After the break, his team managed an equaliser - with a bit of help from Fernando Prass.

Vasco's keeper was not the only one at fault for the goal, conceded from a free-kick. But his decision to come out was a poor one. There was no way he could reach the ball, and he was in no-man's-land when a back header from Oswaldo Gonzalez went in.

Fernando Prass had paid the price for tempting the gods of football. I wait eagerly to see what they have in store for Wednesday's return match.

Comments on the piece welcome below. Email questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week. From last week's postbag:

Q) I remember listening to the Radio 5 live World Football Phone-in about a couple of years ago when one of the topics was people's favourite football books. There was one that you mentioned that I meant to make a point of buying but I can't recall the name. I'm sure it was a football history one. Any chance that you know which one I mean?
Mark Rennie

A) I believe I do! It was The Ball is Round: A Global History of Fooball, by David Goldblatt. An immense achievement, it does South America better than almost anything else that's out there in English, and covers the rest of the world too.

On the subject of the World Football Phone-In, this is a nice moment to get the word out that instead of our standard hour and a half, we're doing a mighty four-hour special on 16 December.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Or how about the mugs at manchester ciddy?

    "We'll score when we want" they sung. Next match they take a pasting from Napoli.
    Ho ho ho...

  • Comment number 2.

    I've got The Ball Is Round, it's a great book! I only got it a couple of years ago so I'm pretty sure it's still in print. Highly recommended.

  • Comment number 3.

    Another excellent blog Tim! Always interesting to see that you should expect a downfall if you build yourself up for one!

    I have a few questions which I hope you may be able to answer.

    A number of teams (most notably man utd and chelsea) have been circling around lucas and ganso. What are your thoughts about their ability and adapatablity should they move to the premier league?
    What ever happened to young nicholas milian? I remember he was touted as a hot prospect when he made his colo colo debut at the age of 14?
    Having watched the Man Utd v Benifica match, a lot of attention (rightly so) was on gaitan, however I was particularly impressed with the (now) experienced pablo aimar. I remember when he signed for Valencia he was billed as a heir to maradona. What went wrong?

  • Comment number 4.

    Foot in mouth disease like Prass' is not confined to just Brazilian football, but it's an integral part of the game and what feeds blogs like this one. Vasco are a good team but are also an aged team. Against la "U", they had a good first half, but ran out of steam in the 2nd half, due to the pressure by the Chilean champions and were lucky to escape with a draw. Hopefully we'll see la "U" put Vasco out of their misery this week.

    As far as not taking the opposition seriously, in the case of Brazil, in pre-1994 WCs, they always seemed to have the attitude of needing to just turn up to collect the trophy ...only to go home empty-handed. Adding better tactics to superstars like Romario and Ronaldo resulted in success after that.

    At club level, it's baffling that Brazilian clubs, in general, have so consistently failed to win much at international level. Clubs such as Corinthians, Flamengo, Fluminense seem to be successful in Brazil's local league but never deliver in the continent's competitions. The fact that Argentinian clubs have been very successful in this regard must add insult to injury.

    Universidad de Chile are also in that category of being huge locally but have failed to win anything at international level. Here's hoping that will change this time.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4 balderunner

    agree but would say that foot in mouth disease is not just confined to football, but human nature.

    how many times do people do this... no humility... will they ever learn

    anyway good blog,

  • Comment number 6.

    I remember Brazil of '74 as a kid younger than you at the time Tim: mainly because Scotland had qualified that year. My dad had preached for months that we would never get anything but a good beating from the fabulous Brazilians but of course we drew and really should have beaten them to be honest - why did Billy Bremner nudge that ball onto the post and not the net I'll never know - because they were clearly not the Brazil of old: too defensively minded and slow. Awful to watch and instead I fell in love with the Dutch 'total football' and can still remember Cruyff doing his 'move' against the Argies. The Dutch should have won that year.

    Foot in mouth is neither confined to Brazil or football, but sits alongside 'commentator's curse' and 'blog curse' (if PM ever writes a blog on Arsenal). You see it time and again and I agree with #5 that humility is the best path in football. Arrogance can be entertaining of course, especially if it all goes wrong - and its not your team of course - but best not to tempt the footballing gods.

    Good blog Tim.

    Please feel free to annoy the football gods and predict that Scotland will NOT win the 2014 WC in Brazil and I can start to hope that we might just get there and do it!!! We've tried everything else!

  • Comment number 7.

    Rob-04
    @6

    I was at the 74 world cup, whatever way you look at it, West Germany covered all the angles. They lost to East Germany 0-1, deliberate manipulation [I phoned home and lumped on with the bookies 6/1 for East Germany]. The defeat ensured that West Germany missed Holland and Brazil in the second group stage.

    The final itself, there was real venom in the stadium that day. It was always going to be West Germany's game, the Dutch were great in many ways but the Germans were the real team of that tournament.

    Brasil and their fans, as a few posters have said, fell into the 'we are invincible' catergory, definately a bad trait in human nature. When it went wrong that year, I believe it was the start of their downfall, they tried to install everything that was foreign to them. An emphasis has been on looking at other nations [copying styles], instead of looking at themselves, to see what was wrong. The Germans on the other hand, do the exact opposite, subtle changes that are within their range. In other words the Germans have never really changed and Brazil have.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think Brazil in 74 and 78 were just 'between generations', the gap between the great players of Pele, Tostao, Gerson, Rivelino and Jairzinho that were at their peak in 1970 and the 1982/1986 team of Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Cerezo, Eder et al. But unlike the generations of 58-70, Brazil's excellent 1980s team never won the World Cup and they realised they had to balance their attacking flair and quality with more solid defence.

    Hence from 1990 to the present day we've had more balanced Brazilian sides with the attacking flair of Romario, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar combined with more prosaic talents of Dunga, Aldair, Mauro Silva, Mazinho, Gilberto Silva, et al. It's not worked at every tournament and people have complained of a more more boring Brazil (particularly under Dunga) but they've played in three World Cup Finals in the last twenty years and won two of them, whereas from 1974 to 1990 they reached none.

    You could also argue that like in 74 and 78, the Brazil team in 2006 and 2010 was between the generations of the three Rs/Kaka and a great new generation that we hopefully will see in 2014...?

  • Comment number 9.

    @Vix Populi

    Genuinely interesting post mate

  • Comment number 10.

    "the Barcelona of the Americas"

    God, i hope they don't have their fanboy following too!

    Most of the blog can be summed up with "pride comes before a fall", and it is of never ending pleasure to see those with pride falling on their faces (especially when the striker runs past them and scores)...

  • Comment number 11.

    @ 10

    Our spanish friend is off the radar, hiding most likely following the "Barcelona of Spain" recent defeat!

  • Comment number 12.

