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Brazil's dual football mission at the London Olympics

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Tim Vickery | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2012

The British public are getting a crash course on the appeal and importance of the Olympic football tournament.

They may still regard it as something of a sideshow, but in Brazil it is seen as the showpiece of the Games, especially over the last three decades when professionals have been allowed to compete.

Olympic gold remains the only major title open to Brazil that they have yet to claim. The quest to win it has been the source of four-yearly frustrations.

But in the UK over the next few weeks, the current Brazil side will be doing much more than trying to complete the set: they are also building towards an even higher objective.

Brazilian footballer Neymar facing Argentina

Neymar will be one of Brazil's key players at the forthcoming Olympic Games (Getty Images)

European national teams tend to select their players based overwhelmingly on club form. For the South Americans, performances for their country at junior level are also important, with the Under-20 side traditionally serving as a conveyor belt to the seniors.

The Olympics take this further: an Under-23 competition with three over-aged players, it is an excellent opportunity to have a dry run for the next World Cup.

This is all the more important when the senior side have an automatic World Cup place and do not have to go through the gruelling but team-building experience of qualification. This, of course, is Brazil's case. They host football's biggest show in 2014, when they will have to put up with a burden of pressure possibly greater than that experienced by any previous team.

This also comes at a time when Brazil are struggling for footballing identity. The point was well made recently by Andre Kfouri, one of the country's best football writers, who described Euro 2012 as "the triumph of the intelligent midfielder".

The likes of Pirlo, Xavi and Iniesta, he wrote, "with neurones, retinas and feet of silk, recaptured the midfield battleground".

He added: "Physically frail but superbly technically gifted ... they played a football of undeniable virtues, something which the Brazil team is still looking for, and which Brazilian football has forgotten."

Over recent decades, the dominant ideology in the Brazilian game has based its thinking on football's physical development. The flowing moves of 1958, '70 and '82 were for dewy-eyed nostalgics, argued Brazil's technocrats.

Nowadays, with less space on the field, the central midfielders should be six footers. They should block space while athletic, attacking full-backs launched the counter-attack, linking up with the magnificent individual talent up front that Brazil always manage to produce.

For a while this model was successful, though it never thrilled the senses like the ball-playing teams of old. More recently, though, not only has the trophy cabinet not been filling up, but the central planks of the ideology have been rotting away. If it is no longer possible to win playing possession-based football with a team of small players, then no-one seems to have told this to Spain.

Mano Menezes, then, walked into a tough job when he became Brazil coach two years ago. Not only did he have to build a new side, he had to find a new idea of play, weaning his team off what had become an excessive dependence on the counter-attack.

Menezes cuts an impressive figure - calm, knowledgeable and rational. But it is hardly surprising that he has not had an easy time. And, paradoxically, his task has probably not been eased by the growing economic strength of the domestic game, which has enabled a very promising crop of attacking talent to stay with Brazilian clubs for longer than would have been the case a few years ago.

The problem this causes was clear in last year's Copa America. In domestic Brazilian football the defensive lines usually play deep and there is a lot of space on the field for the talented player to pick up possession and decide what he will do. Against more compact international opponents, Brazil's starlets struggled to make an impression.

A year on, it will be fascinating to watch their progress. There is real talent there. Neymar moves with the balance and fluidity of a young George Best. Oscar is a wonderful prospect - a busy, versatile playmaker.

Lucas Moura has sustained pace, tight dribbling skills and a long-range shot. The progress of Paulo Henrique Ganso has been patchy, but he can open up a defence with his left-footed passing. Centre forward Leandro Damiao is strong, willing and working furiously at his game, and he enjoys an excellent club partnership with Oscar.

Further back, Romulo is an interesting central midfielder who can mark, pass and move. And beefy keeper Rafael Cabral is putting in a strong bid for the number one shirt in the World Cup.

The over-aged players are superb: centre-back Thiago Silva, possibly being given too much responsibility to lead the defensive line, left-back Marcelo, a fine player but a disciplinary hazard, and striker Hulk, who adds some physical presence to the front line.

An 18-man squad leaves little room for error. Inevitably there are quibbles with the selection. Your current correspondent, for what it is worth, does not understand the inclusion of rookie centre-backs Juan and Bruno Uvini when the vastly more experienced Rafael Toloi is left out.

I would have also been tempted to use the tournament to look at alternatives to the hot-headed Marcelo and I would have included Giuliano to give more midfield cover.

Even so, this is a squad worthy of representing Brazil at this fascinating moment of transition in their football. And it is a group that showed real signs of looking like a team in its recent sequence of warm-up friendlies.

True, they played tamely into the hands of the Mexican counter-attack in a 2-0 defeat. Elsewhere, though, they emerged with huge credit from wins over Denmark and the USA (3-1 and 4-1) and a 4-3 defeat against Argentina where Lionel Messi was on fire.

The most impressive aspect of Brazil's play was the pressing, smothering their opponents and winning the ball high up the pitch. It is not a common tactic in the Brazilian game, but Menezes has been working on it for the past couple of years. It should be a key part of Brazil's armoury as they go in search of that elusive gold medal and ease their own passage towards the World Cup.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. 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'd like to know about your views on Clarence Seedorf moving to Brazil. To my mind in many ways it is significant especially given his stature. I believe he is probably the most successful European footballer playing at club level and it also reflects upon the growing stature of Brazilian domestic league.

Anand Mann

A) It certainly does - though Seedorf has seen early evidence of just how much Brazilian football is operating below its potential. He was presented to the Botafogo supporters before a recent game. Despite all the hype the stadium was not half full.

Clearly he is a player with a huge amount to offer - perhaps at this stage of his career even more off the pitch than on it. The Brazilian game can only gain from the opinions of such a superbly qualified outsider.

To my mind, though, the most significant deal in terms of football on the pitch is not Seedorf to Botafogo or even Diego Forlan to Internacional. It is Peruvian centre forward Paolo Guerrero moving from Hamburg to Corinthians. This is not a tale of a veteran looking for some late tropical adventure. At 28, Guerrero is at the peak of his considerable powers.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Can't see the modern Brazil coping with the pressure of trying to win the world cup on home soil. More individuals than a team in my opinion but they have a couple years to try and get it right.

  • Comment number 2.

    An interesting article. It is not really surprising that players such as Iniesta, Pirlo, Xavi and others have flourished in the last few years.

    Technically gifted players are probably better protected now than ever (whether that is for better or worse i'm not sure).

    From what i've seen of Brazilian teams in recent years they seem to have sacrificed some flair and individuality for workrate and organisation. Perhaps they need to rediscover some of attributes that Brazilian teams of the past were renowned for.

  • Comment number 3.

    Unfortunately Tim, I doubt that any significant part of the British public is sophisticated enough to "get a crash course on the appeal and importance of the Olympic football tournament."

    Few seem to understand that the Brazil front-end of Pato/Neymar/Hulk/Oscar and the Uruguay forward line of Suarez/Cavani/Ramirez are probably the best two which will play on British shores this next twelve months - far ahead of any English clubs but also superior to the attacks of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    Instead, the Harlem Globetrotters-like assembly of the clearly artificial and contrived "Team GB" makes it too easy for the English to fall back on "why is it an Olympic sport if it is not the pinnacle of the game" (which could equally be said of the Euros) or "these players aren't amateurs, they shouldn't be there".

    I think that Menezes has done a pretty good job, not least in not picking the rapidly fading Julio Cesar but instead grooming a new keeper. Team GB lost a behind-closed-doors friendly to Mexico yesterday, whereas Brazil's team has been together for the last month and a half, and consequently has much more cohesion.

    I do worry about Oscar: Kaka never imposed himself at a World Cup and I would have thought that Ganso's game has more scope to win a World Cup than Oscar's. All it is going to take is for the opposition to swamp the midfield and minimise space between midfield and defence and I would have thought that Oscar could be rendered impotent.

