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Brazil's Menezes under pressure after Olympic defeat

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Tim Vickery | 09:56 UK time, Sunday, 12 August 2012

In the culture of Brazilian football, there are few crimes more serious than losing in a final.

The celebrations have been planned and the champagne is on ice. Then, when things go wrong, everyone sees it and the humiliation is complete as you fall from a great height.

What kind of landing awaits coach Mano Menezes after Brazil lost 2-1 to Mexico in the Olympic final? When Brazil win the players get the credit. When they lose the coach gets the blame. It was ever thus.

Going home with the gold medal would have solidified Menezes' position as the man to take Brazil to the next World Cup. In defeat nothing is solid. If the new president of the local FA wants to play to the gallery, then getting rid of Menezes is the easy option.

Brazil

Brazil players (in yellow) are distraught after losing 2-1 to Mexico in the football final at London 2012. Photo: Reuters 

In part the coach has contributed to his own precarious position with a glaring error in his Olympic squad selection.

True, he was unlucky to lose first-choice keeper Rafael Cabral on the eve of the competition. Two replacements were used, Neto and Gabriel. Neither looked secure.

But a big part of the problem was the presence in front of the keeper of centre-back Juan, who at this stage of his career is not ready for such a challenge - and since he is nowhere in the running for a 2014 place, it was not a selection that made any sense.

Juan operated as the left-sided centre-back. And since Marcelo, the full-back on that flank, is far more accomplished going forward than tracking back, Brazil were vulnerable to attacks down the opponents' right.

Menezes in effect acknowledged his own mistake with a change in his starting line-up. After a nervy quarter-final win over Honduras, striker Hulk, one of his three over-age players, was sacrificed to make way for Alex Sandro in an attempt to shore up the left side.

After a sticky start in the semi-final against South Korea, Brazil pulled away to win 3-0. Against Mexico they instantly found themselves a goal down and, after a deeply unimpressive first half-hour Hulk was introduced to kick some life into the Brazilian forward line - though he was also at fault with a piece of slack marking for the second Mexican goal.

And Menezes hardly covered himself with glory as his team attempted to claw their way back into the game. He fell into the common Brazilian vice of becoming obsessed with the referee, continually crying out for yellow cards to be given to the Mexicans. It hardly helped his team.

He has often talked of the need for Brazil to play with more patience and this was a time to show it.

The Mexicans were happy to interrupt the flow of the game. Instead of getting mad Brazil needed to get even, passing and moving at pace, wearing the Mexicans down until the gaps appeared.

But if Wembley went all wobbly for Menezes, then he can look back with more pleasure and take more positives from his team's previous five displays at Cardiff, Manchester and Newcastle, where three goals in every game sent the fans home happy.

Sceptics may argue that Brazil fell to the first truly accomplished team they faced. They may have a point, but so do the optimists when they point out that considerable progress has been made in the quest to find something of greater long-term importance than an Olympic gold - a coherent, collective idea of play.

In the two years of his reign, Menezes has brought on a new generation and weaned Brazil off an excessive dependence on the counter-attack.

Perhaps the most significant development has been the emergence of Oscar as a bright, busy and versatile organiser of the team's possession.

He looks like being a key man in 2014 - likewise Thiago Silva to marshal the defence, Romulo to link play in midfield, Leandro Damiao as a strong and improving centre forward, and the magnificently talented Neymar - though he struggled once more against opponents who were adept at reducing his space, and must surely be pondering that a move to Europe would give him more experience against this kind of marking.

Menezes has gone a fair way down the road to producing a side with the potential to win in style in 2014 and more of the blueprint might be on view this Wednesday when Brazil play a friendly against Sweden.

Centre-backs Dede and David Luiz will battle it out for the right to partner Thiago Silva. And there is an intriguing recall for Ramires.

The Chelsea midfielder was dropped after last year's Copa America because it was thought he did not fit naturally into the team's 4-2-3-1 formation.

He lacked the passing game to be one of the two and was not enough of an attacking specialist to operate in the line of three.

In bringing him back, then, Menezes is not only acknowledging the player's storming club form towards the end of last season, he is presumably also thinking of a tweak.

The Olympics have perhaps given him the idea that his preferred formation can leave the team too vulnerable down the flanks. Ramires in the second line of a 4-3-2-1 now becomes a possible variation.

This week's friendly, then, gives us the chance to assess some of the tactical lessons of the Olympic tournament. And as well as its long-term implications, the match is also important in the short term.

The 'Menezes out' fraternity will be sharpening their knives in the event of another disappointing performance.

Brazil have a chance to bounce back quickly from Saturday's defeat. If they fail to take it, then Menezes will be sailing in waters so turbulent that he might be well advised to make room on his coaching staff for Ben Ainslie, Great Britain's gold medal-winning sailor.

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) How do you think River Plate will do on their return to the top flight? Also, what do you think of their young player Manuel Lanzini who showed glimpses of quality in their opening game and what's behind the departure of Fernando Cavenaghi?
Liam Derry

A) They've now lost one and won one. The Argentine league has been so up and down over recent years that it is hard to make any hard and fast predictions. But I think there are some grounds for optimism - so often big clubs who go down are cleansed by the process of clawing their way back up.

Little Lanzini is an attacking midfielder worthy of high hopes. On Cavenaghi, the experience of the veterans was useful in the second division, but retaining too many of them would hold back the coming generation. Funes Mori scored both their goals this weekend - he may not have got a game if Cavenaghi was still around.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You only have to see the teams in the last eight to realise that Olympic football is not a serious competition.

    Brazil fans and media ought to realise that.

  • Comment number 2.

    As hosts of 2014 (and 2016!), I think 'El Scratch' might succumb to the pressue of expectation when the finals are underway...

  • Comment number 3.

    The CBF needs to stick with Menezes.The world cup is only two years away and changing the coaching set up will sure see the new man bring in new ideas.Just look at South Korea prior to the 2002 world cup,Hindink was criticised by Korea legends and media because the team wasnt getting results and he wasnt even living in Korea to say the least.We all know what happened next although there were some controvesial decisions that went their way.On Neymar,he needs to move to Europe as soon as possible,he runs out of ideas sometime when marked closely.I think Pele was watching the back of the television when he said Neymar is as good as Messi

  • Comment number 4.