    Vox populi
    @8
    Brazil's excellent 1980s team never won the World Cup and they realised they had to balance their attacking flair and quality with more solid defence.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    That more or less sums it up, they did change and have continued to change since then.

    Currently there is an over reliance on the backs of Brasil. At the last couple of WC and the last Copa they rarely played through the middle, everything was geared to the backs forming the attack. They are certainly unbalanced from the Brasil of 50's to 1970. People tend to think that those sides had no defense at all, they did, it is just people only remember the midfield and attack. Since then they have changed styles many times, it is like they are searching all the time. Many of those periods have seen Brasil incorporate European styles of play, at times their style change has been drastic, rarely subtle.

    There no longer appears to be an identity for Brasil. The complete opposite are the Germans, who have rarely changed, no matter the playing strength and when they do, the changes are subtle because their foundation remains constant.

  • Comment number 13.

    11, I'm sure it was all just bad luck and biased referees, mixed with 90% bad grace.

    I'd love to see a 70s style Brazil against the current mighty champions of Spain / Barca...

    I don't see why a team should play against their spirit, and it was a given that Dunga would value his style of play so highly in the success of Brazil. Shame he felt the need to take so much samba out of the team in the process

  • Comment number 14.

    @ 13 I'm sure it will be belgian referees or getafe players diving and doing their best impressions of the bolshoi ballet theatre!

    Yeah I'd like to see the spain side against the 2006 winners Italy. I think Italy's style especially that time with gattusso, pirlo, ambrosini etc would have completely nullified xavi and iniesta.

    I can see there being a few surprises in this year's CL, there's normally a surprise winner every 6-7 years. Last time it was Porto, Dortmund before that, Red Star Belgrade etc.

  • Comment number 15.

    poor things, I guess Messi is very tired, after playing nearly every game - them being a one man team and all...

    must be like doing press ups for 90 minutes, the number of times they have to get up after diving...


    Back on subject, I can see obvious parallels with English football attitude towards other countries' teams, and Brazils.

  • Comment number 16.

    Yeah but it's strange because Brazil had the samba style and I'm sure that it worked quite well during the 2002 WC? I think like Argentina and maybe because the majority of their top players play their club football in europe, they feel it is necessary to adopt some european traits to their game.
    For example look at how a lot of the top brazil players are all big, powerful athletes nowadays (full backs and defenders especially).
    I think like england, they're losing their identity. Hopefully if say utd buy couple more english players like rodwell, they'll have a good nucleus of players that should transfer to the england set up and adopt a similar playing style.

  • Comment number 17.

    Biggest problem for Argentina is that their best player is (like Rooney maybe, and Lampard with Gerrard) a problem to fit in within their system of other players.

    I would hazard that Argentina would play better if they stopped trying to feed Messi a la Barca. He's a professional footballer, he can adapt and maybe even improve his game.

  • Comment number 18.

    @16 eduard_streltsov_ghost

    Although I have been reading your posts and nodding my head in general agreement with you, i have to disagree with one of your points in your last post.

    You claim that we may be loosing our football identity... I would say that yes Samba Football, Total Football, Cattenaccio, Efficient Football (ran out of slogans for Germany!) are all footbal identities.

    However, running around like a headless chicken, incessant crossing into the box, clenching fists/manic pointing/spot of clapping, and then an inevitable knockout through loosing a penalty shoot out is not a footballing identity.

    It is more of an outdated footballing culture, of which we should be trying to desperately get rid of.

  • Comment number 19.

    eduard_streltsov_ghost
    @16

    Thats the point eduard, Brasil have gone overboard with their backs. It's simply not enough to have strong running backs that attack. It has made them rather one dimensional and a team needs more than that. They are totally unbalanced at the moment.

    I look at the French 98 side, yes everyone says Zidane but take a closer look at how they played and it was all over the park, they had it in every area. Full backs, midfied and attack, a well balanced team, with a touch of brilliance thrown in. Their defence was as good as their attack.

    I agree about England, some think we should change into something we are not capable of. What we do need is balance and one or two players who can set the tempo and play with a hint of flair because we do have the rest. It's a fine line between success and failure.

  • Comment number 20.

    Robbo, if i didn't know better i'd say you were a new soul_patch parody!

    No, you have a fair point about England's lack of identity. The identity we had doesn't work at international level, and we've not adapted. In fact, we've brought in just about anyone else who could change it... and they've miserably failed.

    The best of the intelligent footballers haven't made the step up to managing teams, or haven't made the grade, and we don't generally allow the likes of Mourinho (i.e. not professional footballer) into the managerial game in the UK.

    But teams within the UK have an identity - certainly United and Tottenham do.

    Teams don't do well when they try to be something that they're not - we could never do the Total Football route - but we should have long ago focused on improving what we do.

    I'm not sure what if any is the moral here... but we have watched the likes of Spain, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and obviously Brazil develop good teams and not actually look properly at why this has been.

  • Comment number 21.

    #7
    Germany were a smashing team in '74 and in Muller they had the best striker in the tournament. And I would agree with you about their relatively unchanging style of play over the years: the ultimate tournament team.

    #20
    Teams don't do well when they try something they don't prepare for and is alien to their youth coaching and development systems. The Dutch of '74 were built on the likes of Ajax and Feyenoord and there was a harmony about what they were coached at through clubs right up to the national team. Never provided them with a WC win but their coaching models have produced the goods since the early 70's on a population base of 16m.

  • Comment number 22.

    As already stated, unfortunately hubris is a blight on the human race, as illustrated in post 1, an irony no doubt lost on the poster, and it doesn't get much more pathetic than in the football domain, where we reveal many of our insecurities. My favourite is the football fan who equates success for his club with superior wisdom on anything and everything, which is why I would suggest some people follow certain football teams.

    '74 is the first World Cup I remember too Tim, minus England (I remember the Tomaszewski the Clown qualifier too): that West Germany game in the rain, the Zaire guy who broke from the wall to boot the ball away before Brazil had taken the free kick, the Panini sticker album, Neeskens, Cruyff, the Gerd Muller swivelling winner in the Final. Around that period, I also have a picture in my head of Rivelino scoring with a trademark banana blade of grass scorcher in a BLUE Brazilian shirt. Not sure whether I'm just imagining that. Just didn't seem the same in those shirts.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 17 - Agree. For some reason they insist on the spain model without having the xavis, iniesta, alonsos, to play through the middle. They looked a better side under maradona, though he could have probably been helped had he had a defensive coach, or someone in that role to shore up their defence. He had guitierrez at LB for god sake!!
    @ 18 - LOL I think england's identity is "kick and rush", "pass and play" (or whatever phrase you want to put into it) is a decent way to play. It relies on quick players playing direct, getting into pockets and having strong players that can hold it up, and wingers / midfield maestros to dictate play and get crosses in. Utd have played fairly direct players for years, and have been successful. Like I said, I think it's dependant on players. Obviously with new players like cleverly, wilshire, wellbeck, sturridge etc coming through that can play technical football, there's no shame in utilising the pass and move mentality that exists in UK. It just has to be utilised in certain games.

