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Brazil - youth, power, and a distaste for the passing game

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Tim Vickery | 07:34 UK time, Monday, 22 June 2009

Sunday was the 39th anniversary of a previous Brazil victory over Italy by a three-goal margin. One of the main architects of that 4-1 win in the final of the 1970 World Cup was Pele, who last week was criticising the current Brazil side.

He gave an interview during which he was drawing tactical diagrams, explaining that in comparison with his day, the team's central midfield play is "bureaucratic." It is an observation that many purists would agree with - for what it's worth, the present writer among them.

Dunga's Brazil don't care - and, while they are racking up wins as convincing as Sunday's against Italy, why on earth should they?

Brazil line-up v Italy

Whether or not they go on to win the Confederations Cup, the most important thing is that Brazil have put their cards on the table and shown that in a year's time, in the real thing, they will be right there among the favourites to lift the first World Cup on African soil.

Dunga's Brazil, with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo in centre midfield, are not and will never be Pele's, with Clodoaldo and Gerson. The change reflects a switch in philosophy of Brazilian football which is a reaction to two things. Firstly, the rise in northern European football in the 60s and 70s, and especially the pressure that the Holland side of 1974 put on the ball. Second, the failure of Brazil's wonderfully gifted 1982 team.

The thinking is as follows - the physical development of the game has made it much harder for teams to play an expansive passing style through the middle of the field. Instead, matches are won and lost at two key moments - set pieces and transitions (those moments when possession changes hands from one side to the other).

A glance at Brazil's recent performances will show how much attention they pay to these two situations.

They have been scoring lots of goals from free kicks and corners. Brazil count on players who can whip the ball in at pace, lots of tall players to attack the ball and an impressive variety of options. My favourite was the free kick from which they were awarded the last-minute penalty which won the game against Egypt.

They had already scored from a corner to the near post, where Egypt were having defensive problems. So that was the expected target area, but instead Daniel Alves chipped to the far, where Lucio got in a volley that was handled on the line. But more than intelligent and effective set pieces, the hallmark of the current Brazil side is its devastating counter-attack. They are probably the only team in the world who, when the opposition have a corner, can legitimately see this as a goalscoring opportunity for themselves.

Coaches all over the globe will be thinking of ways to protect their team against these weapons, studying the trajectory of the free kicks and trying to work out how to stop the counter-attack at source. Before next year, then, Dunga will have to come up with some variations. In the evolution of the team, he has already made one interesting switch.

Last year Brazil were having real problems at home. The away results were good - the opposition were pushing up and playing into their counter-attack. In front of their own fans, though, it was a different story. Being held 0-0 at home by Bolivia was one of the most surprising results in the history of South American football. Their previous home match was a goalless draw with Argentina. The next one was a 0-0 draw with Colombia.

In none of these matches Brazil looked like scoring. The solution was to free Maicon to crash forward from right back with his terrifying physical power and considerable technical ability. This was done by dropping an attacking midfielder (effectively Ronaldinho) and bringing in Elano on the right of midfield, to cover Maicon, double up down the flank or cut inside as required.

In the last couple of matches, this role has been filled by the livewire Ramires, giving Brazil another rapid option to launch the counter-attack. But this comes at a price. It pulls the midfield over to the right, and leaves the left back unprotected - a problem exacerbated by the fact that neither Kleber nor Andre Santos look entirely convincing in the position.

On Thursday we will see if South Africa can exploit this gap. In the semi-final Brazil will get a taste of their own medicine. The Bafana Bafana are coached by a Brazilian and, on the evidence of Saturday's match against Spain, Joel Santana has them looking a bit like a current Brazilian team.

Spain are a side of nimble ball players who look to pass their way through the opposition - the very style Brazil have abandoned. For a while South Africa had some success against them, packing central midfield with three markers and seeking to spring forward down the flanks, where roving full-backs were linking up with the wide, creative midfielders - just as Dunga's Brazil did when they beat Argentina, another old fashioned passing side, in the final of the 2007 Copa America.

Assuming that Brazil beat South Africa and Spain get past the USA, that could also be the blueprint for the final of this year's Confederation Cup.

UK users can watch all of the Confederations Cup games live on the BBC Sport website, while television coverage is on BBC Three as well as the red button.

Comments on this week's piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

Q) I noticed my club Liverpool were linked with a move for a Uruguayan midfield player, Nicolás Lodeiro, who is playing with Nacional. Just wondered if you could tell me any more about him? I saw reports suggesting that Barcelona were also monitoring his progress, would you say that Liverpool/Barcelona were a level he was capable of reaching? I also saw some rather fanciful comparisons with Leo Messi, but is that simply lazy stereotyping? Any information would be appreciated.
Neil Jones

A) He's my favourite thing this year. Little left-footed attacking midfielder - but less of a dribbler than Messi, more of a passer. Makes the game flow so well because he usually knows what he's going to do before he receives the ball. Made a big impression at the start of the year in he South American Under-20 Championships, then went straight into the Nacional side and is their top scorer as they've reached the Libertadores semis for the first time since they last won the thing in 1988. I think he's starting to look a bit tired, which is no wonder.
I have very high hopes of him, but would hope that he doesn't move right away to a club where he won't be getting a regular game.

Q) Sao Paulo's star player Hernanes has been doing pretty well by all accounts in Brazil and many commentators over there have said he is ready for a big European move. Do you think AC Milan supposed interest make him automatically 'Kaka's successor', or do you think he's a different player altogether?
Speedy Gonzalez

A) I rate him very highly and think the time has come for him to move. He's not Kaka at all - rather than someone who runs at the opposing defence with the pace, power and directness of Kaka, he's someone who should be used a bit further back. He is versatile, but stands out for his ability to pass the ball well off either foot. For reasons mentioned in the article above, nowadays Brazil can be cruel on this type of player - they would rather fill central midfield with athletes and markers - and confusion about his role has been a factor in a slump of form recently.
For last week's key quarter-final match in the Libertadores Sao Paulo left him on the bench in favour of a bully boy marker who was sent off in the first half. It is one of the most depressing selections I've ever seen and it got what it deserved.
Rather than Milan, I'd prefer to see Hernanes in Spain - as soon


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  • Comment number 1.

    As a Wigan fan, and under the guidance of our new manager Roberto Martinez, it is likely that we will be seeing the more creative midfielder based around passing and technical accumen, at the DW Stadium this coming season.

    One worry I have is that we will be drowned out by this kind of playing style. Packing the midfield with tough tackling midfielders and strong battlers is common place in the Premier League and is why although it is higher quality, it is not as exciting to see as La Liga. We may struggle to cope against this style of midfield and it could be a case of Spain v Brazil in the PL - although on a much less ilustrious scale.

  • Comment number 2.

    Completely off-topic Tim, but what do you reckon of Javier Pastore - the attacking midfielder currently leading Huracan's Argentinian title charge??

  • Comment number 3.

    it is likely that we will be seeing the more creative midfielder based around passing and technical accumen

  • Comment number 4.

    Watching Brazil in the Confederations Cup, I thought they were much better team in the second and final group game with Ramires in the side than they were in the first with Elano.

    I wasn't overly impressed with the 4-3 victory over Egypt, it was a lesson in how to not keep the ball in midfield, it seemed disjointed to me and it was more frustrating having seen Spain's first group game where the movement through the middle was much more fluid.