    The CBF needs to stick with Menezes.The world cup is only two years away and changing the coaching set up will surely see the new man bring in new ideas.Just look at South Korea prior to the 2002 world cup,Hindink was criticised by Korea legends and their media because the team wasnt getting results,despite getting to the semifinals of the Gold cup(North American equivalent of the cup of Nations) and he wasnt even living in Korea to say the least.We all know what happened next although there were some controvesial decisions that went their way.On Neymar,he needs to move to Europe as soon as possible,he runs out of ideas sometime when marked closely.I think Pele was watching the back of the television when he said Neymar is as good as Messi.

  • Comment number 5.

    Brazil put way too much pressure on their players for a tournament like this. The President of Brazil called one day to talk to the players, Pele personally made an appearance, not to mention the media criticizing Neymar each time he did not have a stellar match and reminding the team that the Olympic Gold is the only international football tournament Brazil has not previously won. Any other country would have been thankful for the silver, yet Brazil wants to sack the head coach for this "failure". Brazil needs to hire the retired, overweight Ronaldo to the coaching staff to sort of form a barrier between the players and all the criticism and pressure and lighten things. He's been in both sides of the fence winning and losing world cups and olympic finals.

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't think Menezes is the man for 2014. His team was narrow, and as soon as he fell behind he sacrificed midfield in order to play too many strikers.

    And Oscar looks lightweight: a big West African team would make him almost as innocuous as Mexico did.

    If Brazil's reinforcements for 2014 are Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Lucas Leiva and Ramires then they are heading for another Maracanazo.

    Brazil should reach the last four in 2014. But the vagaries of the draw could, for example, pair them with France, Mexico and Japan at the group stage. And they could really struggle in such a case.

    Lastly, @1, do you really think that England still has a better senior national team than Mexico, Japan or South Korea? You appear to have missed the changing of the guard!

  • Comment number 7.

    Brazilians should remember that they did not win even a silver medal with the 1996 Olympic team which was way more talented than this one. True, it hurts after coming so close to lose the way they did but like France, Mexico seems to be a hodoo team for Brazil in the big matches. A silver medal is no shame, Mexico has an excellent team which I expect to mount a reasonable challenge come 2014.

  • Comment number 8.

    Watching Brazil lose from being 2-0 up and nearly taking the third set too in the Men's volleyball final maybe they need someone who can give them more resilience and ability to ride out the tough times. Maybe not a Brazilian then?

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree with most of this. Mano will go! The Brazilian public have lost any confidence they had in him and will demand it and he seems to be losing the dressing room...

    long term there is the question of replacing goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Maybe Rafael is the man shame he didnt get a chance to prove it...

    Despite his goal Hulk seems a tad one dimensional and Mano seemed to miss the opportunity to unleash Lucas Moura...

    For me, Man United´s Rafa is facing a make or break season.

    The plus points were obviously Oscar and Romulo...

    so for 2014:

    Rafael / ?

    Daniel Alves Thiago Silva Dede / David Luiz

  • Comment number 10.

    Rafael

    Daniel Alves??? Thiage Silva Dede / David Luiz Marcelo

    Sandro / Paulinho Romulo / Ramires

    Oscar

    Lucas Leandro / Pato Neymar

  • Comment number 11.

    Menezes is the worst manager Brazil has ever had. Failure to replace him now must lead to impeachment of the CBF president. When Brazil lost to Germany last year, Mano said Germany is a much better team.. when we lost to France he said France was better on the day.. When we lost to Argentina he said the same thing and then to Mexico a few days later he ventured that there was miscommunication between the Brazil players and now after the failure at the Olympic he is saying Mexico is a better team.. The Only team Brazil beat and Mano failed to recognized the superiority of the opposing team is Gabon last year when Hernanes scored..
    2 years is plenty of time for Muricy or Scolari to impose a winning mentality on this team.. Mano is a waste of space of a coach.. Rafael failed to help Sandro and turned his back on a soft cross during the Honduras game and that is how Honduras scored the first goal.. again in the final Rafael is playing the way he would not dare if Sir Alex Ferguson was on the touchline.. That Mano did not feel the need to ask rafael to apply himself is beyond me..
    Mano is tactically and strategically inept..He does not garner the respect of the players. He does not know how to set up the defense and his selection and call ups have been poor from Day 1. It is a crime against the Brazil people to keep Menezes at the helm of the National Team. If he stays through the 2014 WC, it will a disaster of the largest proportion and the CBF will have to be disbanded for incompetence.

  • Comment number 12.

    Wow, Tim I must congratulate you on reinventing the wheel and stating the obvious about Mano Menezes.

    Mano Menezes has only himself to blame for Brazil's lucky silver medal. He chose completely the wrong players. He was lucky atrocious first choice keeper Rafael was injured but then only played Neto once and insisted on playing inexperienced Gabriel. Marcelo and Rafael were totally the wrong players to choose, why Ganso, Lucas Moura and even Hulk, for a few games, did not start is beyond me. Neymar was a disappointment but his marketing team will find a way to manage this. Damiao, despite scoring all those goals, was still wasteful, reminded me of Serginho in 82, and was taking up someone else's place on the team. All of these were contributing factors to his dire campaign.

    And it is a dire campaign because the sceptics are totally right. Beating the likes of Egypt and New Zealand in the group stages and being extremely lucky to beat Honduras and South Korea, where they had help from bad refereeing, is nothing positive. If they had beat Japan and Mexico fair and square when these teams were playing well, that would be positive.

    I am amazed that Tim keeps harping on about this, the idea that Brazil play an overly counter-attacking style. Where does he get this idea from? You have to have a good defence to counter-attack and Brazil's defence is appalling. And if, big if, they do have a constant dependence on counter-attacking there is nothing wrong with that if they play it and win fair and square. It is perfectly within the rules and the same way a good attacking team is beautiful, a good defensive one and a good counter-attacking one is too.

    The sooner Mano Menezes leaves the better, he is extremely lucky he was still in charge for the Olympics in the first place. The fact that he was complaining about the referee shows how out of touch and useless he is. I shall hope the CBF will do the right thing for once.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't know why some manezes Haters start to reach in the conclusion like that. To bring Scolari means Brazil has to go back old school of coach . Big Phill is always my favorites . But For Palmeiras his record is even not up to the mark now. Most important under Mano Brazil is in perfectly right track and wonder full team is forming now.There is no point to replace Coach right now. Same Mistake Brazil has done to sack Vanderlie Luxemburgo.