  • Comment number 24.

    Pause. Take a breath. And continue.

    @ 19 - Yeah totally agree. I think generally speaking, last few world cup winners have been completely balanced. You mentioned the France team. I think the brazil team in 02 was well balanced, cafu and carlos as WB, gilberto in centre. Ronaldo, rivaldo and ronaldinho as magic 3. Italy in 06 also had balance, and grosso and zambrotta to give width.
    I'd prefer england to play less with rooney and gerrard and build a team of 11 players rather than 2 world class players and 9 others to support them. It's always been like that with england, pinning their hopes on a select few rather than the team.

  • Comment number 25.

    Drooper
    @22

    That Rivelino goal was against East Germany in the second group phase, I don't think it was ever more than a couple of feet off the ground. I believe the East Germans were in the blue shirts that day.

  • Comment number 26.

    It is more of an outdated footballing culture, of which we should be trying to desperately get rid of.
    -------------
    Would agree with this point after all its the other football models that are exoported around the globe and not 'kick and rush': and though it may have its strengths, its weaknesses are invariably shown up against better technical oppostion. 'Kick and rush' has tended to promote the big atheletes which is really apparent evn now in boys and youth football. Criminal.

    #22
    I remember Brazil playing in Blue in '74 so if its false memory syndrome, we are both suffering from it!

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 26

    "and though it may have its strengths, its weaknesses are invariably shown up against better technical oppostion."

    I don't know. It depends on who you have in the team, and using the right players. England beat spain for example. I'd have said ghana employed similar to UK tactics in WC, and they were a handball away from semis. If UK had a player like drogba (or shearer when they used to have him) it made sense to utilise your wingers, partnered with a clever player like sheringham or owen, it made further sense to play more direct, or a direct counter attacking system. If you're wanting to play more technically, you can bring on sheri (rooney) and a gazza (wilshire) to give a more patient approach. At least it gives more alternatives.
    I just think the current problem is that there are players there that will play no matter what, and I think the manager (who ever he is) needs to be more flexible to his team selcetions, and adapt to the opposition.

  • Comment number 28.

    @24
    eduard

    I think every team has to have a balance that is suited to their style of play. I doubt if Spain have the traditional balance that most teams build on, defence midfield, attack. They have their balance in specific areas and their style of play has dictated that their defence is their least important area. Example, if you retain the ball then defence becomes less important. It may well be that once teams have overcome the ball retention method, Spain will have a major problem, simply because all of their eggs are in one basket with their style.

    Teams like Germany have never placed an emphasis on one area of the pitch and that is why they are totally balanced.

    Germany have never been blessed with an over abundance of what people state as greatest players but in terms of teams they just keep rolling them out. Beckenbauer and the rest have dictated the national way and it never changes.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for that Londoner and Rob. Nice to know some memory cells are still working!

  • Comment number 30.

    @ 28

    Exactly!! I will put my neck on the line and say that spain won't win this year's euro in 2012. I think teams will have found them out (germany especially) by then and spain will probably go out 1-0 despite dominating possession.
    That's my point with england though, they need to be tactically flexible. Too often they are reliant on gerrard or rooney, or putting gerrard and lampard into a system together which invariably means they lose shape or balance to the team.
    Germany also have the ability to step for tournaments which is a little strange, players like klose and podolski spring to mind. Average form over the season, then come alight during the international tournament!

  • Comment number 31.

    Good stuff as usual Tim. Sounds like Prass didn't engage his brain before he answered a question - easily done but it's amazing how often it happens with footballers, only serving to fire up the opposition more. If I was the manager he'd be fined a weeks' wages.

    On the style of football debate which has cropped up. People are too quick to write off Brazil's set-up at the WC, IMO. I thought they looked excellent during the qualifiers. They simply lost their heads against the Dutch, which as Tim has written about, was as much to do with the manager's indiscipline. I'd like to see a bit more flair in the side than they had then, but everyone must appreciate that playing with attacking full-backs necessitates a more cautious approach in centre mid these days.

    Germany are so strong because they have a huge depth of quality youngsters all getting 90 minutes every week in the Bundesliga, so the step up to internationals is not as big as it might be. Muller goes from obscurity to a Bayern regular to arguably the best player in the WC, all in a year or so. Technical superiority will never go out of fashion, and currently Germany and Spain have the best players IMO.

  • Comment number 32.

    I don't know. It depends on who you have in the team, and using the right players. England beat spain for example.
    -------------
    I would agree with that but you can't play 'park the bus' every time and if you want to compete with the best then you get better technically. Well I suppose you could avoid that because let's face it Greece won a Euro that way. All of the home nations should be re-vamping their youth coaching methods and even in Scotland there is a recognition that we over-promote height and physicality at the expense of technical attributes in kids. And what happens at the youth level is that the bigger and stronger kids who develop faster physically succeed while the smaller (but not technically poorer) get left behind.

    I don't think we will ever be able to, or aspire to, play like Brazilians, but we could compete a lot better with comparable nations. IMO one of the ways to achieve that is developing a better technical player. No reason why we shouldn't aspire to that.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 32

    Exactly, you should get more technically gifted and slighter framed kids into the game, but that's not to say you can't have your big strong engines in the team as well. Like I said, the whole point of a squad is to have different players and different options. It's pointless if you have 25 clones that can only play football one way. If you get found out then there's nothing much you can do!

  • Comment number 34.

    On the subject of football books, I have to give a mention to my favourite by some distance - 'The Miracle of Castel di Sangro' by Joe McGinniss. Fantastic read that really blurs the line between fiction and reality in the world of Italian football, written by an American who only fell in love with the game around the time of USA 94. Every football fan should read it.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think Tim ignores that La U played a reserve squad the weekend before their first leg tie against Vasco. It's also not fair to compare when Vasco has played over 60 games in 3 different tournaments and is still disputing for the Brazilian Championship. La U has a large point gap over their nearest rivals and can afford to rest players in order to give priority to the Sudamericana. It should also be noted that the reason why Vasco has struggled away from home is because they've fielded weakened sides when traveling abroad. It's important to make these distinctions.

  • Comment number 36.

    I keep seeing the word technique as the prime factor of a teams success. England's record against S American sides in tournament play is good. Indeed if it was just a matter of technique, most of Europe would beat us and we know that is not the case.

    The current Brasil team appear to have the same situation as England, we both have something missing when it comes to the national team.