    The pre-Olympic friendlies certainly raise serious questions about Spain's purported next generation, who were comprehensively spanked by Senegal last week. I'd love to know where these superb young Spanish talents are, because they certainly don't appear to be in the Olympic squad.

    I'm looking forward to next week's blog about Uruguay's Olympic squad and how Uruguay's 1924 and 1928 Olympians precipitated the creation of the World Cup. I've watched this week's Uruguayan pre-Olympic victories over Chile Under-25 (6-4) and Panama (2-0) and it seems to me as if Brazil and Uruguay are the teams to beat at the Olympics.

  • Comment number 4.

    I find it difficult to get too excited about Brazil these days. I can't name too many of their players who I'd consider a particularly strong candidate for a world XI (Dani Alves probably the best shout and possibly Thiago Silva). A few years ago any supporter in the world would have been giddy with anticipation if you told them their team was signing a Brazilian international. I don't think that would necessarily be the case any longer.

    I know there is this group of apparently great talents emerging, but I've seen enough "next big things" come and go to suspect that only 1 or 2 of the players being touted in this group will go on to achieve truly great things.

    On a side note, I see Juan of Roma has also joined the homeward exodus. Good player still with a lot to offer. I thought Roma were to be replacing him with Castan, but that seems to have gone quiet lately. Any news Tim?

  • Comment number 5.

    A very strong Brazilian line-up for sure, similar to the Uruguaynans who have included Luis Suarez, no less, in their squad. I see he hit a hat-trick in the 6-4 vicory over Chile the other day. I can't see the British team, under the dour and negative Stuart Pearce, living with either team. If Britain are winning any game 1-0 with 20' to go then look for Pearce to take off all the strikers and bring on defenders. Thta's his mentality unfortunately.
    How does the Brazilian Ladies team feature in Brazil I wonder? They have the best player in the world in Marta, who is a joy to watch with her skills, and I recall they gave the USA a real hiding sometime back. Maybe a Brazilian football double in these Olympics? I see that the US 'keeper got off with a 'warning' after testing positive for a PED which annoys me. She blamed her physician of course.

  • Comment number 6.

    In my book Brazil are definite favourites to win the Olympics title. That being said Spain, Uruguay and Mexico have up-and-coming youth teams as well as decent senior teams so I expect it to be close.

    I highly doubt Team GB will be able to go too far in the competition, perhaps the quarter-finals like England did this summer. Where Team GB have only 7 internationalists in their squad 95 are Welsh), Brazil has 17 (only 1 player has no full international caps).

    The website Hutton Dressed As Lahm does a breakdown of statistics across Team GB, Spain and Brazil: http://www.huttondressedaslahm.com/2012/07/embarrassment-of-youth.html

    Although at first it appears that the Team GB is well experienced, when the stats of over 23 players are excluded (i.e removing Bellamy and Giggs) the Team GB appears hopelessly inexperienced.

    Brazil on the other hand look like a team full of youth, vitality, pace and creativity. The inclusion of Pato, Marcelo and Thiago Silva adds a bit of experience without sacrificing youth and drive. I fully expect to see Brazil make a show at these Olympics- and make a statement for selection in the World Cup in 2014.

    Let's all hope that we finally get to see why people rate Neymar so highly...

  • Comment number 7.

    For those of you interested in Brazil's likely pathway through the Olympics.....

    GROUP STAGE
    They are in Group C with Egypt (who look pretty decent), New Zealand (weak, but with Ryan Nelsen organising their defence and Shane Smeltz in attack, both of whom did well at the World Cup) and Belarus (who finished third in the 2011 Under-21 Euros, and took Spain to extra-time.)

    QUARTER FINAL
    Assuming Brazil top the group, they face a Quarter-Final at St James' Park against the runners-up in Spain's group (probably Japan).

    If they somehow come second, they would probably play against Spain at Old Trafford.

    SEMI-FINAL
    Assuming both teams win their groups and Quarter Finals, Brazil would be due to play their Semi Final at Old Trafford against Uruguay. That would be a shame, as that match really is the dream final given the strength of the two squads.

    Their most likely opponents in the final from the other side of the draw would appear to be Spain or Mexico.

  • Comment number 8.

    @6 norsefox
    I agree about Team GB being outclassed, but there is a chance that they might top Group A - and I'll explain why.

    This tournament "only" requires teams to play 6 matches, as opposed to 7 at the World Cup, but they do so in just 16 days, instead of 35. And with an 18 man squad, instead of 23. Teams are going to get tired, and there are going to be injuries, which with only 16 outfield players per squad is quite a risk to carry.

    If Uruguay win Group A they pretty much condemn themselves to a Semi-Final against Brazil, and any of us who look the squads up on Wikipedia can see that those are the two teams with the most top-level experience and the best players - as well as their senior coaches.

    But if Uruguay obtain maximum points from their first two games against UAE and Senegal, they can play all their reserves against England (the "Leonidas" principle from 1938!), come second and head for a Semi-Final against the far weaker Spain team instead of Brazil.

    In doing so they guarantee themselves at least a Silver medal, whereas if they play Brazil instead of Spain in the Semis they take a serious risk of ending up with Bronze.

    Uruguay's defence looked pretty raw anyway in conceding 4 goals last week against Chile Under-25. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they contrive to let Senegal or Team GB win Group A to keep themselves away from Brazil until the Final.

  • Comment number 9.

    @3 yakubusdiet

    "Few seem to understand that the Brazil front-end of Pato/Neymar/Hulk/Oscar and the Uruguay forward line of Suarez/Cavani/Ramirez are probably the best two which will play on British shores this next twelve months - far ahead of any English clubs but also superior to the attacks of Real Madrid and Barcelona."

    I disagree, Chelsea have assembled a very very exciting front line and with the probable recruitment of Oscar the front line will rival those mentioned. Torres/Hazard/Mata/Oscar. Argue all you want about Torres' form, but with that front line he will be back in form and personally I think is a better all round attacking front line than Brazil and Uruguay.

  • Comment number 10.

    You mention the 4-1 victory over the US as vindication for the change in style, but when it came to actually getting the goals, they ultimately relied on counter-attacks, with Marcelo scoring the third and playing a big part in the fourth. Do you think such occurrences could tempt Menezes to regress back to a counter-attacking style? Is it something currently hard-wired into the Brazilian players, that Menezes will have to work around for the foreseeable future? Or is it simply a case that, Brazil were unlucky not to open up a bigger lead with the passing approach of the first half, and it became pragmatic to exploit the tiredness of the Americans as they attempted to grab an equaliser? Is it a string to the Brazilian bow that Menezes will seek to retain, even as he encourages more possession-based football?

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't think in anyone's world you can compare Pato/Neymar/Hulk and Oscar to Torres/Hazard/Mata/Oscar (of which Oscar isn't even a confirmed transfer).


    Torres hasn't scored enough in years to warrant any sort of fear, Hazard has been incredible in Ligue 1 but is yet to experience English football. Mata has been great but is not a distinct attacking threat from midfield and as I said, Oscar is not a definitive transfer yet.

    Even in a best case scenario I do not see the Chelsea attacking lineup trumping the current Brazilian Olympic team. Regardless, we're all talking in abstracts as neither side has kicked a ball in anger yet.

    For me, this Olympics is all about Neymar. After being hyped up as "better than Messi" by Pele I rather enjoyed his failure against Barcelona. Nevertheless, I'm hoping to see what all the hype is about- and maybe to see him stay on his feet, unlike he managed to do against us at the Emirates last year.

  • Comment number 12.

    @9 Depthcore
    At this stage Torres, Hazard and Mata are strangers to one another, and I've seen nothing to make me think that Torres is the player he used to be. He reminds me in style of Colombia's Falcao, who needs to be running in on goal to function.

    Suarez/Cavani/Ramirez and Pato/Neymar/Hulk/Oscar actually have experience together and have developed chemistry.