  • Comment number 14.

    Mano Menezes should go now! I do not think he selected the right players. He did not bring best out of Neymar, Hulk and other individuals. He played out Hulk in too wide (right) position. Brazil as a team was incoherent and inconsistent. Brazil should select a manager someone like big Felipao who has international experience and can build up solid team.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tim I thought that was a fair assessment of Brasil in this tournament and their current state.

    I see Brasil as a team of all one way, meaning, they always seem to be dependent on certain areas, instead of being well balanced throughout as a team. I also get the feeling that several of the teams they will meet in 2 years time, will be able to counter Brasil purely because they will know for certain how they will set up their play.

    However i do think they could turn out to be a very good side with a few changes to their set up. obviously that may mean players coming in who were thought to be out of it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tim, I am rather surprised that you include Romulo in Brazil 2014 plans. I watched the bloke in the two matches against Belarus and South Korea at Old Trafford and I genuinely cannot pin point his strength. Box to box at best.

    Brazil need to understand that football has evolved and the days of playing big, strong, tackling center mid like Gilberto Silva, Dunga, Romula and quick attacking full back are long gone. Your center or defensive mid must be comfortable in possession and possess the ability to drop deep and link play and I genuinely don't think Romulo has all these qualities hence, the league is plaguing his trade at: Russian League.

    It amuse me how people can even imagine that 70% of the London 2012 Brazil team should be good enough for the world cup. Kaka is 29, why is everyone writing him off? He is a champion, a winner and he played 90% of Real Madrid's la liga games last season. Robinho is still 28, Lucio is 32, Dani Alves is the best right back in the world. How Adriano of Barcelona doesn't get a call up is beyond me. Xavi, Puyol, Casilas, Xabi Alonso, David Villla are all over 30 and they just won the Euros. Perhaps Brazil need to go back to the drawing board.

  • Comment number 17.

    I thought that the Brazilian players looked very talented but very inexperienced. 2 years is too soon, so I don't think they'll be ready for the 2014 world cup either. We could well be looking at a European victory on South American soil, which I believe hasn't happened before.

    If David Luiz is close to the first team, then they really are weak - he is a walking disaster area.

  • Comment number 18.

    I find it difficult to understand and believe that despite the scares they had against Egypt, Honduras and South Korea, Mano Meneses failed to address the defensive weaknesses. Raphael Da Silva is a liability in defence, his flicks and back heels gave the opposition the chance to pounce. Better defenders should have been picked.
    Neymar also needs to mature and become more of a team player, he was almost always trying to score the perfect goal by dribbling past 4 or 5 players when a simple pass to an available team mate would have done. Damiao, even though he scored 6 goals, was AWOL in the final. Hulk should have started the final.
    So though Brazil had the best team on paper they were beaten by a more shrewd and counter attacking team. Brazil do need to bring in a better manager, maybe one who has played international football and one who has better experience at management, because Mano is a little lost as an international manager.

  • Comment number 19.

    We all know a lot can change in two years in the world of football, but not that much. At this moment, I just don't see Brasil having what it takes to win in 2014. And I'm not just talking about this disappointing Olympic team or Menezes's credentials, but about the lack of a defined identity or style in the national team. Could someone tell me what’s been Brasil footy up to for the past 6 to 8 years? Hard to tell, isn’t it?
    And even outstanding individual players are in short demand, after having produced scores of superstars like Ronaldo, Romário, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Branco, Leonardo, Ronaldinho and Kaká between 1993 and 2006. It reminds me of the "drought" Brasil endured between 1983 and 1992. I don’t know about y’all but Neymar, Ganso, Pato, Thiago Silva, Hulk, Marcelo, Oscar, Moura, or Leandro Damião, all excellent players in their own right, don't look like world champs to me. They might in two years, but I seriously doubt it.

  • Comment number 20.

    I hardly recall any Brazil national coach staying in the job for 3 - 4 years preceding the world cup and actually leading them there. They usually get sacked at some point. Mano has done his job - stabilising the team and changing Dunga's disastrous defensive ethos. It is now time for a more creative coach to blend the experience of Kaka, Robinho, Alves, Adriano (the wing back), Ramires, Nilmar etc. with some of the emerging stars of the Olympic team.

    Two significant things were evident in the past two weeks: (1) Mano, like Lazaroni and Dunga, will squander a great collection of players if allowed to carry on, and (2) Neymar is skillful but massively over-hyped. It is easy to show boat against minnows but it is becoming clear that he cannot yet cope with tight marking, high pressure international games, and physical defenders. Like a young Bebeto or Rivaldo, he needs some wise old heads around him. He does not have the impudent presence of a Romario or Careca.

    It was good for the boys to run around, but VIVA MEXICO !!!! What focus, talent, and energy, eh?

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim:

    Have you forgotten about Lucas Leiva. He'll be back in the full Brazilian squad when he regains full fitness. Maybe even Captain in 2014.

    Or do you disagree?

  • Comment number 22.

    Tim,

    Who do you believe the ideal partner for Romulo is in the centre of midfield?

    In my view Sandro and Lucas Leiva are good destroyers but not great in possession and their distribution leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Comment number 23.

    I remember his time at Corinthians and can't for the life of me think why the Brazilian Federation settled on him, his style of play has always been too European, playing the god-awful 4-2-3-1, playing with a boring double midfield pivot that emphasizes defense more than any creativity . If they wanted to get away from the whole Dunga era, under Mano Menezes it's been more of the same. The only exception has been Neymar, who could surpass Messi in a couple of years but with the way Brazil falls in love with European strategies, why bother playing with Neymar at all?

    The Counter-attack style is still there, it hasn't gone anywhere. The Cancer of Football is still there.

    With the exception of Neymar, all of these Brazilians play with a bruising physicality... I really can't see the change.

    The only man who can cure Brazil of this "European bore-football disease" is Guus Hiddink, he can take over an already "Europeanized" side and inflict it with a dutch passing game that's more symbolic of the way Brazil should play.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's funny how brazil have; brazilian players, a brazilian manager, brazilian coaching staff, a brazilian manager in post every year since - ever? And yet its the 'european style' that scuppers brazil when they perform below expectation.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well I did warn a few posters on here that Brazil were not shoe ins for the gold medal having never won it before. It's a shame because they've probably been the best team in the tournament, but they couldn't keep it together for the final game. For me there were too many individual errors and concentration lapses.