    I believe the prime factor for any team is the manager, he picks the team, decides on the formation and style of play. I recall the most successful England managers in tournament play, all had one thing in common, they had the players behind them. I never saw that for Erickson, McClaren and Capello. I look at Brasil and it is the same for them.

  • Comment number 37.

    Very good point and good blog Tim. Perhaps this is the reason for Brazil's current demise since 2002. They undoubtedly still have the talent: Neymar, Dani Alves, Bruno Cesar just to name a few. Maybe they have underestimated the rise of teams like Spain and Uruguay.

    @1 Or how about the mugs at man u

    After community shield: "This shows who the best team is. We are the champions and we are the team to beat."

    Two months later...

    1-6

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim good blog once again, it's a habit of yours, so keep up the good work.

    The old saying 'there are no easy games' springs to mind. I have always thought of football in terms of, beaten before you start when the mental approach to a game is not 100%. From what you have written, Vasco da Gama were clearly not 100% focused on getting the job done. I wonder what their approach will be for the return.

  • Comment number 39.

    I was in Brasil in 06 during the WC. It surprised me to see how little Brasilians knew about football around the world. I assume things haven't changed, which would explain Prass's attitude. In 06 the media only cared to cover the national team, 24/7, with reports about even the player's underwear. Nothing on the rest. Nothing. I guess journalists were too sure Brasil would win the "hexa" that they didn't even bother to research the opposition. As a result, the whole nation was convinced of victory. So when they lost, explanations for the failure were sought less in the team -- although there was some of that, chiefly focusing on lack of commitment-- than in conspiracies, human and cosmic. Not the first time: in 78, it was Argentina bribing Peru, in 90, the water vs the Argies; in 98, Ronaldo's mysterious illness. I guess in a way Brasil is like the US: too big to care about the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39- For most of the press, I'd say 85% of their coverage is Brazilian football and Brazilian players, specially in Globo, because they don't show foreign leagues live at all, except for a few CL games. Although there are exceptions, specially in ESPN, which gives it's journalists more room to expose their ideas.
    In that 2006 World Cup, it was even worse, because the general idea for most was that this would be an easy WC for Brazil.

    Also, while conspiracy theories that appear usually are absurd, in 1990 the Argies really did put tranquilizers in the water that Branco drinked, Maradona himself admitted it a few years ago.

  • Comment number 41.

    28 I politely disagree: (West) Germany has always had great players, superb footballers, and in abundance. OK, maybe between 91 and 05, not so much, but they still managed to win a Eurocup and make it to a WC final. I'll tell you what, though. Even (West) Germans like to believe they've never had true stars because their play is more about teamwork and hard work. IMO, historically they've been able to blend superstars and hardwork better than most.

    The 1974 team was the most effective showing of an outstanding generation (1966-1974), but probably not the most brilliant showing. No doubt S. Maier, Beckenbauer, G. Müller, U. Hoeneß, Overath, and Breitner are among the best players of the era and deserved winners in 74. But the best players of the 1972 Euro-winning side --the best showing of the generation in question--were not a factor in 74. I'm talking about Netzer un Heynckes. These guys were extremely effective, but also flamboyant, real showmen. Their bag o' tricks contained bycicle kicks, back heels, etc, I mean moves only Brasilians and a couple of Argentinians dare to do back then. Efffectiveness and class, my friend.

    Today's generation reminds me of that great team. Özil, Schürrle, T. Müller, Götze, Reus, and the old guy, Schweinsteiger, are simply too good to be contained. And they’re not the only ones. Quality and depth, my friend.

  • Comment number 42.

    Mengo: Maradona "admitted" the rumor to piss Brasilians off. The smirk on his face says it all. Argentinians won that game fair and square. You can argue Lazaroni lost it for Brasil with one of the most absurdly defensive Brasilian teams in history. And with a shortage of real talent. I think only Careca, and maybe Alemão, Ricardo Gomes, Branco, and Silas were good enough. To be fair, 1990 was the worst (mais chata) WC in recent memory.

  • Comment number 43.

    Antonio Saucedo
    @41

    I think you have misunderstood, what I wrote 'Germany have never been blessed with an over abundance of what people state as greatest players'.

    Ask any individual for their all time eleven and I gaurantee very few would consider a German player, it would be the usual twaddle rolled out Pele, Zidane, Messi, Ronaldo and so on.

    Personally and it is only my opinion, Franz Beckenbauer is very nearly the greatest player of the last 50 years. A fantastic footballer, midfielder, scored goals, defensive genius and a great captain, a natural leader. He would be the first name on my teamsheet, although i doubt many would agree with me.

    Alongside the 70 world cup, I would rate the Germans as joint best winners [of the last half century] but for totally different reasons. Brasil were just beautiful to watch in 70 and it was an amazing world cup because of the strength of the other teams. Germany 74, on the other hand were probably the best team, almost impossible to beat when it counted. I was at the world cup in 74. The Dutch were truly outstanding in that tournament but in the final I recall seeing the Dutchmen [a goal up very early in the game] gradually broken down by the collective teamwork of Germany.

    If I had to name a squad of 22, there would be more Germans in it than any other nation. Then I think I would go for the great Italians and after that I'd take a few flair players with three strikers. Messi would not be in it, nor would Ronaldo, simply because I would want a team to win.

  • Comment number 44.

    Antonio Saucedo
    @41

    Ah! Gunter Netzer, I've never forgiven him, for taking England apart at Wembley. He didn't score many international goals but the one against England was special and he seemed to make a habit of scoring special goals in his career.

    I agree with you regarding the current German team, they look a collective but like all German teams I feel we will see a couple of extra players by the next world cup. They never stand still for long, when it comes to building teams.

  • Comment number 45.

    Interesting blog Tim.

    But maybe you could write a little bit more about the guys that coached Brazil since 1970.

    There is a funny story in Brazil about 1970. The fact is that Pelé knew it would be his last WC and he wanted to win it. Until 1969 the coach was João Saldanha but he was sacked because he confronted Brazil’s president, and Brazil was under military dictatorship at that time. So Zagallo – who had no experience as a coach – was indicated as Brazil’s coach. Pelé played with Zagallo in 58 and 62 (not sure about 66) and the tale is that Pelé went to Zagallo and told him that he - Pelé - was the one in charge. True or false the fact is that Pelé had that team on his hand and his leadership has never been questioned - not even by Zagallo. Although 1974 was a period of transition at Brazilian football, Zagallo has always been questioned as a coach in Brazil.

    In 1978 Brazil was still under military dictatorship and the coach was a military that had never coached a professional team. In 1990, 1994 (and 2006), 1998 and 2010 Brazil had as coach, respectively, Lazaroni, Parreira, Zagallo and Dunga. All of them have been and are questioned as a coaches in Brazil.