    However the games against the USA and Italy the performance was much more impressive in no doubt due to the introduction of Maicon, I think highly of Daniel Alves but Maicon deserves to keep the right back slot.

    Tim, you've mentioned previously that Fabio Aurelio could be a possible candidate for the left back slot and he's got great technique but I worry about his mobility, no doubt got quality going forward but he isn't very rapid.

    I would love to see Ronaldinho become the star of the team in Milan next season, I thought when he joined the club last year that his second season would be his most important. If he shows good form I'd like to think he would get recalled again by Dunga, but I wonder with Robinho playing whether he is needed in the starting 11 especially when Robinho has been playing in the area of the pitch you may expect Ronaldinho to slot in. While Robinho is a fabulously gifted footballer but he's perhaps not as spectacular as Ronaldinho can be.

    Having said all that there is something that has been playing on my mind for a very long time in relation to Ronaldinho, did 2006 break Ronaldinho mentally? His reputation was astronomical, he was invaluable to club and country, the pressure and expectation upon him in the lead up to the summer of '06 couldn't have been any greater, he was built up to be super human, his ability almost fictional and I'm not sure when the last time a player was placed under those extraordinary circumstances. Mentally could he carry the burden and is it why his form hasn't been the same since pre-World Cup 2006?

  • Comment number 5.

    Good article Tim.. I have been waiting for your blog since I started work at's always an opprotuniy to take the usual break intervals from work.

    As much as I will like to think that the current Brazillian team depend largely on counter attack, they have also scored few goals from open play like Maicon's goal against USA which was from one touch passing. Pele's criticism has become regular and I have decided to take his remarks with a pinch of a salt since he said USA's Freddy Adu will be the next pele. Ramires and Maicon have recently put in a good shift leaving D.Alves and Elano on the bench. Brazil have always been regarded as favourite in every tournament they have participated in and they are real favourites for the WC 2010 but do you think they have enough personality on the bench that can come in and make a difference when things are not going their way or if a key player picks up injury (Fabiano) Nilmar or Pato are not world beater which leaves a place for the great De Lima.. Do you think Dunga might call on Ronaldinho and De Lima for the Wc 2010 if they get back to form?

  • Comment number 6.

    Another team, although a club side, that can see the opposition's corner as a legitimate goal scoring opportunity is Arsenal. My memory fails, but I think it was either Harry Redknapp or Steve Bruce who adviced their team to try and not win corner kicks against Arsenal, because the potential counter attacks were deemed too dangerous.

  • Comment number 7.

    5 - I'm assuming your referring to Ronaldo when you say De Lima. I think there is every chance he will be involved in the WC 2010 providing he is fit. Class is permanent afterall.

    I do think your being harsh on both Nilmar and Pato though. Pato is still very young and I feel there is far too much weight on his shoulders to lead the Milan and Brazil forward line which is not doing him any good at all. Nilmar meanwhile may not have the media circus following him like Ronadlo but his form this year has been excellent and equally as good as Ronaldo's, if not better. (Search for his goal against Corinthians earlier this season). I just don't think Nilmar has been given a decent chance in the Brazil side. The guy has blistering pace, deadly inside the box and is an asset to the Selecao.


  • Comment number 8.

    I don't think Elano should be anywhere near a Brazil starting position... I don't think he even looks fit enough the majority of the time, heavy legs and weary when he gets the ball.

    I think it may be unconventional and may not work but when you have 2 players with the ability and athleticism of Alves and Maicon whats wrong with playing them both??

    They both attack exceptionally well and have defensive qualities.. these are pre-requisites of wingers, wing backs and full backs these days.. they would be able to switch and cover each others position more effectively than the usual winger and back partnership

  • Comment number 9.

    The Confederation's Cup has provided more questions than answers.
    Brazil were frankly 'fortunate' to get the win over Egypt in match one,
    Egypt then beat a poor looking Italy only to get humped by USA who had been the clowns of the group. So while yes, you can argue Brazil have three wins from three...but against what exactly? The club football mantra of 'grinding out wins' has transferred to the International stage and in that respect my symapthies lie with Pele.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great analysis, as always.
    Two quick questions:
    1. With his current form and with the Brazil's style of play that you surveyed in your text, do you still see a role for Ronaldinho in the team, both in the qualifyings as well as in the WC itself?
    2. Left back has definitely been a real trouble for Brazil. Juca Kfouri, a local sports journalist, came out with a possble second-best solution: switch one of the right backs to the left. What do you think about this?

  • Comment number 11.

    This debate is always posed as either Brasil have to play 'pure' football or they try and play totally as the Europeans play. This is a nonsense, and I am sure that Dunga is student enough of the great heritage of Brasil to know what he is aiming for.
    After the failure of 1950 and the loss to the great Hungarian side in 1954, in 1958 the Brasilian team was prepared by scientists and doctors and trained in Europe. They incorporated European styles of play but did not try to ape or copy them. They retained their skills and approach. It was this that won the World Cup, and the game where they came of age and showed that the hard, physical, scientific approach was no match for them was v. USSR where they won 2-0. Chile was the culmination of that teams maturity even though Pele was injured - the destruction of Uruguay a key point. 1966 they had a difficult time against European styles because they had neither prepared as before and were in a transition period with the older players ready for retirement and the younger ones not ready. For 1970, they prepared again for the European teams, studying their tactics, incorporating what was needed (not much) but retaining their own style. They also had a team that had an old guard at their peak and a young guard that had matured enough to stand on their own. So we had the greatest team ever. No one will match them.

    The turn to only a European style of play was a big mistake. They forgot to incorporate and simply followed, whereas previosly they had led. But putting the debate at this level is also nonsense and denigrates the skills and abilities of both Holland (surely more modelled on Brasil) and West Germany. The case of West Germany is important because there is a bigotry here that needs addressing. Beckanbauer, Netzer, Hoeness, Breitner and Muller had their own abilities and expressed them to the fullest extent. They were more than a match for the Dutch in all departments and in Muller they had probably the greatest international goalscorer.
    The whole idea that there is a 'European' style of play that involves rigid organization, heavy physical play and that the inevitability is that musclebound teams will rule is garbage. Indeed, as West Germany found out to their cost when the unfancied and disorganized Italians gave them a lesson in 1982.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim, Arsenal are reportedly in for Felipe Melo, what can you tell me about his weaknesses? I know his strengths but would he fit in our team, is he technically good enough and could he be like Gilberto for us?

  • Comment number 13.

    Brazil are on of the favourites for the World Cup - really? Brazil are always one of the favourites, whats new?!

  • Comment number 14.

    To be honest the way Brazil play these days, Ronaldinho may not get into the team again. All the forwards tend to work very hard to help in defending( a case in point Ramires). Barcelona play the same way when they're defending every body comes back to help. Arsenal can take a page from this great footballing philosophy instead of always over-emphasizing on talent.

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 - precisely.

    However, does anyone seriously see the defence that they have shown in the Confederations Cup standing a hope in hell of stopping Spain? It'd be slaughter.

    If the spaniards continue as they are I don't think we should be looking at anything other than who will lose in the final of WC2010. Spain have got to be collosal favourites.