    Think there's all the right signs that Brazil can challenge in 2014. If they had won the gold, fans would be expectant of an easy win in 2014, this shows that there's still some work to do.

  • Comment number 26.

    Yakubu's Diet:

    Are you a WUM or something? First you harped on about how Uruguay were favourites to win the olympics and show their prowess. Once they were dumped out you waxed lyrical about Brazil. Now you are saying you don't think Menezes is the right man for the job. Talk about changing opinions!!

    "And Oscar looks lightweight: a big West African team would make him almost as innocuous as Mexico did." - BEcause Mexico had big, dominating midfielders as well did they? I take it that's the secret to beating Spain as well is it? Make them play Ivory Coast, Nigeria or Ghana and that's their tournament over?

    "Lastly, @1, do you really think that England still has a better senior national team than Mexico, Japan or South Korea? You appear to have missed the changing of the guard!" - You appear to be getting a little carried away with the Olympics. Japan have never reached the semis of WC. QF for them is a big achievement. Korea would struggle to re-create their form and "refereeing" of 2002 to reach SF. Mexico better than England? You have to shake your head.

  • Comment number 27.

    Brazil's worst nightmare in 2014.
    A Messi inspired Argentina, coached by Guardiola, knock them out in the semi finals in their own backyard and go on to win the World Cup. What a script that would be!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Although I think managers are sacked too easily now days, Menezes was awful in the Olympics but Brazil most certainly weren't. They were a lot better than spain!! There defence was awful but at least in the world cup there won't be Raphael or Juan playing hopefully. They need to forget about players like Sandro and play a very attacking team with the likes of Ramires, Oscar, Hulk, kaka, Lukas Moura and Neymar. Plus they'll have Lucas leiva. I'll hedge my bets Brazil impress lots making semi-final at least. Plus Mexico should have never been dark horses, they have a good squad and always do well at junior level- the under 17 cup for example.

  • Comment number 29.

    funny that Raphael from Manchester United was hardly mentioned, when he single handedly was to blame for Brazil´s defeat to Mexico and played ATROCIOUSLY the whole tournament.


    is that the reason so many people want Neymar and other players to go to Europe? To learn to play LIKE THAT?

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim, slightly disagree that Ramires's return definitely signifies a rethink in formation

    Ramires flourished towards the tail end of last season playing on the right hand side of the 3 in a 4231. His running is perhaps a little predictable for that position, but he is very powerful on the ball for someone so slight.

  • Comment number 31.

    Decent read, although surely second place isn't all that bad. It shows they are going in the right direction.

    On a different note Phil, do you think Lucas Moura is going to be a hit for PSG this season or will he require a year or two before we see how good he is. Same Question applies to Oscar at Chelsea.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's not the first time the Seleção prepared poorly to the Olympics. But this time around, given the mediocrity of most rivals (and refereeing atrocious complacency, right, South Korea?), they were expected to win.
    When Peralta scored early on, I thought "Mano's head may roll". Do not discard it. Especially when he is, as Brazilians say, "prestiged".

  • Comment number 33.

    Though a Corinthians supporter, I confess I don't rate Menezes as a WC winning coach, so I too think he should go - though I ask myself who should replace him... and the real problem is, whoever comes, there is no guarantee whatsoever the team will perform much better.

    Normally, I wouldnt be too worried about loosing an under 23 competition, after all, which nation really has an under 23 group of players better than this Brazilian one, despite Brazil winning or not the gold medal? The big problem is that, instead of being simply the youth side preparing the players for the senior side, this team has actually become the senior side itself.

    The big issue then is not with players in these Olympics, but rather with the older generation that went AWOL. I would expect Brazil to have a senior side with a 28 to 30 average age, into which some of these players would slot in, but it seems to be the contrary - we are trying to see which over 23 players we can slot in this side.

    Neymar, Oscar and Lucas look really promising (I too agree that Neymar should be playing in Europe for experience) but they need leaders around them. The likes of Kaka, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Robinho have, however, forgotten to play top football somehow. Its that flaw that we should really be concerned with - and one that is not the manager's fault, I am afraid.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good blog Tim, spot on as usual. I think you've summed it up when you mention Oscar, Neymar, Damiao & Silva as being the key youngsters in this side. Romulo looks decent too but from the limited amount I've seen I wonder if he will be ready in a key position for a side looking to win the WC on home soil.

    I like Ramires too but I must admit to be hankering after Kaka's return and have been for some time. I would love to see him link up with Neymar and Oscar behind Damiao. He should move on this summer and Milan would be ideal for both parties. Ramires could still play behind them and get forward occasionally.

    I know many people including myself were upset with Dunga's style of play, but there was something rather devastating about them on the counter attack that I enjoyed (probably best seen in that Copa final against Argentina). They can't play that way at a WC on home soil of course, but they must surely sort the defensive issues if they are to stop Spain or Argentina (at least) in 2014.

  • Comment number 35.

    @1,

    That is such a typical Eurosnob response.

  • Comment number 36.

    What do you think of the Monaco signing Ocampos? Did he perform outstandingly in the Argentine second division to deserve his reputation? Do you think he can become a great player? To me it smells alot of a one hit wonder skillfull signing who might prove to not be a team player

  • Comment number 37.

    Mano Meneses claimed after the match that it was not Raphael's fault. Not Rafael's fault? Whose then? Yours, Mano. Brazil scraped passed Egypt in the end, were lucky against Honduras and 3 x 0 against S. Korea was flattering to say the least. Rafael gave away a goal after 29 seconds and no one in Brazil's defence challenged the free header for the second goal. Brazil looked leaderless, they were crying out for someone to take hold of the game, at least Hulk gave his best. Wake up Brazil!! Your so called superstars are not as super as they think they are. Brazil need to blend the experienced players like Kaka, Ramires, Fabiano, Lucio, Maicon with the youngsters if they are to win trophies in the future. Look at what Dunga achieved, even though he was more defensive, but teams need to be, otherwise they'll lose vital matches. They need to toughen up mentally as well as tactically. Muricy, are you there?