    Only at 3 WC we had coaches with credibility in Brazil. In 1982 and 1986 Brazil had Telê Santana. Although he didn’t win, his teams are remembered until today. In 2002 Scollari won the WC. He deserves the credit for putting the team together and, especially, of reinstating Ronaldo at the team, since he was injured before the WC and not too many believed he would recover. It is up to Mano Menezes to be the third respected coach since 1966 in Brazil!

    I think that is why Brazil has changed so much during the years. Lazaroni, Parreira, Zagallo and Dunga have tried to “invent” different styles for Brazil.

  • Comment number 46.

    English football is rubbish. By this I mean the mentality in the English game, a mentality that pervades the game so thoroughly top to bottom that at grass roots level one can easily hear the same shouted drivel from coaches that one can hear bleated by commentators.

    A good example of this was when Swansea conceded against Manchester United not too long ago. A defender whose name escapes me attempted to pass the ball out of defense, failed to do so, and a goal resulted. The commentator - and numerous football writers afterwards - pinpointed the error as trying to "play out of trouble". That wasn't the error. That was the right choice; keeping possession is the best way to defend.

    What the error was was one of awareness; he didn't look. Because he didn't look, he didn't pass the ball to a man wearing the right coloured shirt.

    This inability to recognise the true errors of the passing game - almost always ones of awareness - is also prevalent at youth level. I remember as a teenager being perpetually chastised and remaining unpicked for the school team because I refused to hoof it, refused to play "simple passes", and insisted on attempting to develop the technical side of my game.

    I was not alone in that. The most technical, skillful players at my school all remained unpicked. The most athletic, stupid, and easily coerced into "hoof it" mentality who never tried to "play their way out of trouble"? All picked, consistently.

    My school never won anything.

  • Comment number 47.

    (Other stunning facts from my youth: I was once told not to bother coming back to the local club because, I quote, "You have no interest in how we train."

    The issue?

    I didn't want to just "play a match", but repeatedly asked the coach if we could do technical training.

    Yes, the training regime consisted of the following:

    1. Incorrectly-taught warm-ups (including the infamous "sit on his feet" sit-ups);
    2. Run around the training pitch five times;
    3. A tiny amount of passing practice;
    4. MATCH!!!!!!
    5. Go home.)

  • Comment number 48.

    Auqakuh
    @46

    Of course the back pass rule changed football defensively but no one in the UK ever really addressed the problem of what a defender should do. Hence the golden rule, if in doubt put the ball in row Z. I admit it is not always good defending but good opposing teams hunt in packs nowdays and this is definitely an area where if the possession is lost, goals are conceded. There is nothing wrong with clearing the ball as long as it is not an aimless punt upfield. Infact conceding a throw in gives a team the defence a chance of reforming. It is the decision making that is most important for a defender.

    As far as the skill and the decision making of defenders goes, there has to be a balance. If you look a the current Brasil backs, great going forward but defensively they are a liability. One of the problems for Brasil is their reliance on their backs for attacking, it unbalances their team.

  • Comment number 49.

    # 39 AntonioSaucedo

    2006 was party time for the players and to the Brazilian media. It was a laughable preparation and Parreira didn’t help putting things right. The most absurd was that Ronaldinho played out of his position to favor other players although he was two times elected best player of the world.

    You got the impression that Brazilian media was only talking about Brazil and disregarding other countries. But as Mengo2008 said at #40, you just saw Globo TV and Galvão Bueno. Galvão Bueno disregards any team and especially Argentina. He personifies the Brazilian version of Ollé newspaper. He can be so irritating that at 2010 there was a campaign in Brazil during WC entitled “Cala a boca Galvão” (shut up Galvão). The campaign was a huge success on Tweeter reaching top 10 world tweets. Even some British newspapers mentioned that.

    Just to mention how hardcore the Brazilian media on football can be, I have seen Tim Vickery twice at SportTV in Brazil, owned by Globo TV. At both programs Tim struggled against our “experts”. At one of them I think (not 100% sure) everybody opposed Tim’s opinion to remove main Brazilian teams from state championships. And AntonioSaucedo probably got those guys opinion.

    As to 1990, it was very frustrating for Brazilians to see that team play. But Argentina got its share in 2002 and Colombia did the same in 1994. Tim could have mentioned both teams as parallels to Fernando Prass’s misconceptions at WC level.

  • Comment number 50.

    # 48, Londoner in exile returns

    I agree with you that defense (in fact, the whole team) has to be balanced. But I disagree about your point that “One of the problems for Brasil is their reliance on their backs for attacking, it unbalances their team”. Brasil won a WC in 2002 doing exactly that and Barcelona does that today – with Brazilian backs for attacking. And Barcelona is considered the best team in the world. They certainly don’t have a great defense but they rely on ball possession and they quite often counterattack with their Brazilian backs.

    The balance at Brazilian teams is to be provided by defending midfielders, such as Lucas Leiva from Liverpool. What you should point out is that Brasil lacks creativity at the midfield today. That is why there are so many hopes on Ganso today in Brasil. By the way, Tim Vickery was asked about Ganso at SportTV and he said that Ganso needs to be proved more. Tim said that Ganso is still evolving and maybe he will be a talent in the future. At this point one of the Brazilian reporters got surprised and asked if Tim thought that Ganso wasn’t already a talent. What was important from that chat was that it became clear how desperate Brazilians are to have a creative player at the midfield.

    And I guess that “creativity” was Auqakuh’s point at #46. Every winning team has balance and creativity. Even Germany.

  • Comment number 51.

    Luis
    @49

    Thanks for that, a very interesting point of view. Do you see a change in the attitude for the next world cup or is it something that is deep rooted for Brasil?

  • Comment number 52.

    Luis
    @50

    I have pointed out on Tim's previous blogs regarding brasil's lack of central midfield flare.

    It seems it is a bit of the chicken or egg situation, which came first.

    Are the backs used as a required form of attack because there are no midfielders at present who offer consistent attacking options. Or are Brasil depending on their backs because it is by choice and they have seen others teams succeed play that way.

    I think Barcelona are an exception to the rule, simply because their possession is so high, I doubt Brasil could ever play in the style of Barca. It must also be remembered that Barca play through the middle, much of their retention is in the middle of the park, they have variation whereas brasil at this time look predictable. Brasil use their backs, always looking to go forwards, Barca are often content to shift the ball as long as they retain possession. barca's backs form part of the possession football whereas Brasil's are always looking to go forwards. There are massive differences in style for Barca and Brasil when it comes to how they use their backs.

    I think the Argentine are suffering a similar problem but in reverse, an over abundance in one area but for them they lack the backs.

    As for Ganso I've watched him a few times now and definitely think he needs time to develop. If Brasil are to be dependant on him I do believe he would lack the consistency required.