    @4 Ferry_Arab,
    I'm not sure that Dani Alves actually has a future in the Brazil side. He is a very, very attacking full-back to risk when your best holding midfielder is only Lucas Leiva, and at the 2011 Copa America he had to be dropped in favour of the veteran Maicon because he was a liability.

    If Menezes is going to play 4-2-3-1 he probably requires a much less attacking right-back than Dani Alves and one who is significantly more defensively reliable.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Phil,

    Interesting read as usual.

    Do you feel that Lucas Leiva still has a big part to play as the number 5? Is there anyone who can be seen to challenge him for this shirt? I
    'm expecting Lucas to thrive in his position at Liverpool FC under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers.
    Do you feel he has the potential to have the 'neurone and retina' traits to which Andre Kfouri refers to?

  • Comment number 14.

    @3 yakubusdiet

    The forwards that Brazil and Uruguay will field at the Olympics should score plenty of goals - i'm really looking forward to watching their matches.

    However, apart from them, Spain and (potentially) Mexico I don't think there are going to be many quality teams on show. I'm therefore not sure how much it will tell us about any prospects for the World Cup.

    Furthermore, when it comes to the World Cup many matches will probably be more tactical and defensive. That is when teams like Spain come into their own and why they will almost certainly go into the World Cup in 2 years time as favourites.

  • Comment number 15.

    @12

    Against Scotland, Dani Alves was deployed as right-sided midfielder. I believe the same thing was done at the 2010 World Cup.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Phil, as usual interesting reading from you. I don't usually pay any attention whatsoever to the Olympic sports that allow 'professionals' (tennis, basketball, football), but this year my interest for the football has been piqued.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 9 DepthCore

    Torres has not looked dangerous for a couple of years now and there is no evidence to suggest that he will ever regain the form he showed for Liverpool 3-4 years ago. Putting 2 goals past Ireland and scoring against 10 man Italy proves nothing.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Tim good and informative article, however i won't get too excited about this Brazil team. Even if they win the Olympic Gold medal, it is no indicator of their success or otherwise for Brasil 2014. Firstly their midfielders Oscar and Ganso are too fragile for international competition, easily marked out of the game by stronger players, the same applies to Neymar, they lack good strikers, Damiao, Hulk and Neymar are unproven at the international stage, Pato too injury prone. The Olympics is a substandard and amateur competition without the best international players and teams in the world. This is the reason that Brazil are organising pointless friendlies in the Autumn against poor opposition like PR China and South Africa. What a shambles that Brazil have become, no longer a feared team and seem to have started from scratch to organise a team for Brasil 2014, ignoring their best players like Kaka, Diego and Fabiano in their previous games. In fact are Brazil the only national squad, discounting the Olympics, that don't pick their best players when playing international matches?

  • Comment number 19.

    Great article Tim (as usual)!

  • Comment number 20.

    Brazil and Uruguay undoubtedly have fantastic forward lines, but to say they're better than Madrid or Barcelona's is laughable.

    Ronaldo/Özil/Benzema/Di Maria and Iniesta/Messi/Sanchez/Villa are both clearly superior to Pato/Neymar/Oscar/Hulk. Neymar is the only one who would start for either Madrid or Barca, and even then he wouldn't be the best player in the team.

  • Comment number 21.

    The most exciting thing about team sports is the sheer uncertainty involved in getting a group of people to function cohesively and at their optimum within the brief span of a game. From the head coach (manager), to physical trainers, medics, nutritionists, and the gladiators (players), everyone must be ready to excel when the moment arrives. Get one aspect wrong and the whole cookie crumbles.

    The best Mano can do is select the players he feels are best suited to the task and set them up to play as a team to their best ability. You can't predict much of what will happen thereafter. Ultimately, Brasil will continue to produce technically skillful players, many of whom will dazzle for a few games or years and disappear. Only a small minority ever have any sort of longevity.

    So, let the young ones run around in England for a few weeks and we'll see what they are capable of. There is ample time to blend in the "known" abilities of Kaka, Robinho et. al. We need to see that Neymar, Moura, Oscar, Ganso, Damiao, Dede, Cabral etc. can cope with different styles of play, pressure, and media scrutiny, without falling apart. Remember Serginho in '82, Casagrande in '86, Dunga in '90, Baiano '98, Ronaldo in '98 final and '06 or Felipe Melo in 2010? Mano needs to weed out the weak and strengthen the talented.

  • Comment number 22.

    @12
    You forget that at times Barcelona's attack becomes Tello, Pedro and Messi.

    Similarly, I'd rather have Cavani/Suarez/Ramirez than di Maria/Benzema/Ronaldo.

    But my point was to illustrate just how strong the Brazil and Uruguay attacks are.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm not always a firm believer in the saying that 'insert new youug talent' has to play in europe to prove that he is 'world class' but i really do hope we get to see Neymar in europe soon.

    A evry exciting young talent who i hope lives up to the hype.

    As for people arguing over a national teams attacking line up to that of a club side??? cant see the point really.

    As for Hulk.............i have never seen anything that warrants his reported price tag, a player that very much flatters to decieve!

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 20 & 22

    If we are talking about the strongest set of forwards in 2012 it is probably Argentina. The problem they (and Brazil) have is as a team they lack balance - lots of great attacking players but a bit suspect in defence.

  • Comment number 25.

    SwissColony:

    So you "don't usually pay any attention whatsoever to the Olympic sports that allow professionals". So, you only watch the boxing, do you?

  • Comment number 26.

    @yakubusdiet are you serious? Where is the young Spanish talent? Maybe it was winning the Euros Under19 last week?? 3rd final in last 3 Euro U19 competitions. And they are champions of the world and Europe at senior level. I would say that Spain have proven consistently and clearly that they are the leading football nation of last few years.

  • Comment number 27.

    Why is everyone writing to Phil? It's Tim!!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Brazil have one of the best young squads going to the games. they will be disappointed not to win it, i wouldnt say they are firm favourites but anything less than the semi's will disappoint.

  • Comment number 29.

    #3 Yakubusdiet

    Unfortunately Tim, I doubt that any significant part of the British public is sophisticated enough to "get a crash course on the appeal and importance of the Olympic football tournament."

    Do you really think any nation has a large portion of the population with any significant knowledge of foreign football ? If so you must be ignorant ! I agree with that Brasil and Uruguay have strong strike forces but better than Messi , Villa , Sanchez or Higuain , Ronaldo or Benzema or even Aguerro , Tevez , Dezko and Ballotelli ? Don't make me laugh. Oscar has achieved nothing yet except generate hype , Pato is in danger of seeing his career take a nosedive and Hulk has not been tested in a top league. Maybe you should take off your nationalistic blinkers before making such ridiculous comments.

  • Comment number 30.

    @3 Yakubusdiet

    "The pre-Olympic friendlies certainly raise serious questions about Spain's purported next generation, who were comprehensively spanked by Senegal last week. I'd love to know where these superb young Spanish talents are, because they certainly don't appear to be in the Olympic squad."

    _____________________

    Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Spain win the Euro U21 Championships only last year? I believe they have also had recent U19 success and success at other ages too. And they have some decent young players in the senior squad which has been reasonably successful in recent years...

    But if you're going to judge them on the basis of a few summertime friendlies... well, it says a lot about your football knowledge...

  • Comment number 31.

    3.At 13:09 16th Jul 2012, yakubusdiet wrote
    Few seem to understand that the Brazil front-end of Pato/Neymar/Hulk/Oscar and the Uruguay forward line of Suarez/Cavani/Ramirez are probably the best two which will play on British shores this next twelve months - far ahead of any English clubs but also superior to the attacks of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
    _______________________

    So that front line is better than a front line of Ronaldo-Benzema-Higuain? for example?

    You seem obsessed with Uruguay to the point of making these hyperbolic statements. Yes theyr'e a good side, but they're not best in the world.