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim, great article! Neymar and Hulk are attackers first and only, which emptied our midfield. And as you wrote, employing attacking fullbacks was just icing on the cake (for the opponents).

    Honestly, when will we understand that in single-elimination matches, defense is everything? You cannot lose a game if you don't allow goals, duh! And it is VERY difficult to come back after you do allow, especially when you don't have enough time and your opponent knows how to defend.

    #29 Rafael is hardly a starter for United. If you think Neymar is ready for the World Cup to play against far better defenders that he faces in Brazil (and different styles) then I rest my case.
    I would put a lot of money on Neymar flopping miserably in the next world cup if he remains in Brazil. No, I wouldn't like that, but I'd like my odds.

  • Comment number 39.

    Has to win next summer and win it convincingly. I will be very surprised if he is still there come 2014, and more than likely we may even see the return of Felipão to drive Brazil out of the dung-heap.

    Pulling aside from this for a moment, perhaps people in Brazil should also be asking why a nation of 196m people could only win 3 gold medals? Keep in mind, after the World Cup there is a another massive event heading their way and they also need to start focusing on that.

    Maybe part of the problem is the over expectation on football in the country? Perhaps if people cared more about the overall medal haul than only just the football, the team wouldn't have felt as pressured to win their first gold.

  • Comment number 40.

    29.At 12:34 13th Aug 2012, AcesHigh wrote:
    funny that Raphael from Manchester United was hardly mentioned, when he single handedly was to blame for Brazil´s defeat to Mexico and played ATROCIOUSLY the whole tournament.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Utter nonsense.

    If you're 2-0 down with ten minutes to go in the Final, how is that the responsibility of the right back?

    What about the other players? Were they all playing brilliantly?

    Neymar, for example, didn't show up against Mexico- but he won't get any criticism because he's the golden boy, and it's apparently easier to blame a full back.

  • Comment number 41.

    9.At 16:47 12th Aug 2012, stan007 wrote:

    For me, Man United´s Rafa is facing a make or break season.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't agree with this scapegoating of Rafael da Silva. He's only just turned 22, he's an excellent prospect.

    Here's a challenge for people- name me a 22 year old defender in the world who you would rate as world class or the finished article. A make or break season- come off it.

  • Comment number 42.

    @26 ESG

    Why am I inconsistent when my comments about Brazil and Uruguay's potential and achievements differ?

    Tim always says that tournaments provide the verdict in speeded-up time, and that Brazil's 1996 Olympic collapse predicted their 1998 World Cup one. This Brazil team's flaws were also visible here - as were Uruguay's - in a tournament both were trying their maximum to win.

    A group of players (and coach) which fails to win Olympic gold will not flower to win a World Cup two years later. Reinforcements are needed.

    I have written before how I view 4-2-3-1 as a wretched, narrow, low-scoring safety-first system. Holland squeaked all the way to the World Cup Final with it, but what if the opposition sits back against Brazil in Brazil?

    Lastly, do you seriously think England is a more successful international team than Mexico this last twenty years? In those two decades they have missed out on qualifying for two major tournaments and never got close to a final. Likewise, Japan and South Korea are serial continental champions in a Confederation in which England would struggle to beat any of the top three teams (themselves plus Australia).

  • Comment number 43.

    @42 it's the system Madrid used last season and you can't accuse them of lacking goals.

    Trouble is Brazil lack the defensive options for this formation to work.

  • Comment number 44.

    Was at Wembley, Brazil started slowly and maybe a little complacently leading to early goal from Mexico. Was surprised early on to see Brazil trying aerial balls into the box, a little unexpected. What didn't work well for Brazil was full backs for example cutting the ball back across themselves but overhitting the cutback, dangerous thing to do.

    But once they got going in the first half Brazil played well and showed some nice skill, mainly from the back out to the sides.

    Second half was more open, was expecting Brazil to score one or two carrying on how they finished first half but they let Mexico score pretty much unmarked from free kick.

    Game was a bit niggly, referee was too lenient at times. Credit to Mexico for being organised but Brazil should rightly be disappointed as their approach to the game was maybe not quite right and underestimated their opponents organisation.

  • Comment number 45.

    @42 Yakubus diet,

    England have made the quarter finals of World Cups twice in the last 20 years.
    Mexico have not made the quarter finals once.

    In 2014 3rd round qualification, Mexico face El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guyana. I think this helps to explain why they have qualified more times than England.

    In the last 2 years, England have a competitive record of 8 wins, 6 draws and 2 losses, one of which was on penalties, against mainly good teams.

    In the last Copa America, Mexico played 3, lost 3, including losses to Peru and Chile.

    There isn't really a convincing argument to say that Mexico are, or have been in recent memory, a better team than England.

    Your opinion is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 46.

    I think Mexico and France have the 'Indian sign' on Brazil at the moment. But still Brazil should have ironed out their defensive frailties before they got to the final. They had enough warnings against Egypt, Honduras and South Korea. Their second choice goalkeeper was very poor also. What is also worrying is that David Luis, a disaster waiting to happen, is still in Mano's plans. Neymar is overrated and selfish, Sandro and Romulus drift in and out of games, they lack a good striker, apart from Oscar there is no good distributor of the ball from midfield. Also they lack a good captain, they looked leaderless on Saturday.

  • Comment number 47.

    this young team like brazil will learn from this. on top of that they have players like alvez, ramirez, luiz, levai etc. to come into the mix. And then on top of that the stars of this young brazilian team are getting transferred to strong european teams which will shore out the weaker players and strengthen, tactically, physically and technically the stronger players

  • Comment number 48.

    Jogo_bonito, your opinion and comments about David Luiz defies logic, which seems to be common in the world of football.

    What does Luiz, a promising young CB has to do to win some pundits? Not only play superbly and consistently in the most difficult club competition, but also win it?

    wait! He's done just that!

  • Comment number 49.

    What surprised me about the commentary (and don't ask who was doing it) for this game on Rede Record was how in the first half they were blaming Mark Clattenberg for not giving out yellow cards to the Mexicans. This changed in the second half, when they had Romario doing some of the commentary; he was scathing about the style of play, especially the Brasilian inability to mark the opponents.

    What was very obvious is that the players heads were somewhere other than Wembley for the first half and whatever Mano Menezes said did wake them up for the second period worked; they played with more urgency. That said Mexico came with a plan and stuck to it, the fact they got a goal up was a bonus for them as the Brazilians did not seem capable of breaking an organised defence down.

