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Brazil require style re-think

Tim Vickery | 15:40 UK time, Monday, 25 August 2008

If defeat presents an opportunity to reflect and learn, then last week could have been very significant in Brazilian football.

Brazil's quest to win Olympic gold was put back another four years after they went down 3-0 to Argentina in the semi-final in Beijing.

Following the match, under pressure coach Dunga was asked if his team had been too defensive. "Playing the same way," he shrugged, "we won the Copa America."

A year ago in Venezuela it was Brazil who came out on top 3-0 when they met their old rivals in the final. The game plan was similar - thwart Argentina's intricate passing moves in midfield and then break at pace down the flanks - and on that occasion it worked.

Juan Riquelme weaves through Brazil's defence

After the Copa America win Dunga was applauded by many Brazilian journalists as he made his way in to the post-match press conference.

Those who clapped then might be seen as having little right to criticize now. But that is the problem with the pragmatic 'result is the be all and end all' school of football. When it fails to achieve results there is nothing left to applaud.

I had expected Brazil to have more joy against Argentina's attack-minded full-backs but in the event, Argentina's extra attacking width was an important factor in beating the midfield blockade of Dunga's team.

In the long run, however, losing last Tuesday might just end up being good for Brazilian football. The more rabble rousing elements of the local media have tried to play their typical card, the one about the players not caring because they are a bunch of European-based mercenaries.

It's usually drivel, and is especially untrue this time as midfielder Diego and right-back Rafinha, for example, defied their German clubs in order to take part in the tournament.

Hopefully, minds can now be focused on the idea that failure on the field might instead have explanations more specifically grounded in the game of football.

Ronaldinho inspects his bronze medal

Johann Cruyff, one of the great masters, has often lamented that Brazil have turned into an overly pragmatic, counter-attacking team, but Cruyff's superb Holland side of 1974 played a part in that process.

They beat Brazil in what was effectively the semi-final of that year's World Cup, and the intense pressure they put on the ball made a huge impression on Brazilian coaches.

Brazil decided that in order to face the European challenge their players would have to be bigger, stronger, faster, more explosive.

Brazil's failure to win the 1982 World Cup also left a scar. Their team had a magnificently fluid and imaginative midfield, but were let down in both penalty areas and eliminated by Italy.

Many of the players from that tournament were in the team knocked out in the quarter-finals four years later, or the one which fell in the final of the 1983 Copa America, and even a mini-World Cup staged in Uruguay in 1980. Dunga has referred to them as "specialists in losing."

Many coaches in Brazil seized onto the idea that it was no longer possible to win titles with this style of play.

The physical evolution of the game had made it easier to close down space in midfield. The side that won had little need of dominating midfield possession - the key was to break quickly at the moment of transition, when the ball was won.

The idea has its merits, but it ain't necessarily so. Argentina's intricate patterns, with Fernando Gago knitting the side together so well in midfield, helped them to Olympic gold.

Even more significant, however, was Spain's triumph in Euro 2008.

"Spain, with a number of talented little guys and good collective play, showed the world the obvious - to the surprise of many - that a slower, more skilful and attractive style can also be efficient," said Tostao a World Cup winner for Brazil in 1970.

"Many Spaniards," he continued, "said that the team played in a Brazilian style. Evidently they were talking about previous eras. Many coaches, journalists and supporters, especially younger ones, need to forget what they have learned in order to learn again what it is to play good football in Brazil."

If losing an Olympic semi final to Argentina is what it takes to put Brazilian football back in touch with its own tradition for imaginative midfield play then indeed it is a small price to pay.

Your questions answered:

What do you think of Chelsea's Franco Di Santo? How is he rated in his homeland? Why wasn't he taken to the Olympics?
Alexander Bentil

Very promising, a kind of young Roque Santa Cruz with his beanpole build, aerial threat but subtle ground skills. He never played professionally in Argentina - he's from close to the Chilean border, and made his name in Chile with Audax Italiano. Argentina took him to the South American Under-20 Championships at the start of last year, but decided he wasn't quite ready and he wasn't selected for the World Youth Cup squad.

Since then, of course, he's been a bit off the radar screen in Chelsea's reserves. If he had stayed another year he would have played in the Libertadores for Audax, and might have done enough to force his way into the Olympic squad.

It's a similar story for Liverpool defender Emiliano Insua, who played left-back last year in the World Youth Cup - but while he was in the reserves at Anfield he was overtaken by Fabian Monzon back at Boca Juniors, the club Insua left so early.

Some storming performances for Boca got Monzon into the Olympic side, and he's also set to join Hamburg, who will pay big money for him and presumably give him plenty of first team opportunities.

It tends to point to the view that young South American players can benefit from staying an extra couple of years and consequently coming over to Europe at a higher level.


  • Comment number 1.

    Tim, I think it was downright poor that Dunga got the job in the first place. I am a Nigerian and we were brought up on the beautiful game as played by the Brazil team of '82 and to a lesser extent the team of '86. It was the arrival of DUNGA to the team of '90 that the country went backwards. I truly disliked him as a player and it is a traversty that he and the likes of Mazinho have world cup winners' medals and Zico, Falcao, Socrates, Careca and so on do not have. In the match against Argentina he was just mad and out of his depth. Imagine asking Anderson to man mark Messi? Then there was Lucas and Hernanes in the same midfield!! In the previous game they struggled to overcome 9 man Cameroun cos there was no creativity. Then he dropped Pato. There are too many sins and really he should be sacked and Brazil return to basics. He has capped so many destroyers in his midfield that it should be judged a crime.

  • Comment number 2.