  • Comment number 32.

    7.At 13:25 16th Jul 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    For those of you interested in Brazil's likely pathway through the Olympics.....

    GROUP STAGE
    They are in Group C with Egypt (who look pretty decent), New Zealand (weak, but with Ryan Nelsen organising their defence and Shane Smeltz in attack, both of whom did well at the World Cup) and Belarus (who finished third in the 2011 Under-21 Euros, and took Spain to extra-time.)
    ___________________________

    Belarus are my dark horses. Kept largely the same team from u-21s and I would keep a look out for their naturalised brazilian Renan Brassan.

    PS not seen anything of Egypt U-23s, what games have they looked decent?

  • Comment number 33.

    I don't know why so many people in this comments section are going on about Pato in the Brazilian national team. He's had a poor season for Milan (Ok, he's had his injury problems too), but I certainly wouldn't consider him a guaranteed starter for Brazil anymore. Leandro Damiao seems to be the man now. He has great linkup play with Oscar and the future looks much brighter for him than Pato in the Brazilian national team

  • Comment number 34.

    Hello Phil, (only kidding Tim)

    Just a quick one to say I appreciated your comparison of Neymar to Georgie Best.
    Though I'm a United fan and no fan of Santos in any profound way, I'd be excited if he really could live up to that potential. In a way, it was also pleasing to see him have to combat the frustration of losing to Corinthians in the Libertadores semi - the sort of game that should provide a great learning experience for a kid who many would believe remained in a league that is "far below his level".
    How he learns from these kinds of challenges could be the difference between magnificent (like the Garrinchas and Bests of this world) and legendary (along the lines of Cruyff or Pelé).

    On an aside, do you see any Corinthians players as prospects for the Seleção? Being the champions of South America, do you think Paulinho will be allowed more of a look-in before 2014?

  • Comment number 35.

    Have never shown much interest in the football at the Olympics before but I'm very much looking forward to this one - even if there are a lot of cannon fodder teams involved (does anyone know what you have to do to qualify?)

    I really enjoyed the Euros and going from one or two top quality games a day to nothing has been tough - iv been fmling a lot

    Interest in international football seems stronger than any time in the last ten years at least. Although a declining competitiveness at club level may be a reason for that too...

  • Comment number 36.

    The Brazilians might struggle to win gold especially given the presence of Uruguay Spain and even Mexico.The economic boom has more advantages than disadvantages however in the short term the disadvantage outweighs the advantage cos according to Mr Vickery there wouldnt be enough exposure for the home based Brazilian players.

  • Comment number 37.

    I've got a ticket for Brazil at Old Trafford - really looking forward to seeing some of these promising youngsters in action!

  • Comment number 38.

    @35 Joan_Burton

    The teams that qualified for the Olympics generally came from under-20/under-21 tournaments in the various confederations. So the top 3 from the under-21 European Championship etc.

  • Comment number 39.

    If many nations are treating this as dry run for the world cup, rather than an exhibition tournament... it further makes a mockery of the decision to rest Euro2012 players include the token Welsh players in the team.

  • Comment number 40.

    @ 34: I think by your criteria most players would be very pleased to achieve 'magnificent' status. However, currently, Brazilian players in general are having to overcome a reputation for 'flattering to deceive". While Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka deservedly attained the heights in Europe, and there was little the first could do about his very serious injuries (that prevented him becoming possibly as good as or better than Pele, on a like for like basis), the last two's careers have tailed away quite sharply and subsequent 'stars' who were supposed to take their place have never achieved the heights that were expected of them (whether or not it was a reasonable expectation in the first place).
    I would contend that, despite the physical injuries that have taken the edge off, if not blighted, many careers, the problem is as much in the head as anywhere else. Ronaldinho, having lit up the game and brought so much pleasure to so many, clearly fell out of love with the game himself. And Robinho had to come back to Santos to rediscover his pleasure in playing the game, and returned to Italy with his batteries recharged.
    What the underlying reasons are can only be guessed at. On the pitch, there is no shortage of players who are intent on stopping the more talented from playing, and prepared to use illicit means to achieve this. We also see regular confirmation on many football blogs (not this one, thankfully) that an awful lot of 'supporters' are total morons whose behaviour would make anybody with a sense of decency shudder. There again, football administrators are not always the most exemplary of human beings (Ronaldinho not being paid by Flamengo certain didn't help his motivation). And then there are the appalling refereeing decisions that sometimes give the impression that results are deliberately being manipulated. I would be interested to hear your opinions on this matter Tim.
    As regards Corinthians, it has been suggested that they didn't supply any players to the recent US tour so as to save them for the Libertadores semi-final, while at the same time reducing Neymar to exhaustion by playing all the 3 games. The club's past history, together with the fact that the Brazil coach was previously the Corinthians coach, while the club's former president was the tour manager. On the other hand, there are those who argue that nobody in the Corinthians team is good enough anyway and that this is the least talented team to win a Libertadores in history. You can't have it both ways though. Personally, I was impressed with Emerson and keeper Cassio, while people speak very highly of Danilo also.
    @ 35: I would be concerned at a ressurgence of nationalism at a time when humanity needs to be thinking every more globally, but I suppose it is better than the tribalism that club football tends to stimulate :o)
    As for 'cannon fodder', I think you'll find there's much less difference in standard at this age than later, when experience begins to tell (although some of these youngsters are remakably experienced already).
    @ 37: I think you're in for a treat. Even though the youngsters are under huge pressure to bring home the gold for the first time, I think their naturally attacking instincts will prevail over the caution that such ambition demands. Spain were not exactly inspiring in the Euros when under similar pressure, doing the minimum necessary to ensure they made the final - when we saw them unleashed, with nothing more to lose! Perhaps the final made up for the rest?
    @ 5: I'm glad you mentioned the women's game, since the standard had been steadily improving and Marta could probably have lit up a lot of men's teams with her amazing skill. And while some less skilled players resorted to physicality to impose themselves on their more skillful rivals (as in the men's game), it was generally more open and cleaner than the male equivalent, and consequently increasingly appealing to spectators. Tragically, however, the women's game in the Americas is in a crisis, with the US league folding and Brazil unable to sustain women's teams now the cost of the men's game has risen astronomically (as they seek to retain their youngsters for longer and repatriate older players earlier).

  • Comment number 41.

    Corrections to No.40:
    I forgot to add "...tour manager perhaps lend certain credence to this view."
    And that should be "certainly didn't help" and "remarkably"
    And i'm not suggesting Spain were poor in the Euros, but simply much more contained and cautious than we might have expected with all that talent.

  • Comment number 42.

    If you look at the Brazilian attack or the Uruguain it is nowhere near as good as Barca, Madrid, Man City, Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Man Utd. Neymar is unproven (I hope he's as good as certain people think) Hulk is unproven outside of Portugal, a lot of Chelsea fans hoping Chelsea don't sign him (and he wouldn't be mentioned if Torres had scored anything close to 20 goals). Pato, well look at his miss against Arsenal that almost cost them the whole tie (not his fault they were awful in the second leg, but under no pressure at 4-0 up he should have scored). Has such potential and at only 22 he is incredible but not in the same bracket as Messi Ronaldo Rooney etc. And then Oscar is mentioned as this vibrant exciting young player, when he's mentioned for the Brazil squad but when he's mentioned as part of a vibrant young Chelsea attack (admittedly not signed) he's too fragile and unproven... He could form one of the scariest 3 AM in the world if he, Hazard and Mata all achieve their full potential. Would much rather watch all the team I mentioned above than the Uruguay side, I like watching attacking football, and will definitely be watching the Olympics, but I don't think the hype is necessary. Good luck to the South American's though they will surely entertain. Also very curious to see what style referee's we get if they are Englishmen who are non-professionals or FIFA supplied Ref's from Norway and everywhere you don't want a ref from. May completely change the games if you get a non-league Englishman running the game.