    On Saturday afternoon I had the misfortune of seeing São Caetano play against Cricíuma (two of the top four of the Brasilian Serie B) and that was incredibly poor. Also having seen Palmeiras and Corinthians play in the last week I worry for the state of club football there and the production of new young talent - as all these teams were reliant on old heads who are well passed their prime. A lot of the comments I heard about Neymar were less than favourable as well; over paid, too cosseted, etc and the state of Brasilian refereeing; too lax and too ready to give cards for weakest of challenges that produce levels of theatrical diving that would make Greg Luganis proud or win an Oscar.

    Brasil's football needs a massive shake up and the Ricardo Teixeira led CBF can't/won't do it.

  • Comment number 50.

    The young players are not the problem, Mano M. is.
    Why is everyone praising HULK here. He was awful all the other matches.
    The problem for Brazil is Mano Menezes. The team had enough attacking power, so much that Lucas Moura and Pato could not find space to play. So there was no need for Hulk, instead either Adriano and Dede should have been called up for an experienced and solid defense. It would then make it easy for the younsgters Neymar , Oscar and Damiao to shine upfront and let Raphael and Juan left out.

    However whatever the players Mano had, he should have set up the defense more tightly, instead the team leaked goals throughout the Olympic and Mano dares say that "we did well until the final'. The game against Honduras clearly spread Mano's weaknesses for all to see.. except Mano.
    Not replacing him as soon as he gets back home will be a dereliction of duly on the part of the CBF. Mano is the worst manager Brazil has ever appointed and the new CBF president must throw out this waste of space to join with Teixeira in pasture.

  • Comment number 51.

    I know the Brazilians had maybe a greater desire to win the Olympic tournament and arguably had the best squad but this is to underestimate the strength of the Mexicans who have been making steady progress in the last 6-8 years. At both Olympic and International level. (Although i still find the case of Gio Dos Santos totally baffling).

    I think it would be a terrible mistake to get rid o f Menezes as you would destroy his previous and put Brazil at an unneeded disadvantage with only 2 years to the World Cup and with only friendlies to play.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/latin-americans-footballers-are-more-successful-than-ever/

    Brazil have a core young and extremely talented players and even at this early stage i feel they are favourites for the World Cup. With the collective might of the country behind them and likes of Neymar, Ganso etc I feel (and hope) they are victorious in 2 years time.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/barcelona-lead-at-home-and-progress-in-sudamericana/

  • Comment number 52.

    Tim. I love your insights and read your blog weekly as well as listening to you on the phone in. I have noticed you really don't think Juan is "up to it" at all for Brazil, but you spend an awful lot of this article placing the blame for losing the final on him.

    Can you please provide any sort of technical insight into how losing the final was his fault? For my money, the first goal was the fault of the player caught in possession, and the defense was spread out, as they were prepared to circulate the ball in the build-up. Juan did a decent job getting back to the 18 yard line and then stepping, it was just a phenomenal shot. As for the second goal, it appears that Brazil were zonally marking the whole tournament, and I think it'd be difficult to pick Juan out as the player who let the team down in that situation. There were three or four who had a chance to 'body' as the runner moved across the box, and no one did.

    Who (out of Brazil's u-23's) would have been a better choice? I know it's a deep player pool, and I'm wondering what the alternatives were.

    Thanks in advance for any ideas.

    PS, for my money that game was lost because Neymar wouldn't move the ball quickly in the first fifteen minutes. Brazil could still consider themselves unlucky until the Pato sub, when all sense of team balance was lost. Menezes did brilliantly to take the risk and sub before half, and Brazil probably deserved an equalizer, but then lost patience and destroyed the balance of the team by removing Sandro. Probably should've been Neymar to come out, but maybe Damiao as Neymar is approaching sacred cow status. With good reason, might I add. No matter how frustrating he is, he is still capable of things that few others in the world can do.

  • Comment number 53.

    From what I've heard about Brazil's prodigal son is that there are two options with a different party benefiting from both; Neymar should leave Santos to progress as an individual in Europe, or stay in Brazil, so all the top Brazilian players can become a cohesive unit well placed to win the World Cup in 2014. What is he most likely to do?

  • Comment number 54.

    52 = it's not that Juan was specifically responsible for the goals. It was that the need to protect him forced a change of formation whereby Hulk was sacrificed and the initiative lost.
    The Mexicans had clearly done their homework - they spent much of the game trying to isolate Peralta against Juan.

    Alternatives - as I wrote here before the tournament, Rafael Toloi of Sao Paulo, from the 2009 Under-20 team, has much more experience and would have been a better bet - or why not, as had been speculated, go with two over-age centre backs.

    The big problem with Mano's squad was that he went with 2 cetnre backs, Juan and Bruno Uvini, who would seem to have little chance of being involved in 2014.

  • Comment number 55.

    I know it is tradition to have 2 offensive fullbacks. It is the Brazilian way of playing. Given the attacking talent in midfield and up front. I never understand why Brazil cannot use competent fullbacks who defend well. Don't get me wrong, guys like Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Maicon etc are great players. In fact Roberto Carlos is one of my favourites and one of the greatest left backs. But considering the lack of balance and openness created on both flanks, I rather have Paulo Maldini type fullback than Roberto Carlos type at fullback.

    Why can't they play side midfield instead or wingers. They are more offensive than defensive anyway.

  • Comment number 56.

    @mohtechnix

    I think Puyol and Villa would be surprised to learn that they won Euro 2012, considering that neither took part due to injury.

  • Comment number 57.

    Wow, this game showed a lot of things I hadn't seen before...

    Rafael is a CREEP. Wasn't it bad enough to give the Mexicans a goal in the first minute? What was he thinking at the end of the game discussing with Juan? Juan is a mini-Lucio, that is BAD, because Lucio was already a creep, but what that little man Rafael did was a vulgar display of sportmanship. Wow. disgusting.

    Neymar is GREAT but he won't win a World Cup by himself. He may win 1 game, 2 games, 3 games, but not the whole damn thing.

    Oscar is VERY GOOD but not great. And he disappeared yesterday.

    Mano Menezes still doesn't have a team. But...he is still miles ahead of Muricy and Felipão. If Brazil chooses Muricy and Felipão to replace Menezes, everyone can say goodbye to attacking football.