    They dropped the shadows of past in Euro 2008 and they look phenomenal at present. It doesn't matter if Kaka, Robinho and co. get it together in South Africa. If they concede 2 or 3 goals every game they're going home sooner than they'll want.

    The Netherlands, Germany and England will all be able to point to easy qualification too whilst only Holland have given what look like convincing performances.

    Brazil v Spain in the final? Maybe. Holland v Spain? More likely.

  • Comment number 16.

    10 - no, I can't see any point in switching either maicon or daniel alves to the left. I don't think brazil are looking for a right footed player in that position - the idea is tokeep the pitch wide for the counter.
    But there's nothing stopping them playing together, daniel alves on the right of midfield, the role he filled when he came on as a sub early in the copa america final.

    ronaldinho back in - a tricky one. dunga says that he's very much in his plans, but.... he was picking a line of kaka, robinho and ronaldinho behind the striker and it never really worked - there was a sense that the 3 of them got in each other's way - the team has worked better with the current blend.

    and yes, i do think the 2006 failure is a trauma in ronaldinho's mind. a similar thing happened, though on a smaller scale, after he flopped in the 2000 olympics.

  • Comment number 17.

    Great Blog as always Tim
    Just wandering if there is any chance that we will see Adriano or Ronaldo back in a Brazil shirt for the 2010 WC.

  • Comment number 18.

    ronaldinho back in - a tricky one. dunga says that he's very much in his plans, but.... he was picking a line of kaka, robinho and ronaldinho behind the striker and it never really worked - there was a sense that the 3 of them got in each other's way - the team has worked better with the current blend.


    I agree, though I can't help feeling that come next summer it would be a mistake for Brazil to not play Ronadinho, if that means potentially sacraficing Robinho to the Bench then that's the move I would look to make.

  • Comment number 19.


    Brazil's defense is fine, first game against Egypt was an exception.
    Their defence was poor in the first game of Copa America.
    Their defence has been one of the tightest in qualifiers.

    As far as Spain beating Brazil, dream on. Spain's bandwagon is hot, but

    Brazil is a level above Spain. Much like Argies in Copa America, Spain will find this out. Brazil scored 3 against a "poor" Italian side. How many Spain scored against this poor side? 0 in 120 minutes.

    Brazil are faster and more physical. Xavi, Inieasta, and Fab won't have luxury of time.

  • Comment number 20.

    #12.. I don't see Felioe Melo coming to Arsenal.. If he will be leaving Fiorentina then it will be Inter Milan.......

  • Comment number 21.

    15 - Holland do look strong but dont they always in group stages? in euro 2008 noone could stop talking about them but they got destroyed by Russia in the knockouts

  • Comment number 22.

    I do not think that Brazil has completely abandoned its intricate "through the middle passes." I would like to think the Brazil free-flow play of quick little one-twos is still alive -- albeit coming from different angles rather than just straight though the middle. I feel the goal by Maicon against the USA (while coming from the right side)was as beautiful a futbol play as I have seen in a long while. It was a pretty bit of futbol passing and movement. Would you not agree?

  • Comment number 23.

    Hey Tim, Love your blog, people from South Africa can really learn from on how to make happenings debatable.

    Well Brazil is looking good.. Spain even Better

    Unfortunatly any team on any given day can win any given match ! Right ??

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    Surely Brazil have always played with 2 defensive tackling midfielders to allow their full backs to bomb on and attack?

    In 94 it was Dunga and Mauro Silva allowing Jorginho and Branco/Leonardo to get forward. In 98 Cesar Sampaio partnered Dunga in the middle allowing Cafu and Roberto Carlos to free license to get forward.

    Gilberto Silva has been a mainstay of the midfield since 2002 in a defensive role alongside Kleberson in the 2002 world cup final. I don't see any difference in their current midfield setup to those of the past.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Tim,

    I very much enjoyed your analysis of Brazil's current side and their apparent shift of style of play. I just think you push your argument a bit too far when saying that they have a "distaste for the pasing game". I reckon the Brazilian players would not back up this interpretation, and there is actually plenty of evidence in their last games that they do "switch on" the passing game mode - and losses concentration - when victory seems guaranteed. Yes, counter-attacks have become the main goal scoring method of the Brazilian team under Dunga, but this by no means implies a distaste for the so-called passing game. Very nice post nonetheless.

  • Comment number 27.


    Greatly enjoy your insightful tactical analysis of South American sides. Hopefully the BEEBs TV editors give you a spot on the panel during next years World Cup games featuring teams from Latin America. I'd much prefer to hear your informed take on proceedings than - say - Alan Shearer's.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello, Tim! Could not find your contact details so decided to contact you by means of blog comments. I am PR-Director of Thank you for linking to our original FTBL rating system. We would really appreciate if you, being the football professional, could tell us your opinion of our rating system. If you wouldn't mind, please drop me a line to Kind regards.

  • Comment number 29.

    #25 - when you say "Surely Brazil have always played with 2 defensive tackling midfielders to allow their full backs to bomb on and attack?" and then quote 1994 onwards, that's kind of the point Tim was making.

    In 1994, Brazil had gone 24 years without winning the World Cup despite having so many wonderful players - they then introduced a system with two defensive midfielders and carried the trophy off with a pretty uninspiring team. It's a model they've used since then.

  • Comment number 30.

    Yes, Brazil-Spain looks like a possible WC final, but England has a decent chance of spoiling their party. Can't see anyone else, normally you'd add Argentina and Italy to the list, but Argentina is wasting its talent with Maradona as manager, and as for Italy, we saw last night what a pitiful state they are in.

  • Comment number 31.

    I would say Brazil will be the big favorite next year. Their football nowadays is not as lovely watching as in the 70s and 80s. A kind of like what Chelsea playing with more talent, faster players. That is my opinion.
    Spain is good as well now but I doubt if they can keep up that standard next year. Teams know if they defense deeply, they just like Barcelona which have no plan B. Although during their 35 winning run, they didn't need one, there will be someone that can break it.
    For England, I really don't think they should think about winning it at all. It is almost zero chance. If they can get to last 4, it is already very huge.

  • Comment number 32.

    while I will admit Brazil have looked impressive it has been against a very weak group. Italy were about as pathetic as I have ever seen them. Do you honestly think that at the highest of levels a world cup semi and final that Gilberto Silva and felipe melo are good enough to do anything other than defend. They looked just okay defensively and there passing was appalling. Brazil have class in the forwards and a solid defence but the midfield is awful. It remains to be seen what spain will make of them.

  • Comment number 33.

    29 - thanks for clearing up 25's point so well - there was indeed football in the world before usa 94, and i used to love the brazil of clodoaldo and gerson, toninho cerezo and falcao.
    but that's one of the great things about the game - it can be interpreted in so many different ways. i have my own feel for the game, you can have yours - it's not a right or wrong question.

    and 26 - it wasn't me who accused brazil of a 'distaste for the passing game' - i don't write the headlines. My point - and i think we agree on this - is that it's not their idea of how to arrive at the opposing goal, so it's not what they are set up to do. Not necessarily 'distaste' - more a tactical preference.

  • Comment number 34.