  • Comment number 43.

    give me David Villa and Messi + a Random Barca Kid over any combo of Cavani and friends or Torres lol and his lot.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am always realistic with England's chances. We had some top talent with plenty of experience so repeatedly making the quater-finals is no surprise. Many say the golden generation under achieved, I disagree. Did fans really expect us to exceed the quater-final or semi-final stage? We failed not solely because of the players but poor management and obviously our youth policies which at last have been changed.

    The current Euro squad has been the weakest England side I have seen in some time. The fact Scott Parker, Lescott, a maligned Gerrard and Milner not only made the squad but the starting 11 says it all really. Now that painful showing is out of the way we have to focus on the world cup. Despite his reputation I believe Terry should remain in the squad for the qualifying. Ashley Cole is the only other over-30's player I would retain but also take to the world cup.

    I am willing to give Hodgson a chance but he has to adapt to what he has and be flexible. There has to be a compromise from both him and the players. The current crop of players coming through will be suffocated if they are forced into a rigid system. Roy should copy Utd if you ask me who have a strong contingent of English players. Utd can counter attack, keep possession, defend and utilise the flanks well favouring a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation. This will suit England.

    The youngsters coming through all appear to be technically better with the ball than the golden generation. Most of them seem to have the right mentality. Smalling, Jones, Cole, Cahill, Lescott, Johnson, Bertrand and Walker in defence; Wilshere, Cleverly, Rodwell, Barkley, McEachran for the midfield; Walcott, Chamberlain, Young, Johnson, Lennon for the wide areas; Rooney, Carrol, Sturridge and Welbeck up front, Hart in goal. The good thing about this group of players is that they are more flexible and give better variety. If all goes to plan we could have a good tournament showing for once.

    Brazil have some exciting young talent who if fulfill potential and form cohesion could make a terrific Brazil side. This Olympics will be important for them and will probably be the only team where we learn something concrete. I agree with many about Spain's phantom next generation of stars. The likes of Fabregas and anyone of the age of 23-25 really may just about survive beyond the world cup but I can't see any real emerging talent who will fill their boots. Xavi will be a massive loss and they don't have a natural successor.

  • Comment number 45.

    @38

    Thanks!

  • Comment number 46.

    @44

    So Spain don't have a natural successor to Xavi... who does?

    Players like Xavi, Iniesta, Pirlo, Beckham, Zidane, Maradona, Cruyff, Beckanbauer, Puskas, Di Stefano etc... They are special. They don't have like-for-like replacements waiting in the lurch. They define generations of the game.

    Don't worry about Spain, they'll find someone who can line out in centre midfield.

  • Comment number 47.

    @30 Joan_Burton
     
    Tim explained the other week how age group football is more indicative of senior success the older the age group.
     
    Under-23 (Olympic) players become full internationals, as do roughly a third of Under-21s, but very few Under-19 or Under-17 players make the grade.
     
    Spain are indeed the European Under-21 champions from 2011. But their progress at that tournament was:
     
    England 1-1
    Czech Rep 2-0
    Ukraine 3-0
    Belarus 1-1 (won 3-01 aet)
    Switzerland 2-0
     
    Now I acknowledge that they can only beat the teams they encounter, but there was no Italy, no Germany, no Holland and no Portugal in what was essentially a freak eight team field.
     
    England grievously underperformed in coming 3rd out of 4 in the group last summer with a team including Bertrand, Jones, Smalling, Muamba, Henderson, Walker, Cleverley, Rodwell, Rose, Gibbs, Sinclair, Sturridge and Welbeck, and that may not bode well for Team GB under the same coach.
     
    I wholeheartedly agree with Tim's point that the Olympics are a great way to seamlessly merge young talent into any country's senior team. team GB has missed a trick here, but so too has Spain, and I think they will pay a heavy penalty in 2014.
     
    For reasons I cannot understand, the 2011 Euro Under'21 cut off age date was actually earlier than the 2012 Olympic Under-23 date. Go figure. Spain has therefore included the likes of Juan Mata who was a 2011 "Under-21" as a 2012 "Over-23", and has made no attempt to merge its Under-21 and senior teams, like Team GB.
     
    I think that that is a mistake, because the players from the Euros won't be on holiday on a beach during the Olympics, but rather playing meaningless friendlies around the world for their clubs. Spain could have made the Olympics into serious preparation for 2014 by combining their Under-21s with the likes of Xabi Alonso, Iniesta and Segio Ramos to ensure that a) they could compete with Brazil and Uruguay and b) the matches were genuine preparation for 2014.

  • Comment number 48.

    Brazil struggling for football identity? How would that be? A team that won its last World Cup three World Cups ago, not a long time in World Cups, and they are a team that has won the majority of the last few Copa Americas. Looks like they are struggling for the losing identity, but you cannot win them all. Then Tim says the trophy cabinet has not been filling up? Since when?

    Apparently Brazil play a model that is over-reliant on counter-attacking. Really? Don't remember such a thing in 2002. If they do, you can also say that this kind of makes sense. Brazil's goalkeeper and defence for some time now have not really been great in their respective departments, so you can understand if Brazil's defenders get the ball and quickly pass it to a midfielder who quickly passes it to an attacker who dribbles past a few perhaps and sets up a goal or scores one. Counter-attacking in its strict definition it may be but it still holds to the South American values of keeping the ball on the floor when passing, they do not hoof the ball up like certain European nations.

    It doesn't matter if they rely on counter-attacking because they are still able to win and it still means they are competitive. The way Tim puts this across almost implies that it is useless now that Spain have come up with their style. This is simply not true. Barcelona and Spain are said to share the same style. Chelsea put an end to Barca's dreams in Europe playing ultra-defensively and super counter-attack. However, they did this very well. If Brazil play counter-attack, they do it very well and they cannot be criticized for it. This little hint of praise for Spain is also excessive for a team that only played well in the final game of the recent Euro Cup.

    Mano Menezes has been having a tough time because he is pure and simply not the right man for the job. Although it is not all his fault, Brazil are in a transitional phase for good players, good old players are on the way out and good new ones need to be weaned in. However, his Brazil team are playing badly. They play badly even when they win, like 2-0 against Gabon, 2-1 against Bosnia or 2-1 against Mexico with some help from the referee to name a few examples. When Brazil play opposition they really need to beat or play well against at least, they play badly and draw or lose. Like losing to Germany, Argentina twice and France. Drawing against Holland, Paraguay twice and a much weakened Argentina. On top of this, Menezes selects the wrong players. The goalkeeper mentioned by Tim is one of them. The best goalkeeper Brazil could field has been selected, but has been busy warming up the bench. Hulk adds physical presence and is a constant thorn in the opposition's side but could do with being more of a clinical finisher. Same with Damiao. Neymar is Brazil's Balotelli. If all these players are put in their place and used successfully, Brazil could have easily won against Argentina by a good margin even if Messi was on fire.

    Brazil's current incapabilities are not due to her philosophy, which really is not that counter-attacking. It is due to her being in a transitional phase and her manager being inept at handling tactics and choosing the right players

  • Comment number 49.

    Tim

    Good post.

    I agree with you on Brazil's last 4 performances, where they played the Olympic team.

    They looked very good - Mano's team appeared to be clicking. Something Barcelona-like in their performances, harrying from the front. Oscar was far more dynamic than Ganso who has always looked lazy when playing for the national team. This Olympic side looks as if it could be far more exciting than recent Brazil teams and is actually playing as a "team", rather than a collection of talented individuals. I was losing faith in Mano, but the last 4 friendlies were impressive.

  • Comment number 50.

    There is no doubt that Brazil is going to be the powerhouse this summer. Especially, since Messi and his sidekicks will be watching the tourney from home. Maybe brazil for its first time, can achieve, one thing that they havent been allowed to win, which is, the gold medal. Neymar's performance will be crucial since he is looking to move to an european clubteam.