    Marcelo is FAT. And lazy. Period.

  • Comment number 58.

    How come I don't see any headlines on Mexico's win?
    All I see is Brazil this, Brazil that, poor Brazil buh hu!!
    McHarris, where were r u from?
    Brazil had the best players, the most expensive player, star studded line up, u really think this is not serious? "I spit on your general dirction, your m..."
    Lets give Mexico a bit of a credit here, I am crying so hard bc Brazil lost I need a break. "sons of a window dresser"

  • Comment number 59.

    @45 JimSprout,
    In case you didn't notice, Mexico lost all three games at last year's Copa America because they sent their Under'23 squad which was to be fielded at this year's Olympics and which was intended to be the backbone of the 2014 World Cup squad.

    Additionally, unlike England who missed the 2008 Euros and only beat Ukraine and Sweden narrowly at the 2012 edition, Mexico won the 2011 Concacaf championship, convincingly beating the same USA whom England couldnt beat at the 2010 World Cup.

    In terms of 2014, the Olympics provided significant value for Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Mexico in terms of working out who is and isn't a viable selection for 2014. Whereas England and most European teams are at the same point in the four year cycle, yet are still using significantly older outfield players.

    Lastly, a question for Tim, who emigrated around the time I did. Do you share my suspicion of these "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs which were supposedly rediscovered around a decade ago? I'd never seen one until the Uruguay supporters started to make their own adaptations six weeks ago: I certainly never saw any in the UK when I lived there.

  • Comment number 60.

    For the record - I find Hulk somewhat one dimensional... Brazil has a huge pool pf talent and I can see 2 or 3 players emerging from off the radar and claiming a World Cup spot... the spine of the team will be: Daniel Alves, Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Oscar, Ramires and possibly the two Lucas' others will emerge... possibly Paulinho from Corinthians, Dede or even Romarinho... perhaps Kaka wil ldiscover his form & fitness...

    one thing I have learnt about Brazil and Brazilians never write them off so quickly.... be warned this defeat will have hurt and they will come back stronger and wiser... after the game Oscar commented on how he had experienced losing a cup final in front of a bad crowd and how he didnt want to experience it ever again....

  • Comment number 61.

    @60
    Dani Alves' place for 2014 is under serious question after the way he unbalanced the side at the 2011 Copa America.

    Barcelona can afford to play him as an auxiliary right-winger because they have Xavi and Iniesta to keep the ball, Busquets and soon Alex Song to win it and Villa and Messi to keep the opposing team on its heels.

    In sharp contrast, the 2-3-1 for Brazil 2014 looks like:

    ................Romulo...Lucas Leiva.........
    .....Ramires........Oscar........Neymar.....
    .......................Damiao........................

    I am unconvinced that such a team can carry a right-back like Dani Alves who is upfield most of the time.

    The most fascinating thing about the Olympics is that the failure of Spain and Uruguay's overhyped youngsters has ensured that they will field ageing sides at the World Cup, while Brazil and Mexico will be fielding younger teams which have already been exposed at the Olympics and Copa America respectively.

    Basically, the Olympics have blown 2014 wide open.

  • Comment number 62.

    @39 Brazil is all about football, when you think about the media and people's matter. But Brazil always wins medals in some other sports: volleyball, beach volleyball, swimming, judo, athletics and sailing. Specially our volleyball is world class.

    We had some good news in London: we are starting to win medals in different sports. Boxing won 3 medals, which is stunning, as we had won only one in our history, back in 68. We also had medals in Gymnastics and Modern Pentathlon for the first time in history. We also had a taekwondo medal in 2008 and a 4th place in London.

    I think that we are reaching a good professional level, with more investments of public and private sectors. The problem is in amateur sports practice. People in Brazil don't play sports in a regular basis, due to lack of infrastructure in schools and parks, and also lack of time (how can you think of sports if you commute 3 or 4 hours to work?). Generally, schools have a court that serves for indoor football, basketball (these two played mostly by men), volleyball (both genders) and handball (women). I mean it both in poor and rich schools.

    You can see the effects in the Olympics: Brazil won 2 medals in swimming, but, as far as I remember, we only had 3 swimmers in the final rounds, all men. Those 3 guys had a lot of pressure on them, they were all or nothing. And that's a shame for a country with the majority of the population living in a warm water seaside. We could be greater than Australia. And the story is the same in other sports, we have a few great top athletes and that's all.

  • Comment number 63.

    All that this defeat shows is that the current crop of Brasilian players ( and i include the players sitting on the bench) are way over-hyped and their managers are looking for the best deal for both their player and themselves. We currently tend to think that if the guy is Brasilian and can kick a ball that he'll will world class and automatically become a new "Pele" or "Messi". I saw Neymar here and in friendlies in Europe and although he wasn't bad he definately wasn't that as he was being hypes to be and i'm sure the rest of the current crop that appear in the transfer news fall in the pot.
    And also "a penny to a pound" that we'll be here next year talking about the next crop of Brasilians ( names currently not heard of as the press haven't yet discovered them) as being the non plus ultra and probably better than Pele and Messi combined!

  • Comment number 64.

    42.At 15:56 13th Aug 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    _______________________________

    It's this whole "all knowing" opinion that you try to provide. Pre Olympics you were raving about how strong the Uruguay team was and how talented their youngsters were. As soon as they were dumped out, you changed your tune to say they didn't play well enough, Tabarez will struggle to repeat his success in Brazil etc. It's a completely revisionist approach.

    Tim says a lot of things, none of them are gospel. SO are Mexico going to win the WC? Nigeria beat Argentina in olympic final in 96, did either of them make the semis?

    "A group of players (and coach) which fails to win Olympic gold will not flower to win a World Cup two years later. Reinforcements are needed." - I refer you to my post above. I don't recall Nigeria storming to WC 98 final, or Argentina to the 2010 final. Just like winning U-21s or U-20s, it means zippidey squat.

    "I have written before how I view 4-2-3-1 as a wretched, narrow, low-scoring safety-first system. Holland squeaked all the way to the World Cup Final with it, but what if the opposition sits back against Brazil in Brazil?" - FYI Brazil were the highest scoring team in the tournament. PLenty of teams play that formation so I guess they have "got it wrong" as well? Most games at top level are narrow, low scoring safety first. If you want open football take a time machine back to the 60s.