    Interesting to see Kleberson back in the Brazil side against Italy. I watched him for Flamengo last year and I couldnt beleive how he ever managed to blag a move to Man Utd. Fair play to the lad though.. boy done good!
    Anyway, Brazil are looking good for WC 2010, I would like to see Diego and Fabio Aurellio be given a chace to shine. I think Diego is a quality player and underated by many in the game.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes, Brazil-Spain looks like a possible WC final, but England has a decent chance of spoiling their party. Can't see anyone else, normally you'd add Argentina and Italy to the list, but Argentina is wasting its talent with Maradona as manager, and as for Italy, we saw last night what a pitiful state they are in.


    That is sooo true. Forget about Holland, Germany, Paraguay, Portugal, France e the African teams. Only England has a decent chance of upsetting Brazil and Spain. After all, who can beat England's intricate long ball game - they can come from everywhere! Every team in the WC will fear England's "forward at all cost" style of play (aka "high tempo") - never mind they have never won anything in international football in the last 40 years (!) to back up how mighty they are.
    In fact, England with their current set of skillful players - the best defenders, midfielders, and strikers in the EPL, therefore, in the world - is right there to win the WC next year. The smart money is on England!

  • Comment number 36.

    Brazil are a great side going forward, but they can be attacked at the back.

    I would respect them greatly, but I wouldn't fear them if I were England.

  • Comment number 37.

    First off, it surprises me to see that many Brits don't actually know football! It's a shame! To say Spain will trash everybody on their way because they're breaking records it's absurd! Don't get me wrong they're a formidable side. They have great players like Puyol, Casillas, Xavi, Villa and Torres. Let's also remember that Spain got a really easy group (S Africa, N Zealand and Iraq). To see people here writing off many good teams in the world like Germany, Argentina, Italy, Holland and Brazil is absurd....people, we're not even in the World Cup stop making predictions! To write off Brazil like that is never a good idea. How many times have we seen Brazil play mediocre footie and then go on and win tournaments and BIG games? Plenty!! Brazil is the only team in the world able to beat any team regardless of their form. Let's remember....that record eventually will come to an end, whether it is in the confederations cup or in the world cup. "And when they fall they will fall hard"

  • Comment number 38.

    I think that you have to assume that Brazil are going to be very competitive in every competition they enter. What is more interesting is their willingness to focus on situations that will take them over the edge and actually win trophies.

    I contrast that to Manchester Uniteds failure against Barcelona, where Ferguson, did nothing to counter Barcelonas play, except hope that Rooney and Ronaldo would score more goals, forgetting that you have to have the ball for that to happen.

    I expect Capello to show a lot more tactical acumen, in which case, if Englands best players are fit and play to the level they can, then a semi-final could be a minimum expectation.

    Brazils defence seems to get little coverage, but watching them yesterday they were all very assured, and didnt look like conceding at any stage. Tim, what do you think the tactical focus in defence is that delivers such strong results?

  • Comment number 39.

    @37 - so true!

    I find it hilarious that people here think that only England could stop Spain! Let's not forget that it IS England who always choke when it comes down to it. No one can predict what will happen next year.

  • Comment number 40.

    good article tim. remember what is important in football is to score goals and a win. Good, beautiful and entertaining football does not neccessarily win matches as once the 'beautiful' 1982 Brazil world cup team can prove. modern football requires team work, physical, power and technical capability. Brazil has these qualities and a will and confidence to win. Thats why in 2010 world cup are strong candidates to win, ad of course the confederations cup.

  • Comment number 41.

    32 - I would like to think that you're right - that lack of passing ability does get them in problems - in quite a few World Cup qualifiers recently they've come under pressure because the midfield can't pass well enough to keep the ball - saving them time and time again has been keeper Julio Cesar.
    Indeed, the main difference between the Egypt match and some of the others (away to Ecuador and Uruguay for example) was that this time Julio Cesar wasn't working miracles.
    All of us bring our own appreciation of football to the table - my own preference is for elaboration from the centre of midfield - my favourite players are those such as Guardiola and Toninho Cerezo who were masters of this. So the idea of a style of play that turns its back on this type of player is not to my taste.

  • Comment number 42.


    First of all: good article.

    Secondly: what struck me most was the parallels between this Italy and the Italy that was dismantled by Holland on Euro2008 in much the same manner. Swift counter attacks destroyed a once feared Italian defense then, and they did so last night as well. Going forward, Italy produced little in both encounters.

    So where does Italy stand? Donadoni was blamed for the failure of the Euro2008 campaign, leading to the return of World Cup winning Lippi. Are we now to believe it hasn't made any difference whatsoever? Do the Italians simply suffer a lack of quality players? What is the Azzurri's status quo?


  • Comment number 43.

    Hello Tim,

    I love reading your analyses of South-American football and its Europe-based stars. Thank you so much for your insights.

    Here is another subject that I'd love to read about. How come Brazil has so many talented footballers? What is their secret? Youth development, genes, sheer number of population, secret football labs in the mountains, or all of the above?

    I know you have mentioned it here and there, but I don't think you have ever delved into it. It will be much appreciated if you did.

    Thank you,

  • Comment number 44.

    I think it will definitely be between Spain and Brazil. I have a feeling England and a surprise team (Australia for me) could also get to the semi's.

    Given a team from Europe has never won the World Cup when its been played outside of Europe, I would have to pick Brazil.

  • Comment number 45.

    #30 "Argentina is wasting its talent with Maradona as manager" - I thought that Maradona was a stupefyingly bad appointment, when has he ever shown the qualities for such a role? In 2006, the then manager's bizarre decision not to bring on Messi in their last match possibly cost them the World Cup.

    #15 - I live in Brisbane, but was in Whitley Bay in June 07 and never saw the sun! Hope it's improved since.

    #Everybody, this blog has probably the highest standards of any sports blog I've come across, thanks to Tim and all posters.

    I was impressed with Robhino, can't see Ronaldhino replacing him, the dummy from his one-two in making the second goal which took out both defenders was terrific.

    #27 - Tim for Shearer on the BBC's panel - have to agree, Big Al's playing ability hasn't yet translated to insightful punditry, and there'd be better balance with an expert on the South American teams.

  • Comment number 46.

    I agree Brazil look weak in the midfield, definately a counter attacking team because of this inferiority.

    Personally I would like to see Brazil play Ramires and Anderson as they are athletic and will give energy in the middle of the park. This would allow a player like Hernanes the freedom to pass and direct proceding a la Riquelme when he played for Argentina (although not as high up the pitch). This would offer that link between midfield and attack that Brazil are missing and a quality passer of the ball, thus not relying so much on the counter.

    If these 3 players can be playing full time next season and improve, especially Hernanes moving to Europe then I would like to see this midfield given a chance.

    Also having seen Pato this season I would put him ahead of Robinho, alongside Luis Fabiano and Kaka.

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Tim,

    Great article as usual. First time posting. I was wondering what has happened with Anderson of Man Utd. is there any reason he has not been playin for Brazil in the Confederations Cup?

    Are the views on him similar to those mentioned in the previous artice or is it that he is not rated highly in Brazil and there is a general dissapointmeent that he has not developed as he should have?

  • Comment number 48.

    44 - If England reach the semi-finals they will be the surprise team. England didn't qualify for the last major tournament(Euro 2008), how can people expect them to be favorites to anything? I know their form has improved with Fabio Capello(I'm strongly against foreigner managers on national-sides), but is it enough?