    Alex Esteban - Computer Tech

  • Comment number 51.

    @46 - and Tim - I'm not sure that the idea of a big, powerful midfield is necessarily obsolete. Spain is the best international team in the world, but is a once in a generation team, and I don't think they can be imitated.
     
    Senegal's convincing victory over Spain last week in a pre-Olympic friendly has sparked debate on other sites as to whether the template for beating Spain is to use a big, powerful, pacey team of technically accomplished players.
     
    This next sentence will establish a reputation of insanity for me, but I think that Michael Essien's withdrawal before the 2010 World Cup was a defining moment in Spanish footballing history. Ghana had a dodgy keeper and average defence and attack, but they had along with Spain the outstanding midfield in world football, with Annan as a sitting midfielder, Essien as a box-to-box powerhouse, Muntari on one flank and Asamoah on the other, with Boateng behind the striker. A galaxy of Champions League midfielders.
     
    That five man midfield would not have been one that Spain could either keep the ball from or pass around, and it had reserves of pace and physical power which the little Spaniards would have struggled to contain. Germany struggled enough, and that was without Essien against them.
     
    I don't believe that any African team can boast such pace, power and technical ability in 2014 as the 2010 Ghana might have been able to with Essien, who is now in obvious physical decline. But Brazil actually could assemble such a team, and I fear that they are now so insecure about their identity that they will instead put out a lightweight team which cannot compete not merely with Spain but a range of other teams too.

  • Comment number 52.

    "The point was well made recently by Andre Kfouri, one of the country's best football writers" The correct name is Juca Kfouri not
    Andre Kfouri

  • Comment number 53.

    As a Scotsman I will not be supporting the GB Olympic football team. When it comes to football i only support my nation and not the combined team.

    This has nothing to do with petty nationalism but more tradition and the belief that football shouldn't even be an Olympic sport.

    I will be supporting the GB team in every other Olympic sport (although Tennis similarly should not be there) and hope the British athletes win as many medals as possible.

    Even if I was back in Scotland i wouldn't attend one of the matches in Hampden (although the handing them out for free).

    Considering the blanket coverage of the Olympics back home i'm quite glad i'm not there to have it shoved down my throat. I like to pick and choose the sports and generally enjoy the Olympics however by all accounts the media coverage seems far beyond saturation point.. And lets not get started on the overall cost,white elephant etc.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/ecuadorian-serie-a-kicks-of-segunda-etape-second-stage/

  • Comment number 54.

    Today's Brazilian side are nowhere near the high standards of the side's they produced in the past. As they host the next world cup they will of course be the favourites (because they are Brazil). For me i only see underacheivment for this current crop of players that they now have. Even if they do win this mediocre football event at the olympics it doesn't make modern Brazil a succesfull side.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    @ 51 yakubusdiet

    Your point about Essien was certainly speculative.

    However, I think you may have a point on how teams can beat Spain. Their defence is not that good. The low number of goals they concede is mainly because they keep the ball so well in midfield.

    If a team scores first against them i'm not convinced that they are able to come from behind to win. Their defeats by Switzerland in the last World Cup and England in a friendly last year have shown this. I'm sure some people will say those results didn't matter or that they were not really trying. In the end those results have not had an impact on their success but they have shown a vulnerability that other teams should be looking to exploit.

  • Comment number 57.

    55. And this reactively-moderated thing is nonsense. Aside from point out what a small-minded person Mr Yakubusdiet is, I don't see where anyone could take offence.

  • Comment number 58.

    Spain will certainly be one of the favourites, but I don't think they have the same "quality" players in the U-23s as there are in the senior team. To this end, I don't think they are disciplined enough to play 100% tiki-taka.

    Brazil have a strong team out, but they are largely unchallenged. The likes of Neymar, Pato, Ganso, Oscar, Lucas Moura etc have all been touted highly, but how often do so many superstars perform in one tournament?

    The likes of Mexico, Uruguay, Belarus, Senegal etc are dark horses. Over the past few tournaments it has been the South American and African sides that have dominated.

  • Comment number 59.

    Is there an outstanding South American GK currently? Julio Cesar is the one questionable world class GK that comes to my mind but word is he will be shipped out or be 22nd choice at Internazionale next season.
    Beside GK, a CONMEBOL XI would surely demolish what UEFA would have to offer.
    Rather than a Confederations Cup, I would like to see a tournament where the football federations choose a team based on the players in their nations. Anyone else feel this has the legs to run?

  • Comment number 60.

    59.
    At 11:03 17th Jul 2012, AJGORBUTT wrote:

    Beside GK, a CONMEBOL XI would surely demolish what UEFA would have to offer.
    ______________________________________

    Not sure about that at all. There is definitely strength in depth in attacking positions in South America but you would only be able to put a maximum of 3 in a team.

    This would be my current European XI assuming everyone is fit:

    Casillas
    Lahm Kompany Ramos Alba
    Xavi Pirlo Schweinsteiger
    Ronaldo Gomez Iniesta

    In terms of goalkeepers Casillas, Buffon, Neuer, Lloris and Hart would probably walk in to any South American team.

  • Comment number 61.

    52 - the correct name is Andre Kfouri - Juca's son. Try again.

  • Comment number 62.

    Brazil team for this Friday

    Rafael Cabral
    Rafael - Thiago Silva - Juan - Marcelo
    Sandro - Romulo
    Hulk - Oscar - Neymar
    Leandro Damiao

  • Comment number 63.

    59. I agree with 60. The South American team have some great attacking options at the moment, but I struggle to think of any centre backs or GKs from S. America that can rival Europe's. However with Villa, Ballotelli or any number of German strikers, I think Europe could give South America's attackers more than a run for their money.
    I like the idea of a confederations cup with an All-star team from each confederation though.

  • Comment number 64.

    ajorbutt @59

    Certainly an interesting concept but one that, I doubt it would have much of an impact in terms of support. It would once again centre on two continents providing the two main teams. In other words one match at a mini tournament, that may or may not be seen as being of value.

    I look at everything that has been tried outside the norm, for example representative or world elevens playing a national team, honouring a milestone in their history. They never have meaning other than a celebratory feel and this would be the same.

    I look at the World Club Cup, is it really designed to show the current best team in the world? For me it is more like a jaunt, where succesful teams on there own continents gather for another payday in the sun.

    I felt at the time, when the King Fahd Cup was somehow turned into the Confederation Cup by FIFA, that we had already reached a saturation point for international football. Nothing i have seen has made me change my mind since. It is a meaningless competition.

  • Comment number 65.

    60.At 11:27 17th Jul 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    ________________________________

    I think the UEFA team would smash the COMMEMBOL side. I mean compare the two:

    UEFA 4-3-3:
    GK: Casillas, Buffon, Neuer etc
    RB: Lahm, Arbeloa, Ramos, Van der Wiel etc
    LB: Alba, Clichy, Evra, Cole etc
    CB: Ramos, Hummels, Kompany, Vidic, Pepe, Pique etc
    CM: Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Busquets, Pirlo, Schweinsteiger, Khedira etc
    AMs: Ozil, Ribery, Nasri, Fabregas, Ronaldo, Robben, Nani etc
    CFs: Gomez, Ibrahimovic, Benzema, Villa etc

    Compared to the COMMEMBOL side, who may have a strong attacking side, but their defence would be poor. I can't even think of a decent one?

    Maicon-Thiago Alves-Godin?-Pereira?
    Mascherano-Diego Perez?
    Messi-Aguero-Suarez
    Neymar?

  • Comment number 66.