    Regarding the aspect of creativity, Germany are unlike any other team, they have what is termed as the creative player but every other member of that team all though not having the same ability, they are in tune with it. it really is a team effort for them.

  • Comment number 53.

    "The Dutch of '74 were built on the likes of Ajax and Feyenoord and there was a harmony about what they were coached at through clubs right up to the national team. Never provided them with a WC win but their coaching models have produced the goods since the early 70's on a population base of 16m"

    I'd happily settle for no tournament victories but enjoyable football to watch. Sadly, we can't really say either for the most part.

    I agree that pass and move, kick and rush is fine, if played to its technical best (i.e. not just the Allardyce long ball style). Intense closing down of players, strong tackles (contact allowed because it is a contact sport), crosses, short passes and direct play mixed up, etc it's all good stuff, and it has won English teams a number of CL trophies, though probably not as many as you'd want.

    In the last decade, no national manager has really made this work, because there is the obsession with keeping the ball. In this same period, the officiating of the game has changed to virtually encourage play acting and diving, making the game less and less a contact sport for men, but a non-contact sport for boys.

    We have employed a number of foreign and European style coaches to try and change our national game, because the FA have heard all the nonsense about how we should be playing our game. The result? Arguably worse than the two English managers (Robson and Venables) before them.

    I really hope that Redknapp gets the job, as he understands the British footballing mentality, knows the players, and isn't afraid to drop "names". And this isn't about some nonsense "must be English" attitude. But you do better when you keep to the style that the players are used to. If you want to CHANGE that style, you need to do it from grass roots up, not from top down.

    Symptomatic of this is that players for England are not allowed (by Capello) to throw the ball forward from a throw in. Nonsense stuff. Be comfortable throwing it backwards when needed, but to HAVE to do that all the time, just because Italy and Spain do it?

  • Comment number 54.

    @ 53

    I'd actually prefer if Harry didn't get the job. I like what he has been doing at Spurs and I hope he doesn't get offered the england role because I'd hate to see spurs drop down out of contention / lose it's key players which is most likely should harry leave.
    I don't think eriksson and capello have done such a bad job as the media / fans point out. Eriksson has one of the best records of england managers, capello isn't far behind. Bobby Robson was probably the best england manger behind Sir Alf. El Tel did a good job at euro 96. To me the fact has boiled down to is that there were better teams in the competition. You could argue that they maybe should have progressed in 2002 v brazil, but it's hard to fault eriksson for that match.
    I think foreign coaches are good for a nation as they give an alternate approach on tactics, football etc. Portugal benefited with scolari, ireland are with trappatoni, my nation russia has progressed with hiddink and now advocaat. (The problem was russian coaches often had to deal with a lot of politics at club level).
    I think someone like Hughes would be a good bet for England. He's had previous experience with Wales, though my money is on pearce, subject to the performance of england in euro 2012.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim keeps on providing us with lovely articles. With his sense for Latin American football history, tactics and the current football scenario in Sul-Americana, one is assured of a fabulous treat week after week and month after month. Wonderful learning material. Thanks.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 56.

    I think Eriksson has done pretty well by the media considering how little he really achieved...

    Qualifying for the main tournament should be a given for a team with the quality that England possesses. And it does, else it wouldn't be one of the top leagues in the world. Few teams fail to achieve that with the level of players we possess.

    Progressing through the group stage at said tournaments should also be a given considering our international ranking.

    Clearing the last 16 should also be a reasonable expectation.

    Getting past the quarters to the semis comes down to the team on the day, the manager and a bit of luck.

    Both Capello and Eriksson have failed to do anything beyond the reasonably expected. In the media now, it is a general accepted consensus that this is our level. Why? Just because a couple of managers failed to deliver? Look at Spain... they (and the Dutch) were considered the perennial under achievers, yet last time out they were both in the final. It only takes a manager to create (or allow) the right environment for a team to blossom.

    We know how Eriksson was in the changing room against Brazil. He might as well have not been there. In fact, it would have been less demoralising to the players if he hadn't been.

    Likewise, Capello seemed to damage the team vibe, with his desire to control like a sergeant major, and succeeded only in inhibiting the players and dividing the camp (with Terry's apparent help).

    I get what you're saying about not wanting to see Harry leave Spurs and I agree (because I have a soft spot for them), but as an Englishman I want the best for my country and I think he is it right now, with the charisma and respect amongst the players that Venables had. If you make the team feel like a team, then they will be better than the sum of their parts. And the England squad has a number of very good parts.

  • Comment number 57.

    you do better when you keep to the style that the players are used to. If you want to CHANGE that style, you need to do it from grass roots up, not from top down.
    ------------

    Absolutely agree, change cannot be top-down you have to develop it from kids football and up. I would have no truck with nationality as a criteria for any managerial or coaching position - but I always felt England were more dangerous with Robson and Venables than with Eriksson and Cappello because the former two as well as being good coaches in their own right, would have had a better understanding of the culture, style and players. IMO Eriksson (and McLaren) was too interested in the celebrity of management. Interestingly, though, while the English FA appointed Gareth Southgate (?) as their Performance Director, the Scots have appointed a Dutchman. Only 30 years too late imo but there you go!

  • Comment number 58.

    genesis red @53
    Eduard @54

    The one thing that Ramsey, Robson and Venables all had was a close tie with their players. Ramsey appeared to be aloof and you could say he was arrogant, [what manager would say yes England will win the world cup 3 years before the event], I'd prefer to call him confident. Not one player said a bad word about him. Robson [apart from Keegan when told his time had gone]the same and Venables. I don't think players have to love their manager but they do have to respect and want to play for them.

    I never heard that about Erickson, McClaren and Cappello is distant from his players. None of their teams really entertained and all had a fear approach to their game. Their records managing England are false, it's tournament play that counts and their records are not that brilliant.

    Is Harry the man, well players seem to like him, maybe it's his footballing honesty when it comes to management he does seem capable of resting/dropping a player when needed.