    1st -) They're untested against big nations.
    2nd -) They don't seem to have enough strength-in-depth. (Example, they lack a flair midfielder. Joe Cole is the best and yet not as good as Gerrard and Lampard in their functions. A goalkeeper, right full-back, a holding midfielder, a partner for Rooney, etc, etc, etc)
    3rd -) They don't look anywhere near impressive(Holland does, and yet they're not among the favorites, are they?)

    Brazil seems to lack a left-back, a little bit more fluidity(drop Gilberto and get Hernanes) in their midfield, and that's all! Spain(doesn't lack anything, Argentina(lacks a manager and full-backs), Germany, Holland, France, RUSSIA!(Impressive on the Euro! If not for Spain they would have on it), Chile(Impressive under Bielsa), Cameroon,
    all look more impressive than England.

  • Comment number 49.

    I have recently seen your appearance in Brazilian sports channel SporTV (along with Abel "dumb-as-a-door" Braga) and went on to search for your blog on the Internet. I just want to congratulate you for the quality of your articles. Can't wait for the next one...

  • Comment number 50.

    Sorry for double-posting, but I just noticed a fellow "atleticano" posted right before me. I agree generally with what he said... but to put Chile and Russia with more chances than England in the WC is just absurd. It is England, after all.

  • Comment number 51.

    Only acute delusion and wishful thinking can explain why are people here deeming England as a potential WC semi-final contender. Are you guys serious?? They beat the likes of Andorra and Belarus and now people think they are in the same group of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, etc. Passion can indeed cloud our judgement, can't it?

  • Comment number 52.

    47 - Anderson was originally named in the squd , pulled out through injury and ex Man U's Kleberson was called up as a replacement,

  • Comment number 53.

    I predict if Spain play Brazil in the final then they will lose. Why? Two reason: No Senna and no Iniesta.

    This great Spain side (and it is a great side with 15 straight wins and other records) is built on a spine of Casillas, Senna, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa. If you take two of those out of that spine, the team loses a lot.

    Brazil are one of few teams who could exploit any sniff of weakness in Spain.

  • Comment number 54.

    Just a word on S Africa, who I find very much improved on previous years. Just a shame they can't find a goalscorer for love or money! Santana would have to have them all practice shooting for the next year, but on Thursday, although I'd like to see Bafana move the ball about well, I expect a rout.

    As for Italy, I agree with #32 - Italy were really pathetic. I never thought they were worthy WC winners to begin with (though I admit you don't win it by accident), and I haven't been impressed with them since. In fact, I believe they made Brazil look even better than they are, and I expect Spain to dominate Brazil comprehensively in the final (inasmuch as anyone can dominate Brazil comprehensively).

  • Comment number 55.

    50 - Okay, I might have exaggerated with Chile, but why not Russia?

    53 - I agree, but seeing the Euro 2008 I'd say that Torres is as important as Villa.

    Villa may have scored more frequently now, but in the Euro it was the opposite(3 of Villa 4 goals came from one match), so they have in both of them, a very good attack partnership.

  • Comment number 56.

    watching the confederation cup, i can see brazil effort in the left back of A. Santos to replace Roberto Carlos, is he good enough, what do u know of him?

  • Comment number 57.

    I Totally agree with 43, Can you please inform us more on the secret of Brazil ?

    Could always be the Futsal they focus on so much ?? culture ?? Population...etc

    A Analysis would be much appreciated

  • Comment number 58.

    My theory on why Brazilians are so good at football is because that's all poor boys like to play when they are kids. Posher boys swim, play tennis or volleyball, poor boys can only play football. The weather is always good to play outside, it can be played anywhere and a ball is the cheapest toy one can buy and it's easy to improvise one. Football is always in the TV or radio and any boy wants to be the next Ronaldinho. The money and fame is not only the big incentive to get rich and famous but the only way of having a better life out of the slums. It's in fact a combination of factors, not just one specific reason such as DNA.

    Anyway, let's see what Mr Vickery says about this interesting subject. I don't think he will bless us with a third post in a row about Brazil but it will be lovely to hear his views about this "mystery" at some point.

    I watched the match and Brazil was pretty devastating in the first half. Didn't bother to watch the second half as had kitchen to clean up, but husband kept shouting angrily at De Rossi from living room. I had to patiently explain to him what was this Confederations Cup about, he knew nothing about it. Then he was disappointed to see his beloved Italy crashing out. Oh, well!

    I hope Spain wins this cup or whoever, but not Brazil. This is worth nothing, it's not a preview for anything, just nice watching some good football now that the season is closed. Spain is getting very overhyped at the moment which is great, they will go to the WC thinking it's in the bag. Just because you won the Eurocup, it doesn't mean that much nowadays. Can anyone remember who won in 2004?

  • Comment number 59.

    If the left back slot has some unconvincing candidates, why not use Fabio Aurelio???????? I guess others have said the same idea- but I just thought I'd say it again.

    Anyway, I think Spain MIGHT win the final should they meet Brazil (which is looking a certain possibility) even without Iniesta and Senna. They just need to keep the ball and not get struck on one of Brazil's trademark counter attacks. Easier said than done but they could well do it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Also, by the way, ballontheground is so wrong...

    "That is sooo true. Forget about Holland, Germany, Paraguay, Portugal, France e the African teams. Only England has a decent chance of upsetting Brazil and Spain."

    Holland have been in top form at the minute and could beat Brazil if they exploit the right areas on the counter themselves and Germany are a big game side who does better than expected (like when they were getting battered by Turkey's reserves but still came out victorious in the Euros).

    With the likes of France, Portugal, Paraguay and the African teams though, there is a valid point. France probably more likely to beat Brazil than any of the others mentioned, but Portugal??? They got battered 6-2 by Brazil in a friendly last year so they won't stand a chance (and Ronaldo isn't much of a team player anyway, and he disappears in big games for Portugal- remember the Euros?) I can say the same of the others- even Africa's form teams Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire (even with Essien and Drogba respectively) and South America's once form team Paraguay (who if I'm right in saying actually beat Brazil).

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • Comment number 62.

    #57 & #43

    Not sure if this ticks the box, but you could do a lot worse that checking out the following book

    Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos.

    This book is all encompassing, detailing how intrinsic football is to Brazilian culture, and likewise how Brazil is to the global footballing culture. It's a great read, quite simply. And the Preface is provided by Socrates, which is the cherry on the bun.

    Give it a bash.

  • Comment number 63.

    As a liverpool fan I rate Fabio Aurelio very highly. I think he's better than all of the brazilian left backs I've seen since Roberto Carlos. Technically gifted, brilliant set piece, very good positionally. Only problem is injuries but last season he managed to play a lot of matches so I'm suprised he hasn't been mentioned in terms of the national team.

  • Comment number 64.

    Nice blog. One thing we can be sure of, and we can put our houses on it, is that it will not be England lifting the gleaming gold trophy next summer. Not a chance. Not with other teams playing as teams regardless of their ego`s. Lampard, Ferdinand, not a hope, these individuals will never ever play as one together, they are much more interested in personal accolades than uniting as a national team.

  • Comment number 65.


    I think Melo is as good a defensive MF as Flamini, Makelele, Mascherano etc, if not better. His introduction into the Brazil team seems to have given their playmakers more time on the ball.