    @48 M0R0NIT0..
    In a nutshell you have clearly explained why Brazil are so poor at the moment. Wrong players and wrong manager. Carlos Dunga must be laughing everytime they play.
    They lack cohesion and a clear playing strategy. hence they avoid playing any major Football power. Tim criticised Brazil's previous counter-attacking play, but remembering their games they blended possesion with a counter-attack style and they were very successful until the Q/F of the SA 2010, when in the first half they should have wrapped up the game against Holland. However an own goal and sending off for Felipe Melo put an end to a promising campaign.
    Carlos Dunga won the Copa America, Confed Cup, South American qualifying, number 1 FIFA ranking.
    What has Mano Meneses achieved, a flop of a campaign at Copa America 2011,
    a big drop in the FIFA rankings, and hoping that they win a substandard Olympics, along with bad defeats against major Football powers. Time for the CBF to change strategy and change managers and their coaching staff..

  • Comment number 67.

    @ 63 SlovakIron

    Indeed you could produce a 2nd European XI which would be almost as good as the team I mentioned above.

    Buffon
    Debuchy Pique Pepe Cole
    Ozil Moutinho De Rossi Silva
    Van Persie Villa

    I haven't included Balotelli but he would be another option too.

  • Comment number 68.

    67.At 12:03 17th Jul 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    ____________________

    here's a third:

    Neuer
    Van der Wiel Hummels Vidic Coeantrao
    Khedira Alonso
    Kroos Sneijder Robben
    Benzema

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 64 Londoner

    Indeed, there are probably already too many meaningless competitions. The posts above have already shown that at least 3 top quality European XI teams could be produced but what would be the point.

  • Comment number 70.

    at 40 BLRBrazil

    My friend, I have read numerous of your comments posted in several of Tim’s articles and I think you write well, seems to be a sensible person and displays a very good knowledge of Brazilian football – though it seems you are not Brazilian yourself (half Brazilian? Living there for a long time? I am not sure). However, I get frustrated a LOT with your occasional comments about Corinthians. One of the least gifted teams ever to win the Libertadores? Corinthians beat Santos, Boca Jrs. and Vasco on the way to the finals, and much hyped sides such as La U, Internacional, Velez and Fluminense fell to these teams in earlier stages. Corinthians can only beat whoever is in front of them, and if even mastering these opponents you still say it is the least talented than that's not really an assessment of Corinthians, but rather of Brazilian and South American club football. And I am not even going to dispute such assessment, as I will be the first to admit I have seen several more talented Corinthians squads in the past which haven’t been successful in the Libertadores, but that doesn't make this squad none the less worthy given the current status of football in SA. Then you repeat tired conspiracy theories… I find it amazing that intelligent individuals can really come with this babble about Corinthians being historically helped - what? a club that had to endure 23 years without winning any titles, only won its first national league in 1990, and was relegated in 2007? Where was the help then? Now, was there controversy in any of Corinthians successes? In some, maybe, but please name one strong club that went all its life without ever being helped by a polemic refereeing event, or an arbitrary FA decision? Give me a break. All popular clubs in Brazil have been helped in one way or another (and sometimes robbed, including Corinthians) since the first years of professionalism in the country. As for this year’s Libertadores, Corinthians won it fair and square, played better football than each of its beaten opponents in group and knock out stages, did not suffer one single defeat. This ”untalented” team, which, BTW, is also the current Brazilian champion (oh, let me see, that was also am arranged fluke?) has players who are, individually, as good as any others in SA – it had FIVE players named in the Libertadores first XI – Castan, Fabio Santos, Danilo, Paulinho and Emerson. Now, considering Riquelme and Neymar also made this named XI, tell me

  • Comment number 71.

    for some reason pat of my post at 70. got cut, so resuming:

    ...tell me whoever else could replace any of the Corinthians players from the other Libertadores squads, given their performances in the tournament? Anyhow, if you think the squad is so untalented, why are you complaining none of them was selected for the series of Brazil friendlies? Well, lets just remind ourselves that the friendlies were to be played by Brazil’s Olympic squad, and all best Corinthians players are over 23… so there, take that for your Mano Menezes conspiracy theories. If you are a Santos supporter so proud of your past three wins, please don’t diminish that history by trying to blemish what was a beautiful achievement by anyone’s standards.
    Apologies to all as this was off topic – Tim did not publish a BBC post about Libertadores after the final though, and I had to address one reader’s unfortunate comments – BLRBrazil, this week’s topic has nothing to do with Corinthians, please forget us.

  • Comment number 72.

    70/71 etc - didn't do anything post-Libertadores here, but wrapped it up for the next issue of World Soccer magazine, and if you want something on line, then search for my blog for sbs in australia - www.theworldgame.com.au and go to blogs.

  • Comment number 73.

    All the posts relating to Team GB's participation in the 2012 Olympic Tournament seem to be missing the point. Their participation is purely for 'political' reasons to ensure there is host nation interest in the tournament and hence has no part to play in the development of the English national team (or the Welsh, Scottish or NI ones either).

    Once the Olympics are over Team GB will cease to exist and its very unlikely that it will be resurrected in the foreseeable future - hence this group of 18 players will almost certainly never play together again and so what they achieve in terms of style of play and team integration is largely irrelevant. That being the case the tournament isn't much more than an exhibition for us and that's how we should treat it - enjoy it for what it is and not get too bothered about the outcome.

    I agree appointing the current England U21 Coach as Team GB Coach could give the impression of a link with the English national set up but in reality that's a bit of a red herring. However Pearce has experience of dealing with a younger group of players in an international environment through his work with England U21 so I believe that makes him as good a candidate as any to be Team GB's Coach. I've noticed some petty sniping about the style of play his team's play posted on here but anyone who has seen England U21 play recently will understand what nonsense that is.

    So all in all I'm looking forward to Team GB's participation in the Olympic Football Tournament but have no expectation of medals. It's just a shame that the respective FAs of Scotland, Wales and NI couldn't see beyond their petty self interests and get behind the participation of their players. If they had managed to do that then maybe the final squad would have been a better representation of all 4 nations.

  • Comment number 74.

    2014 will be to early for them, but 2018 and 2022 we need to be looking out for teams like Qatar - I saw one of their under age teams playing at a youth tournament last year in Northern Ireland - unbelievable they destroyed everybody, beating Man U 4-1 i think maybe 5-1 in the semi

  • Comment number 75.

    As for the make up of the GB team, regardless of whether the non-english fa's wanted to be involved, there are no players from NI worthy of being in the squad and i'm northern irish, it wouldn't make sense to have a token one in - makes a mockery of it.

    Pearce is going to win it and that's the right attitude - hopefully he'll take the handbrake off and let them play.

  • Comment number 76.

    Tim,

    Why is Hulk selected ahead of Lucas on the right hand side of attack?

    Surely Brazil should be investing more time into a player who is younger and more talented by giving him a starting birth, especially in an under 23 competition.

  • Comment number 77.

    almostajoker @73

    team integration is largely irrelevant. That being the case the tournament isn't much more than an exhibition for us and that's how we should treat it - enjoy it for what it is and not get too bothered about the outcome.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I do believe that is the major problem for me, when it comes to team GB.

    The remaining teams do take it seriously, it would be disrespectful to the Olympic Games and the other teams competing, to treat it as an exhibition. Afterall the Olympics is based on competition.

    Pearce probably has other views on the competition but managing a team that is labelled to represent the home nations is laughable, when the majority clearly did not want to know. I happen to respect their views even though I am saddened by them.

    We should of let our place go to a team that could agree a policy and enter the competition with the spirit of the Olympic Games in mind.

    I am looking forward to seeing the remaining teams COMPETE for gold, silver and bronze.

    I do remember our last attempts at qualifying, indeed i watched a warm up game at the old White City Stadium on one ocassion. Yes we were no hopers then but at least we competed as a unified team.

  • Comment number 78.

    Tim, good post as always.

    Many of us have witnessed the changes throughout the last 50 years in Brasilian football, in terms of style. At times i could never understand why they were so drastic and they have appeared to be knee jerk reactions to singular failures, on ocassions.