    Tactically i wouldn't call him a genius, he keeps it simple but football is a simple game, it's not rocket science. His teams are pleasant to watch and like you Genesis Red, that is all I ask for. World Cups and Euros, only 2 trophies available every 4 years, so lets get real and enjoy our football and just maybe success will follow.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ 56

    I think it was a bit harsh to call holland perennial under achievers since they were winners of the euros. Though Spain maybe could have done more over the years. But does that then go on to say that the managers that Holland and Spain had before Van Marwyck and Del Bosque / Aragones were poor? Van Gaal tried and failed, as did Rijkaard, as well as others.
    Look at domenech, from finalists to being stuck in the group stages. Either he was lucky to get into the final, or very poor not to get out of the group stages. Or were the french team massively poor from 2006 to 2010?
    I don't think engalnd under achived because I don't think they had the top team out there. They may have had 11 good players, but tactically and mentally they were not a team, and haven't been for a long time. I think it will be a positive that rooney will miss the first few games, because england look more together without him, likewise with gerrard. Coaches have had a knack (same problem with messi) of trying to fit everyone in because they think if they have the best players then they will win.
    I've said all along it's about making the system work. Eriksson had it for a while, who knows had rooney not got injured, they may have won the euros. But I think he just got tactically outfoxed by scolari. As for capello, he's had the unfortunate task of managing through a transition phase, beckham was on his last legs, gerrard, lamps, rio, terry, cole are all on the twilight of their career.
    Who knows with Harry, I personally don't think he will do that much with england. He reminds me of kevin keegan in charge. What worries me is he hasn't had too much experience in europe.
    On a side note, what would have happened had glenn hoddle not made his infamous comments. England looked quite lively with him as manager.

  • Comment number 60.

    When ever i think of Harry, i remember that TV interview with him out on the coaching field, when one of the players kicked a ball at him while he was on camera.

    We have missed a trick by not having him in role for this period, but he's finally stepped up to a good team and is delivering. He has made his case, who is better?

    It is, however, laughable that there are so few English managers at the top level. But few players these days are interesting in coaching, having made their millions as players.

    I reckon Neville will make a good manager though, if he ever does it. Can't think of many others that spring to mind...

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 60

    I remember the Sky Sports interview where Harry was labelled as a "wheeler dealer" and he flew off on a f worded rant!!
    He certainly has an affable character around him and that may well be his saving grace. That said, psycho also has a good rapport with the england players, especially considering that the ones breaking though now are from the old U-21s teams. So he may well be another contender.
    That was my case with maclaren and capello. People complained about them, but during that time who else was in nominations for the job? Big Sam, curbs, pardew (i think). As patches often jokes, they might as well have thrown in "old mike". I think brendan rodgers has been doing a good job and can maybe be a future nominee. Bruce's stock was rising, but has since crashed.
    You never know, Mr Wenger could take a gamble as a long shot!!

  • Comment number 62.

    I really like the guy, but i do NOT want Bruce managing England... he has plenty of money at Sunderland, and aside from the United hand outs, he's not done much special.

    I'd rather have Roy Keane (who I expected better from - but he expects everyone to be at his standard and few are).

    Psycho just doesn't seem to have the tactics. He's a good coach, a good guy, but he hasn't done anything really to warrant the chance. Might as well give Ince a shot!

  • Comment number 63.

    "People complained about them, but during that time who else was in nominations for the job?"

    Big Phil Scolari... he's a good international manager, just not a very good club one apparently.

  • Comment number 64.

    @61 - this one:
    http://www.hotfail.com/sports/harry-redknapp-hit-by-ball-goes-ballistic/

    "Redknapp lost his temper with a Portsmouth player who kicked the ball at him during a television interview. He said: "No wonder he's in the [insert expletive] reserves."

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 62 That was what I meant with Bruce. When Sunderland were flying high, he was winning a few accolades. Who knows if they'd have got into Europe there may have been talk.
    Roy Keane has struggled as well, Gary Neville may have the same problem, whether he can win the players over should he choose to manage. It just shows how very few good england managers there are!
    I think Pearce and Harry are similar style managers to be honest, IMO anyway. Both are more about man management and development rather than tactical skill.
    I never really believed Big Phil about the management job. I always thought he was going along with it to try and get a bigger pay off elsewhere. He seemed more suited to Portugal than England. He is a top manager in South America, won league and libertadores with Palmerias if memory serves me right. I think he wasn't suited to shotgun Roman and his impatient approach!

  • Comment number 66.

    I think Scolari looked like he could make the big calls (dropping Figo in what would have been his last game, for example), and seemed to know how to win at International football (unlike our respective managers).

    It's always good to know that the guy in charge has history of achieving what you want him to acheive with your lot.

    As far as the blog and how it reflects on England, I agree that teams should always take the opposition seriously. It doesn't matter if it's a friendly (1-0 patches), or a game against a minow, or the world champions (1-0), it is insulting to not give your full.

    Anyone that takes an opponent lightly deserves their comeupance if they get caught on the hop or in first gear.

  • Comment number 67.

    Dear Tim Vickery, I know David Goldblatt socially. I will tell him you called his book 'an immense achievement.' He will be delighted. My book: 'How To Support Queens Park Rangers Without Being Consumed By Self Loathing' is available from W.H Smiths from this April... RS x

  • Comment number 68.

    Antonio @ 41 - very well described. Germany have traditionally been more "effective" and direct in their play than Spain, and far more successful. But there seems to be this out-dated image still prevalent on these shores, that somehow the Germans are an unspectacular bunch, relying on the collective to get them through tournaments. That is a part of their make-up for sure, and it has helped them achieve greater results than should've been possible during the lean 10 years post-Euro 96. But no-one should doubt the quality they have now.

    While no sane person would argue the brilliance of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cazorla and co (in fact Xavi is just about my favourite all time player alongside Guardiola), I'd say the Germans have a better strength in depth in midfield. When you consider how young these guys are, they are surely coming into another very strong period again.

    Strangely enough I'd say the goalkeeping situation is also very similar - both teams have great strength and depth, with Spain probably having the best 1 or 2, but in sheer volume of quality the Germans are even stronger. Both sides are vulnerable in central defence IMO, but when they're so good going forward, you barely notice! Maybe there's something for Brazil to ponder there?

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 66

    In that case they should have Lippi!!

    But I think England generally do take most games seriously, though I think the fans take things too seriously!

    Utd and arsenal planning to send out weakened teams. See how that one pans out!

  • Comment number 70.

    Great article as usual Tim. Re: Mark Rennie's question, I also took Tim's advice & after endless searching finally through my lovely local library got my hands on 'The Ball is Round'. Lovely but most likely really pissed with me as this was about 2 months ago now & I still haven't finished it. It's longer than the bloody bible but unlike the bible absolutely brilliant & full of interesting facts. Get it if you can. I also highly recommend 'Inverting the Pyramid' by the great Jonathan Wilson. Well worth reading both as 'The Ball is Round' covers the social history of footie whilst 'Inverting the Pyramid' is solely concerbed with the history of tactics.

  • Comment number 71.

    51 – Londoner in exile returns

    I think Dunga was Teixeira’s (Brazilian FA president) answer to 2006. He did put limits to media access to player and even the use of mobiles was (attempted to be) limited.

    The present coach, Mano Meneses, is not as radical as Dunga but he has made it clear that he is in charge. One of the problems with Brazil is that a lot of agents and sports marketing personnel try to contact the players before and at major events. Since Dunga - and now with Mano – these contacts are forbidden.