    His main weakness is bookings. He recieved 18 yellow cards and 3 red cards last term with Fiorentina. While being the right sort of tough guy that you always lack against the likes of Blackburn, i can easily see him getting sent off in MUST-WIN matches especially in Europe where the referees are always happy to whistle.

  • Comment number 66.

    Brazil = over rated. They beat a terrible Italian side, worst I can remember, and only just squezed past Egypt!! Player for player they are far from incredible (One injury and you have a hard to fill Kaka shaped hole). I agree that they will be one of the favourites for the World Cup, but they always are, no matter how good/bad they are at the time. As a devout England fan, I would not fear meeting the World Cup. There are only two teams who are a bit worrying and that is Holland and Spain, and if we came up against any of these two, I wouldn't like to call a winner, it would be very close (and remember, Spain are just as good as we are at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory).

    Oh, and don't get me started on the current over hyped (yet stalling) Argrntina side.

  • Comment number 67.

    Tim (and anyone else who wishes to comment),

    Great blog as usual, I was just wondering what your thoughts on Anderson were. Like you said, Brazil appear to favour two strong marking central midfield players, sacrificing from ball playing ability, yet down to strange decision of the Manchester United coaches, Anderson has been taught to mark and defend very well, and yet still possesses the abiltity to make surging forward runs, link the play and be a general attacking threath. Could he be the midway point?

    (I personally would love to see Hernanes and Anderson in there, but I don't pretend to have superior knowledge than the Brazil coaches, so thats neither here nor there)

    Also glad to see this has become a another board for "How good/bad are England"..Yawwwn

  • Comment number 68.

    Crikey.. Grammatically that is terrible! Sincerest apologies

  • Comment number 69.


    One difference between England and Spain is that Spain DID snatch victory the last I remember - they have actually won something in the last 40yrs. England have been experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of PRESUMED victory... there is a difference. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't like to call a winner, because you know it almost certainly will not be England.

    And I wont get you started on the 'over-hyped' Argentina side... but if they play to even half their potential, with the best player in the world amongst their ranks, then I would fancy them against anyone. Especially the obvious.

  • Comment number 70.


    You know, I'm intrigued by Anderson also. The CL final didn't do his rep any favours, granted, but it is perhaps a touch harsh to single him out (especially with Iniesta on such form etc). I mean, Vidic is still standing at the turnstiles in Rome, I reckon.

    With his 'formative' years in the P'ship, he has surely acquired the graft needed to play such a position , and also seems to have the technical ability. I'm in a bit of a minority amongst my mates etc, but I think he could still develop into a great player.

  • Comment number 71.

    Yes TaconazoRedondo - well observed, Spain have won something recently, but prior to that you have to go back two years further than England for their last and only other achievement. Apart from last year, Spain have a worse tournament record than us, and they almost always enter a quality team; Which leads me to believe they have just as much chance of cocking it up next years as anyone else, despite their current side. The reason I wouldn't like to call a winner between England and Spain in a World Cup match is solely because I could see it going either way, not because 'it almost certainly will not be England'.

    And regarding your reply to my Argentina comment; One man doesn't make a team, and again, like I said about Brazil and Kaka, if Messi is injured they have a decidedly average team. On the flip side, you could say the same about England and Rooney, but Gerrard or Cole can adequetley fill the Rooney shaped hole. I personally would love to meet the Argies at the World Cup, I am far from scared of them, and contrary to your statement it is not 'obvious' that they would beat England in the World Cup. If they play to even half their potential they are getting the first flight home my friend.

    I do not buy into this 'no one has a chance except Brazil, Argentina or Spain' mindset that people seem to be in. There is as much chance of any of them going out in the group stages as there is any of them winning the thing. And some of the other names people are throwing around are laughable - Italy; they are shockingly bad at the moment, Portugal; they probably won't even qualify (which just goes to support my one man doesn't make a team statement), France; it is now 2009, not 1999.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Tim, excellent article yet again. Recent reports have emerged again linking Gremio's Douglas Costa with European powerhouses and more specificaly Manchester United. I do not watch a lot of South American football and would like to know How well you rate the midfielder and if you think he is ready to make the larger step up. Thanks Tim.

  • Comment number 73.


    One man doesn't make a team... unless that man is Maradona. And I'm curious as to how Messi will perform in the next World Cup; He will have Aguero & Tevez for company amongst others, and he is the closest player to Maradona we have ever seen. Almost seems like fate?

    I think your point is that if you take a key player out of any one team, it leaves a gap that may be difficult to fill? That's hardly a leap across the intellectual abyss though, is it? As you point out, it applies equally to England as much as the other teams mentioned (or perhaps even more so if I again point out that the other teams mentioned have also won something in recent memory).

    Take Kaka from Brazil, and you have Robinho, possibly (though not likely) Ronaldinho, as well as Luis Fabiano up front. Messi still has the likes of Aguero, Tevez, and Riquelme. France have Ribery, Nasri, Henry, Benzema...

    Take Rooney out, and yes, you have the possiblity Gerard stepping up. But you'll still have Peter Crouch up front. Or Emile Heskey.

  • Comment number 74.

    Well said TaconazoRedondo.............Like this

  • Comment number 75.

    TaconazoRedondo - I am curious to see if Messi will even get the chance to perform at next years World Cup. And correct, my key player/gap scenario is hardly a leap across the intellectual abyss, but it is merely an observation of the obvious.

    I am not trying to make out that England are better than the likes of Spain, Brazil and Argentina, but what I would say is that there is only one of these teams that are clearly better than England as we speak, and they are not South American.

    Also, I have no shame in having Crouch up front, I think his record speaks for itself.

  • Comment number 76.

    The Vuvuzela is an annoying plastic trumpet also known as a stadium horn that is constantly blown at all soccer/football matches in South Africa. It sounds like a deafening mix of angry elephants trumpeting, a swarm of buzzing bees and a fog horn. What can we do? Go to Register with your name, country and email and then vote. Tell your friends and family to do so too. It is our intention to submit these votes to the relevant authorities who can do something about it. Together we can make our 2010 World Cup the best experience for all.

  • Comment number 77.


    Are you on drugs or you are simply clueless?


    "if Messi is injured they have a decidedly average team."

    If Argentina without Messi is average, there mus be as many teams below such Argentina as there are above them - after all they are "average". Does that make sense? I can think of 40 teams teams below Argentina without Messi, but cannot think of 40 teams better than that. Therefore, even without Messi, they cannot be average! (no worries, everybody but you knows that)


    "I am not trying to make out that England are better than the likes of Spain, Brazil and Argentina, but what I would say is that there is only one of these teams that are clearly better than England as we speak, and they are not South American".

    Ahahahha. Another silly sentence. If you believe that England is not better than Brazil, Argentina and Spain, and only Spain can beat England, that means either (1) England is worse than Brazil and Argentina, or (2) as good as them. It cannot be (1) cuz you think only Spain can beat England (!!). So it must be (2). But then, how come a team that is as good as Brazil and Argentina has not qualified for the Euro and has never won anything - I said anything - in the last 40 years? Get a grip mate.

  • Comment number 78.

    ballontheground - I did not say anywhere that only Spain can beat England, anyone could beat England just as anyone could beat Spain, Brazil and Argentina, we are talking about football after all. What I am trying to point out is that this apparent gulf in class between England and the South Americans is none existent at the time being, we are not below them in any way, and having said that, I don't necessarily think we are above them in any way. Equal, but with different qualities.