    At some point in the future could you do a piece on how Brazil developed the over importance placed on the backs as the main attacking threat. You mentioned the size of the team in general, which is also interesting because i had only thought of the backs as being the big athletic types till now.

  • Comment number 79.

    74.
    At 14:02 17th Jul 2012, sirlemons11 wrote:


    2014 will be to early for them, but 2018 and 2022 we need to be looking out for teams like Qatar
    _____________________________

    Well they will automatically qualify in 2022 and have home advantage - the searing heat will certainly be a factor. Can't see them making a big impression though.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ 77 Londoner

    A UK team (or Team GB although I dislike the term) is not much of a problem in other sports as they compete regularly under that guise.

    In football it causes issues. The top 3 teams from last years under-21 European Championship qualified for the games. If one of those had been England then you would have had a farcical situation where a part of Team GB (in fact the majority of it) would technically have qualified for the tournament as well.

  • Comment number 81.

    61.At 11:28 17th Jul 2012, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:
    52 - the correct name is Andre Kfouri - Juca's son. Try again.

    ______________________________________________________

    hahaha

    what a childish response from a BBC writer.

  • Comment number 82.

    @ 81 signori

    I thought it was hilarious - it's important to get facts correct before criticising.

  • Comment number 83.

    Bar a few events, Olympics will be largely a waste of time. I wonder what the crowd numbers will be for the football?

  • Comment number 84.

    Check out the aspire academy in qatar - any search engine will bring it up.

  • Comment number 85.

    83.
    At 15:07 17th Jul 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:


    Bar a few events, Olympics will be largely a waste of time. I wonder what the crowd numbers will be for the football?
    ________________________________

    A bit of a sweeping statement there. I'm personally looking forward to the Athletics, Cycling, Diving, Rowing, Table Tennis and Weightlifting. The Beach Volleyball has a certain attraction too...

    There are still plenty of tickets on sale for the football which says it all really.

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 80 BaggiosPonytail

    A UK team (or Team GB although I dislike the term) is not much of a problem in other sports as they compete regularly under that guise.
    ___________________________________________________________________
    As an Irishman, I was wondering if I'd done a Rip Van Winkle and suddenly woke up to discover that the island of Ireland had been reunited. What happened to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.?

  • Comment number 87.

    @86 Frank Black

    Indeed, occasionally "& NI" gets added but generally it seems to be Team GB this and Team GB that. If they insist on putting "Team" at the front of it at least make it Team UK...

  • Comment number 88.

    85.At 15:19 17th Jul 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    A bit of a sweeping statement there. I'm personally looking forward to the Athletics, Cycling, Diving, Rowing, Table Tennis and Weightlifting. The Beach Volleyball has a certain attraction too...

    There are still plenty of tickets on sale for the football which says it all really.
    ___________________________

    Well I don't think anyone is keen to see Belarus v Egypt for example!

    It is a bit of a sweeping statement, but living in London and possibly having my commute time being doubled / being told not to use your car suggests it will be a waste of time.

    Looking forward to the Atheltics, Weightlifting, Archery, Gymnastics and Football (of course) but others seem like a waste of time. To me anyway. Certainly no excuse to make travelling to work for 3 weeks hell.

  • Comment number 89.

    @88 eduard_streltsov_ghost

    I'm certainly glad I don't live in London. I'll have the best of both worlds - the games in my country but no inconvenience!

  • Comment number 90.

    89.At 16:03 17th Jul 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    @88 eduard_streltsov_ghost

    I'm certainly glad I don't live in London. I'll have the best of both worlds - the games in my country but no inconvenience!
    _____________________________

    My other half drives to work (only about 6 miles) and the "advice" that's been provided is not to drive during the games. The olympic lane doesn't help matters either!

  • Comment number 91.

    @83

    I'm off to see Spain v Honduras with a mate, mainly because she wants to perv at Juan Mata mind :D Plus it's a day out, and there's no other football to see really so figured may aswell.

    Spain's U23 team looks pretty tasty, shame they will be missing Thiago Alcantra though, would if liked to have watched him.

    May go and see Brazil aswell should we be able to afford it.

  • Comment number 92.

    @73 "...It's just a shame that the respective FAs of Scotland, Wales and NI couldn't see beyond their petty self interests and get behind the participation of their players. If they had managed to do that then maybe the final squad would have been a better representation of all 4 nations"

    Those FAs probably considered very seriously the implications that joining Team GB might've had for them as far as FIFA membership is concerned. There are more than a few nations that wonder why on earth the UK has so many representative teams, unlike most other nations that only have a single team. If they compete as a united team in the Olympics, the rest of the world would wonder why can't they do the same for the World Cup? ...and rightly so.

  • Comment number 93.

    @70 "...that's not really an assessment of Corinthians, but rather of Brazilian and South American club football. "

    Very true. Corinthians may not have impressed and they may be boring to watch but they were a solid and consistent team that did the job when it had to be done.

    Boca were awful, relied completely on Riquelme so when he didn't perform, neither did Boca.

    La U were a very exciting team to watch but choked completely when they met Boca in the semis...shame, hopefully they'll bounce back.

    Santos seemed more a collection of individuals than a team and Neymar again failed to disprove those who say he chokes under pressure.

    So, all in all, the best team won. Yes, the level of competition wasn't the best but that's not Corinthians fault.

    Now, roll on Corinthians v Chelsea... yawns galore...

  • Comment number 94.

    You can win all the worthless olympic medals you want, Europe still dominates world football, stop deluding yourselves south americans

  • Comment number 95.

    76 - Hulk instead of Lucas - I think the idea here is to give more physical presence to what otherwise is a lightweight forward line.
    Lucas Moura at the moment is much more a case of promise than reality - I thought at the time, and I think events have proved it, that he was promoted too early to the senior side - I could never understand why he went to the Copa America last year - had he gone to the World Youth Cup then he would have been seen as the leader of the attack, and would have been obliged to develop the collective side of his game.
    There's a huge difference between him and Neymar in terms of real, concrete achievement. Neymar has already done almost everything he can in South American club football - he's been the outstanding player in a Libertadores win, he's endured the challenge of being a marked man defending that title, he's won the Brazilian Cup.
    Lucas has yet to do any of this - the amount of money Sao Paulo are asking for him in no way reflects achievement - only promise.

  • Comment number 96.

    78 - look out for the next, or some future, issue of 'The Blizzard' magazine - I've had space to go into greater depth about changes in the Brazilian game.

  • Comment number 97.

    81 - pedants always have the potential to be annoying. Pedants who are plain wrong offer such a delicious target - I couldn't resist unleashing my inner child!

  • Comment number 98.

    "Those FAs probably considered very seriously the implications that joining Team GB might've had for them as far as FIFA membership is concerned. There are more than a few nations that wonder why on earth the UK has so many representative teams, unlike most other nations that only have a single team. If they compete as a united team in the Olympics, the rest of the world would wonder why can't they do the same for the World Cup? ...and rightly so."

    Bladerunner - this has *nothing* whatsoever to do with a combined team, UEFA and FIFA have shown time and time again that they're willing to embrace new nations etc, just witness the former Yugoslav and Soviet Union states. What the heads of our four FAs are worried about is their own power being diluted as they historically occupy half of the eight positions on the International board on FIFA's exec committee and any hint of a combined team sees them moving closer to losing their powers.

  • Comment number 99.

    #46...Beckham? BECKHAM!! someone who cannot kick with his left foot, has no pace, cannot head a ball!!! yet you do not include Pele in your list

  • Comment number 100.

    97 - You're dead right Tim, some people just need to be put in their place! Very much looking forward to the Olympics football now, it's been tough since the Euros ended. Was looking at the Argentinian squad from the last Olympics...Messi, Aguero, Zabaleta, Gago, Lavezzi, Mascherano, Riquelme, Di Maria, Garay. Not bad! And they didn't even qualify this year!

 

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