  • Comment number 72.

    52 – Londoner in exile returns

    Regarding Brasil's lack of central midfield flare, the problem probably started right after 1974. Some coaches and media “experts” decided that Brasil needed taller players as an answer to “modern football”. They thought that we would always have craques (players with outstanding dribbling skills and game vision) but clubs should select only kids with a certain physical profile. This sort of vision has certainly costed us many kids that never had the chance to shine. But this point of view is not restricted to Brasil. Remember that only Barcelona accepted to pay Messi’s medical treatment (to enable him to grow), because clubs in Argentina refused to do that although they admitted his potential. For them, Messi was just another kid.

    As to our use of the backs, they have always been there since 1974. Just to mention a few, there was Marinho, Junior, Branco, Jorginho, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, etc. Quite interesting to notice that Jorginho, Cafu and Roberto Carlos were all physically superior (in speed at least) to Marinho, Junior and Branco.

    I guess we are paying attention to the backs now because suddenly (after 2010) Brasil started to miss midfield creativity. But only because there is no player able to say he owns #10 shirt. There are contenders for that shirt at 2014 as Ganso and Lucas (from São Paulo) are still very young. So we just need to give them time. And we can’t forget that there is still plenty of time for the arrival of new kids.

  • Comment number 73.

    Another issue on midfield creativity for Brasil is that Dunga chose to play on counterattacks mainly. Therefore he needed a team with good defensive skills and it reflected on his choices for the midfield. Had Brasil won 2010 and it could have happened, nobody would be asking for creativity. If Kaka was fit in 2010, would anybody question midfield creativity?

    Everything was working well for Dunga until 2009. But at 2010 WC many of his main players had problems. Many where at the bench at their clubs in 2010. Kaka was injured before the WC and only now is regaining his form. Robinho completely lost his form since the end of 2009 and has not found it yet. But Robinho was flying, as we would say in Brasil, during South America qualifying to the WC at 2008 and 2009. Elano got injured at the first round of the WC. Even Julio Cesar – regarded as best goal keeper at 2008 and 2009 – was injured and conceded two goals for Holland that he probably wouldn’t a year before.

    This brings us to the fact that a WC is ALL about momentum. Brasil had that in 2002 when all the player where at their best – particularly Ronaldo – at the right time. Argentina was the opposite to that at 2002 and Colombia in 1994. And at 2010 WC, several teams lost their momentum – Brasil and England included.

  • Comment number 74.

    Tim, I think that there is a quiet revolution happening in football, and it is all down to that man Bielsa. Bielsa, in my opinion, is the finest coach of his generation. If you look at the Chilean national side under him, La U, Barcelona - they all play Bielsa football. Real Madrid have copied Bielsa football to the letter, and even Manchester United tried to play Bielsa football in the begining of the season, and did quite well.

    Bielsa has gone back to the basics - keep the ball and press high up. No brainer really, but no other coach had the guts and confidence to put it into practice in the modern game. Could you imagine what he could do with Real Madrid or Man City? Best coach in the last 30 years for me.

  • Comment number 75.

    The first comment is about man City, Brilliant!

    your obsessed with us!

  • Comment number 76.

    As patches often jokes, they might as well have thrown in "old mike". I think brendan rodgers has been doing a good job and can maybe be a future nominee.

    ------------------

    A nominee for what? The Northern Ireland job?

  • Comment number 77.

    @ 76

    You're right. It can't be england, they don't have the technical players to pull off the passing style witnessed at Swansea.
    Northern Ireland on the other hand are a real team!! ;)
    Ps I don't think anyone considered 'Arry for the england job when he was at bournemouth or west ham, look at him now.
    @ 74

    Completely agree with you re Bielsa, the only thing I will say is that he didn't have the best of times at Argentina job though.

  • Comment number 78.

    The thing with england is that recently we've appointed managera with excellent CVs at club level. But international management is totally different, namely that you barely spend any time with your players except at tournaments.

    That's why my man for after the euros would be Hiddink. He has a proven record for over-achieving on the international stage and knows the English players from his spell at Chelsea.

  • Comment number 79.

    @77 - I just think its funny that people lump Rodgers and Pulis together for nominees for the England job despite being 'cast-in-dye' Irish and Welsh respectively. They wouldn't take the job in a million years.

    But yeah Rodgers learned his graft really well at Chelsea imo. A very talented young manager.

    @78 - Yeah but his spells with Russia and Turkey were disasters tbh. Had it not been for England brainfarting in Moscow and then at home to Croatia twice, they wouldn't have even qualified for a major tournament under Hiddink.

  • Comment number 80.

    I hope the national team will take the opposition seriously during the world cup before the fans turn on them and break through the barriers to get at them

  • Comment number 81.

    @79

    I wouldn't call getting Russia to the semi-finals of euro 2008 a disaster!

  • Comment number 82.

    68 Stevie.

    Agreed. Today Germany is a more complete team than Spain, "pound by pound." They have at least a couple of really good players in every position. That said, the real wealth is found upfield. Only Italy has that much talent, but we all know they're probably gonna play like crap in spite of their quality. I just hope we get to see Quagliarella and Cassano. Those two blokes are pure class.

    You know who else would have a great team? Yugoslavia. If that nation were still around, of course. Just imagine Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians, etc, playing together. Quality in abundance all over the field, especially upfield.

  • Comment number 83.

    Tim:

    Do you think the next WC will be a success? And how do you think the hosts will fare?

  • Comment number 84.

    AntonioSaucedo
    @82

    Yugoslavia were always an enigma, for many years they were over blessed with talented players, with fantastic technique, they certainly were never lightweights.

    But they were never a team, way too much history for all the regions to combine for a successful side. They were forever pressing the self destruct button. I remember them back in 68 in the Euros, they beat England [they did have a great team then]in the semis but they looked like boiling over then. They lost the replayed final to Italy and didn't look as though their heart was in it.

    It sums it up though, you can have all the skill under the sun but unless the team can perform as a cohesive unit, they will never succeed.

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 79

    Yeah you can say "if" england won, but likewise "if" russia turned up against the other sides in the group we would have qualified quite comfortably also. Plus we got to the semis in 2008 so not that bad. Very poor to lose to slovenia in the knockouts for WC, had 20 chances in home leg and took one, and silly heads in return leg. We had germany in the group and were unlucky not to pip them to first spot.
    I think what hiddink and others have done is improved the grass roots football in russia. The youth system is improving and there's good signs from U-21s and U-18s.
    @ 82 Yeah croatia were hugely unlucky in 1998, czechs always looked strong in competitions as well. But as Londoner points out, there were always internal factors and disputes. Reminds me of england a bit, lot of talent but lack of team spirit in current squad. It all seems very individualistic.

 

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