    OK, fair point about the decidedly average statement, I maybe got a bit carried away in order to prove my point that they are over hyped and over rated, there is obviously not 40 odd teams better than the Argies.

    I just get sick of the constant hyping up of Brazil and Argentina. Yes, they are both good teams, but they are far removed from they hype surrounding them, particularly the Argies.

    "how come a team that is as good as Brazil and Argentina has not qualified for the Euro and has never won anything - I said anything - in the last 40 years? Get a grip mate."

    The reason we failed to qualify for the Euros was because of Mclaren, the bloke had no clue. Our fortunes have totally changed under Capello with much the same team. The team that failed to qualify was good enough not only to qualify but to do well at the Euros, we just had a terrible manager. Also, I will reiterate; Until last summer Spain had not won anything for over 40 years, we all knew they were capable, like a handfull of other teams, but no body seemed to point out that they had won nothing since 64.

  • Comment number 79.

    Davidman - fair play. But why would you be curious as to whether Messi 'will even get the chance' to perform at 2010? Explain...

    My point is simply that I do not rate the current English team. It's nice that you're not ashamed of Crouch... you say that his record speaks for itself. Statistics can be plucked to mould even the most ludicrous arguments. Others simply just use their own eyes.

    Me - I think he's a set of teeth on legs. As much use as a hairdryer on a motorbike.

    Gerrard and Rooney are the 2 players from the England team that merit mention. Walcott is a greyhound - you have to wonder how he will handle defences with experience, guile and graft. Lampard? We all know how that story of continual International underachievement ends. Dead horse. Joe Cole?? A good player, but I just feel that players like Aguero, Arshavin, Ribery etc are all a class above.

    The technical aspects of England's shortcomings also seem to be repeatedly exposed - France, Portugal, Spain... 3 European teams that have gotten the better of England in recent times (granted, Portugal needed PK's yaddah yaddah). And despite the 4-1 qualifier recently, Croatia also outclassed England on home soil not so long ago, on a night when Gerrard & Co. certainly looked no better than the likes of Modric etc.

    It's almost a tradition that with every major International tournie, England's chances are talked up... mostly by England fans?. And every tournie, England get found out. This time, they have a weaker squad than most England squads we have seen...

  • Comment number 80.

    Personally, I definitely class cole in the same league as Aguero, Ribery, and Arshavin. Crouch is a more skillful player than people like to believe, not world class but quality nonetheless, granted he looks like bambi on ice and I think people can't get past that.

    And with regards to the Portugal game, we outplayed them all match with ten men and without our very own 'Messi', we were very unlucky.

    I agree with your analysis of Walcott, he lacks the technique to compliment his pace, but he is very young so lets see how he pans out. Lampard is not always an underachiever, he was immense for us between 2003-05, he just been inconsistent since, plus he occupies a similar role to both Rooney and Gerrard, so it is almost impossible for all three to play to their full abilities together - at least one is going to have to take a back seat.

    Im am not saying we will win the World Cup, but I would say we are in with as much of a chance as Brazil and Argentina. I totally agree about the bigging up of the England side before tournaments, but that happens in every country with a bit of ambition.

    My argument today is with the unfounded bigging up of Brazil and Argentina, and I only used my own country as they are the best benchmark I have to make a point with.

  • Comment number 81.

    Davidman, Brazil > England, in ALMOST EVERY DEPARTMENT. Taking the last game of the two teams, I found this:

    Goalkeeper? Julio Cesar is better than Hart, that portsmouth guy I forgot the name, Green, whoever you want.

    Right full-back, not only Maicon is the best full-back in the world, Daniel Alves is the best wing-back on the world! Who's Glen Johnson? Not even impressive for Portsmouth.

    Centre-backs, Lucio and Juan is a formidable partnership, Terry and Ferdinand may be good, but I still have Lucio ahead of Terry(faster, stronger, braver) and Juan ahead of Ferdinand(they are very close, but I always felt that Juan is better technically)

    Left full-back, Cashley Cole is better than everybody that Dunga has been using, but I feel that Maxwell is better than him. He is fantastic for Internazionale, but never been called...

    Defensive Midfielder, Gilberto Silva is a better than.. who was the last defensive midfielder who played for england? Hargreaves? I like him. But Silva is fantastic for defensiveness. But nobody played this role for Andorra.

    Midfielder, Felipe Melo is another very good defensive midfielder, but England plays with... David Beckham. Who's old, slow and may be a fantastic crosser, but I'd stand and have Melo.

    Midfielder, Ramires is clearly not as famous as Lampard, but he has showed a lot more will and determination. Very athletic and fast, I put him against a man who is very good shooter and a very important player for Chelsea. Lampard may be better today, but I'd bet in Ramires in the long term, the kid is amazing.

    Midfielder, Kaka and Gerrard. Two of the big names of today. Gerrard may be important for Liverpool and a very good "box-to-box" midfielder, but it is Kaka the star of today's football. Only Messi and Cristiano are as good as him. Only.

    Forward, Robinho and Rooney. Last season Rooney got the edge, I agree, but Robinho is a fantastic player, good dribbler, good passer, creative. I'd have Rooney for his last season, but if Robinho can get himself again mind-fit, he'll be one of the best in the world.

    Striker, Luis Fabiano and Peter Crouch. HA-HA-HA. That's not even a contest, is it? Luis Fabiano is WAY better.

  • Comment number 82.

    "Davidman - fair play. But why would you be curious as to whether Messi 'will even get the chance' to perform at 2010? Explain...

    Forgot to answer that. My point being, there is more than a slight chance that Argentina won't qualify for the World Cup.

  • Comment number 83.

    julio cesar




    luis fabiano

    - if that's brazils world cup team they'll probably win it. gilberto has to go though.

  • Comment number 84.

    Davidman - true. After watching some of Argentina's recent WC Qual's, it's no cert that we'll have the privilege of seeing Messi in South Africa. I'm still pretty sure they will do enough however.

    Paraguay and Chile have been worthy though, have to say. The football of the latter especially has been a joy at times, and they have an Argentine coach in charge... lovely irony there. The recent 2-0 victory over the former, in Asuncion no less, means Chile look odds-on for 2010.

    You've taken a fair bit of flak today mate - fair play :o)

    (Crouch? Seriously?...)

  • Comment number 85.

    TaconazoRedondo - Haha, no worries mate, can't beat a bit of football banter, why do you think I would come onto a Brazil article and make the bold statement that Brazil and Argentina are over rated? I still stand by it though...Lets just see what happens next year shall we.

  • Comment number 86.

    Hey as much as I think Brazil and Spain are the elite of Football of the world, anything is possible in the next two semifinal games. For the psoter that said "USA are the clowns of their Group" eell I see them playing in the semifinal not Italy or Egypt. When it counted the USA scored the three goals. Yes they were helped by Brazil but don't call the USA clowns. I hope there will be a major upset in the semifinal games and I am calling the USA to beat Spain.Don't forget they played Spain close last year and lost 1 nill in the last 10 minutes on Spain's soil.It is about time all you Euro's gave USA player's some respect.

  • Comment number 87.