    As for England and Mexico, in terms of success let's compare shall we. Who's reached more SF & QF in WC?

    In terms of qualification, MExico have to "battle" it out with USA, Canada, HOnduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica etc. They merely have to turn up to qualify. How many times have they won the Copa America? Likewise with the Japanese and Korean teams, they are in a poor continent for football. If Russia chose to qualify in Asia they'd walk into WC and walk the continental competitions.

  • Comment number 65.

    64.At 09:03 14th Aug 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    __________________________________

    Hi ESG
    This post is not aimed at you , just saying hello :)

    First , what a great Olympics I was glued to the TV throughout , apart from the football. Who really cares about wining the football at the Olympics.

    One one hand you have the best athletes in the world coming together every 4 years and achieving PB´S and breaking world records. Then you have the footballers who in most cases are not even considered good enough to represent their national football teams in normal circumstances.

    Either scrap the world cup and have a proper Olympic football tournament with the worlds best players, or throw football out of the future Olympic games (along with BMX which is WWE on wheels )

  • Comment number 66.

    Neymar has to be the most overhyped player I have ever seen. I'm 100% sure he'd be a flop in the Premiership. Maybe he'd be good in Spain but i'm not so sure. God help any club that shells out £35m+ for this guy. Show pony

  • Comment number 67.

    Tim, I was watching you and Toninho in Redação today and again I didn't like his disrespect towards football from his own continent: he made a very unpleasant "joke" mocking your knowledge of a team who was in the top four of Copa Libertadores just 5 years ago! I swear that guy is intolerable.

    How do you feel about many brazilians' disrespect for our main international competition? It's hard to make sense out of it even for us. How do you explain that to the English? And do you think it's gonna change now that brazilian clubs are doing better in Libertadores?

  • Comment number 68.

    @64 ESG
    You raise interesting questions about the Nigeria and Argentina teams which won the 1996 and 2008 Olympics.

    I would argue that both teams conceded four goals in a knockout at the next World Cup in part due to over-confidence when under sounder management they should have gone even further.

    Nigeria won in 1996 by beating the Brazil and Argentina teams which were the backbone of their 1998 finalists and quarter-finalists respectively. The Nigerians then appointed a sound coach (Troussier) who was fired for not being attacking enough and replaced by Milutinovitch, who under strict orders from the NFA to play 2 strikers and 3 attacking midfielders led the team to disaster v Denmark which had already been predicted by dire defensive displays in warm-up losses to Holland and Yugoslavia.

    Maradona failed in a similar way in 2010. He won away in Germany four months before the World Cup playing 4-3-2-1 and stopped Germany getting a single shot in in ninety minutes. But he got so carried away that he added Tevez to the mix in place of a defensive midfielder and ended up with a 4-2-2-2 which was neither fish nor fowl.

    I do acknowledge some of the critical comments about the Olympics, but I think they are still a useful talent contest for the World Cup. Brazil will now discount both keepers, the three centre-backs who aren't Thiago Silva, Rafael, Sandro and probably Hulk, all of whom were starting recent full internationals. Uruguay can now abandon Suarez and Cavani as a twin attack with Ramirez behind.

    The main beneficiaries are those who will now regain lost positions - Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, David Luiz, Lucas Leiva and Ramires for Brazil for example. Godin, Lugano, Diego Perez and Forlan for Uruguay have also just been granted a stay of execution by the Olympics.

    Uruguay had a poor Olympic campaign, but Tabarez at least got his questions answered about his spare keeper, Rolin, young defensive midfielders, Ramirez and Lodeiro as attacking midfielders and Suarez and Cavani as a twin attack. Del Bosque also knows that Spain's next generation isnt good enough and that Mata and Javi Martinez can only be reserves in 2014.

    Where are Deschamps, Loew and Hodgson going to get similar questions answered?

    Lastly, ESG, any appraisal of history should be revisionist. I bigged up players who failed. The point of observing Olympic football is to learn the lessons, acknowledge who isn't good enough and move forward. Critical appraisal is more important than seeking vindication of earlier incorrect opinions. I learned a lot about what can be salvaged by Brazil, Uruguay and Spain and what can't.

    Mexico, however, I just don't know, because their overage players were journeymen. I'm not sure what this team will blossom into in 2014.

  • Comment number 69.

    @65, "Either scrap the world cup and have a proper Olympic football tournament with the worlds best players, or throw football out of the future Olympic games (along with BMX which is WWE on wheels )"

    FIFA wouldn't do that. In most sports, the Olympics is of almost, equal or greater prestige than their World Cup/Championships counterpart. FIFA doesn't want the Olympics to upstage World Cup so that is why they have age restrictions.

    @64, "In terms of qualification, MExico have to "battle" it out with USA, Canada, HOnduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica etc. They merely have to turn up to qualify. How many times have they won the Copa America?"

    I've actually a number of CONCACAF and South Americans encounters over the past twenty years and most of them have been suprisingly close so the CONCACAF teams are not as bad as people make them out to be.

    Mexico's first Copa America was in 1993 where they lost the final against Argentina. They also made the final in 2001. Argentina themselves hasn't won it since 1993 (so you expect Mexico to win if Argentina can't; poor argument). A respectable team like Chile has never won Copa America.

  • Comment number 70.

    @64 ESG
    Why do you mock CONCACAF?

    USA topped England's group at the last World Cup, and consigned England to a second round tie against Germany.

    Meanwhile Honduras is developing a team of roughly similar strength to Sweden or Denmark, while Costa Rica is usually around the level of Belgium.

    Meanwhile in UEFA there are Spain, Germany and Italy who are strong, followed by the likes of England and Holland who fairly frequently don't even qualify for major tournaments.

    I actually think that all the major confederations now have three or four decent teams currently. I wouldn't be confident in betting on England to beat South Korea, Japan, USA, Mexico, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Nigeria on any given day. They would be narrow favourites against any of those apart from Ghana, but they would certainly not be dead certs.

    With Greece now perennial qualifiers from UEFA you can conclusively say that with a couple of exceptions we now find UEFA at an historic low.

    And in 2010 at the World Cup, Mexico eliminated France, South Korea eliminated Greece, Japan knocked out Denmark and Ghana eliminated Serbia. Need I go on?

 

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