    That is the most biased post I have ever had the misfortune of reading. The only positions that Brazil definitely have the edge over England are the Goalkeeper, right back and possibly the role behind the striker (Julio Cesar, Maicon/D.Alves and kaka). On what planet are Lucio and Juan better than Terry and Rio? That is possibly the best defensive partnership on earth, asides Vidic and Rio again. Capello favours a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rooney slotting in behind the striker, with a view to working back deep to win the ball back. Dunga prefers a 4-2-2-2, with the two full backs providing the width. He plays 2 holding midfielders and 2 attacking minded midfielders. Robinho sometimes drifts over to the left as well. If you took Englands two best holding midfielders; Barry and Hargreaves, im pretty sure most managers would rather have them in their team. Hargreaves was arguably Englands best player in 2006 in Germany, even though he was ridiculed beforehand. Barrys ball retention is second to none.

  • Comment number 88.

    87 - Brazil play football currently on another level to our Three Lions I'm afraid.

    The problem when you put 11 English players on a pitch together always comes back to technique. English players like Gerrard and Rooney are great individually, but in a team where no-one including themselves is really comfortable on the ball and can't actually move with the ball, it becomes very hard to win matches against top opposition.

    Look at Brazil. Each one of the 11 man squad can hold possession if needed and can actually move with the ball instead of the robotic stop and pass that typifies England. The touch of the English players in general is worse. The decision making is often worse (due to nerves often). You add all these things together and you have a side that seems to be only really effective in set-pieces.

    I would argue that most sides in Europe can pass the ball around better than England. The real advantage England have is the fitness, strength and organization of our players (defence, set-pieces etc).

  • Comment number 89.

    88 - The most sensible and accurate description of the English team I've ever seen.

    Posts like 80 and 87 are just laughable. Teams like Brazil and Spain are not out of this world and they're definetely beatable. From this to saying that England is in the same class those two teams are is just ridiculous and cannot be taken seriously.

    I wonder why english supporters have such a hard time to come to terms with the fact that England is not a world top team. And more and more people seem to be realising that their third-rate status won't change if they do not change their style of play. I doubt they will in the forseeable time.

  • Comment number 90.


    "I agree, though I can't help feeling that come next summer it would be a mistake for Brazil to not play Ronadinho, if that means potentially sacraficing Robinho to the Bench then that's the move I would look to make."

    Ronaldinho was never a success while playing for Brazil. In 2002, he was only a supporting player to Ronaldo and Rivaldo, only shined in that match with England (and still got a red card) and when became his time to be the star, he was always a failure; see 2000 and 2008 Olympics and 2006 WC. And he hasn't been playing well for over 2 years now. Do what you suggested frankly would be silly at best and utterly stupid at worst.

  • Comment number 91.

  • Comment number 92.

    I love the way I am mistaken for English when I am Northern Irish. How is my post laughable? You disagree with what I say, trying to demean my opinion in order to make yours seem more valid is somewhat childish.
    When did I ever say that AS A TEAM, England were superior ro Brazil? I was comparing individuals, that does not necessarily mean they automatically become a better team. But to say that Spain and Brazil are on another planet is debatable. There is a gap between the teams yes but I doubt they are on another planet.

  • Comment number 93.

    Just looking back on your post there 89 I misread it to an extent. I apologise. England are not in the same class but the gap is not as big as you suggest

  • Comment number 94.

    87 - What I did is to compare 11 players, I know that both teams play very different tactics, but both play with 11 players on the pitch, right? I got who played the last game for both teams(forgot Walcott, but it was Andorra, you can't play that offensive power against Spain, for example)

    Hargreaves WAS impressive in WC 2006 and I said I like him, but I'd have Gilberto Silva ahead of him, I was on the stadium for Brazil x Argentina last year, and the ball simply didn't go to Riquelme, Silva was all over him. He nullified one of Argentina's most dangerous players with an ease that I haven't seen in a long time. Can Hargreaves do the same? I admit seeing him only a little bit(WC 2006 and a few Man Utd games, since England didn't qualify for Euro 2008) but from what I saw, I'd say no.

    Lucio is better than Terry, Juan is as good as Ferdinand, look at Bayern Munchen and Roma! Terry is the ideal professional and leader, but that does not cover for his speed, Lucio is the same but pacey. Watching Juan and Rio I see the same player, albeit Juan is better technically.

    I'm not saying that Brazil is the ultimate team(Spain is better in every department) just that England isn't as good as it.

    There's lot's of teams which are between Spain and England that the English supporters(as we do) ignore, Brazil, Holland, France, Russia, Germany, Argentina, Cameroon, even Italy!(Okay to say they're in a deplorable state, but would you rule them out? They have quality players and if they can get it working, they are among the best, right?)

  • Comment number 95.

    Should Spain be a new ruling power, we might catch some insight if the two teams meet. Will Spain be like France who has defeated Brazil 3 times in the World Cup since 1986 and save Argentina's single win in 1990, be unique in that category? 2 of the times during that time span, 1994 and 2002, Brazil won the World Cup and it seems that what France has done, is something England, Germany and Italy are not able to do, at least not recently and at least not on a regular basis.

  • Comment number 96.

    Watching Confed Cup - USA have just taken the lead against mighty Spain ...

  • Comment number 97.

    G.Silva and Hargreaves are slightly different in certain aspects. Silva tends to be a more accomplished passer and better at ball retention, whereas Hargreaves tends to be more a grafter and tough tackler, more suited to a man-marker. To say one is better than the other is a tough one to call but in my opinion, I would rather have Hargeaves in my team.

    Juan may be better technically but as a centre-back, is that really what you want? In 07-08 season, I think Rio was absoloutely immense at the back, some of the displays were the best i've seen my time. I do not watch a lot of Italian football so I cannot make an accurate valuation of Juan but surely if he was better if not as good as Rio, he would surely have more recoginition? Certainly in this part of Europe?
    Lucio can sometimes switch off at vital moments, nonetheless he is a top class centre-half.

    Yes you cannot write Italy off but they are nowhere near as good as they were 3 years ago

  • Comment number 98.

    USA have to be in the 2010 mix after a thoroughly deserved 2-0 win against Spain. While an impeccable Tim Howard was my man-of-the-match, the USA's defensive organisation was superb, nullifying Spain's big guns. The USA were also well organised in attack, and might well have scored more - in the first half, Dempsey took the ball off the head of a colleague who would almost certainly have scored; and twice in the last 10 minutes, USA got clear but got a bad offside call. While Spain had many shots, they were never as close to scoring as USA were on those three occasions.

    I'm a long-suffering Newcastle supporter - our defence should watch this game time and again to understand defensive organisation.

  • Comment number 99.

    Oh dear...the great record-breaking Spain have just been humbled by the mighty U.S.A !!!!

    So no Spain v Brazil final, and no chance to see this Spain side get taken apart by the Samba Boys.

  • Comment number 100.

    Congratulations to the US football team for doing the unthinkable. Their victory against mighty Spain in the semis of the Confed Cup has been remarkable. Will the US football team face Bafana Bafana or the Samba Boys in the finals ?

    I enjoyed reading this well written and insightful piece on the counter attacking style of this Dunga coached Brazilian side. Looking at corner kicks as an opportunities for launching counter attacks - that's certainly positive play. Brazil has the luxury for planning such shock moves. Great stuff Tim. Thanks !

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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