    Emekus, nice try but wrong. Dunga has a point in that the extra physical attributes the Europeans brought was straving the Brazillians out of closely fought matches. The evolution that re-won the world cup for Brazil, however marries the artisans with still a sprinkling of artists; for evry Dunga their was a Romario, Leonardo or Ronaldo. Now there are too many artisans. Finally you might have been brought up watching Brazillian football as a Nigerian, but the Nigeiran template based on their best team (1994 world cup) was based on a European and not Brazillian template. The mixture of flair and atheletic muscularity instilled by Clemens Westerhoff was straight out of the Dutch Text book!

  • Comment number 3.

    Brazil with attacking full backs - Cafu and R Carlos - looked good and played a fine game. With them, they won two world cups.

    In 2006, they played a bagfull of 'flair' midfielders - and got nowhere. (True, they also relied on the then past it Cafu).

    Moral of the story? The best solution is, surely, a balance between flair and strenght/power.

  • Comment number 4.

    Brazil have achieved 2 World cup wins in the last 4 tournaments and 4 Copa Americas in the same period, doubling their Copa total from 4 to 8 in 10 years (they had only won 4 in the previous 80). This suggests to me that it's probably best to stick withthe pragmatic approach for the time being.

    Ok, so it may well be that there is little to reflect on after a tournament in terms of gameplay, but hell, look how long it took Spain to actually win something playing the 'beautiful' way.

    Let's face it - nobody remembers the loser.

    It's trophies that last forever.

  • Comment number 5.

    With the exodus of Brazilian players when they are as young as 16, it is unlikely that Brazil will ever play football in the way they used to. One point that most international commentators ignore is that till the late 80s, there were state and national tournaments for reserve players (campeonato de aspirantes), where the youth talent was tried and tested and used to learn the Brazilian way of playing passing football. Another aspect that compounds the issue is that the old Brazilian style has taken them nowhere since 1970. It should be noted that since 1989, when Lazaronni’s Brazil won Copa America, all coaches have always attempted to emulate either the Dutch total football approach or an European system (including an Italian-style libero!). This has led their side to win 3 Copa Americas, two world cups and to the dramatic defeat in 1998 world cup final against France. Hence, any manager in Brazil will be reluctant to go back to their old style and underachieve. Nelson Piquet once said something that exemplifies the Brazilian approach to international football: “The runner up is the first of the loosers”.
    As for the defeat against Argentina, well, it was the usual Brazil vs Argentina. The match could have gone either way. If Rafinha had not crossed two balls in the beginning of the 1st half so poorly, they could have been one up and we would have seen yet another 3 x 0 Brazil. Furthermore, Pato’s disallowed goal was in strikingly similar circumstances as Argentina’s second goal – had it been allowed, it would have changed the whole scenario of the match.

  • Comment number 6.

    Tim makes a great point about the transitional periods of the game. Brazil's two deep midfielders, Lucas and Anderson were surprisingly slow at getting the ball up to the attackers, thus allowing the Arg full-backs di Maria and Zabaleta to recover their positions.

    It's easy to say with hindsight, but it wouldn't have hurt Brazil to pair someone like Diego with Lucas/Anderson/Ramires just in front of the defense i.e. in a Gattuso/Pirlo mould; sacrificing defensive solidity for quicker counter-attacking.

    Having said that, I also believe Brazil can consider themselves unlucky as Pato's goal was 50/50 and the two red-cards were harsh.

  • Comment number 7.

    Maybe Brazil must first sort out what seems to be their own social problems and petty arguements amongst the media and themselves about home based and european based players, from favouratism to lack of effort, otherwise with any such rifts they can never play as a team.

    Perhaps it will take Dunga's removal but someone needs to be brave and transform their style primarily in order to play their attacking style again.
    It will most likely take someone who is more concerned about playing great football, with result a close 2nd in order to kick start a Renaissance, as obviously that flair as a team won't come back without defeat, failure and testing at first.

  • Comment number 8.

    I got to disagree that this "pragmatic" style is what made the brazilian football a winner in the recent years.

    Our Seleção won most of those titles based on individual talent. 1994 had Bebeto and Romário. 2002 had Rivaldo and Ronaldo. We had great players with the team working for them, the entire team built in the concept "we hold on and you do your best". Not only that, but we had much more midfield quality back then.

    It's completey possible to keep the way, but Dunga surely has not the skill to make a team that works for Kaka. Ignoring the final, it was not Brazil who won the Copa America. It was Robinho.

    If someone builds the team for Kaka, Robinho and some reasonable goalscorer, then we are in the battle for 2010 World Cup.

  • Comment number 9.

    No they do not need re-think.
    You don't expect them to win everything, do you?
    Of course you can expect England to lose everything stupidly which would be no surprise to anybody, but surely you're being a little facetious to take away credit from the Argentinians?

    The world has changed. Haven't you noticed? Football is seriously global now, and will be even more in the future. The game's level has been raised elsewhere. Pretty much the entire Brazil team plays in Europe to the point where they can put a whole side together to play in Europe without calling anybody up to come over from their home country! That was unheard of before. It was still mysterious to see fantastic footballer every 4 years show up to the World Cup, players we had never seen before.

    Dunga just had the wrong team out there.

  • Comment number 10.

    I really dont see what your point is Tim to be perfectly honest. Brazil oost 3-0 to Argentina....big deal.

    Emerkus you did not like Dunga as a player and now as a coach and you comically mention how it is he won a WC medal. Well like my dad always said, HOW YOU WIN IS NOT IMPORTANT ITS WINNING THAT MATTERS. I like flair and skillfull players but results is what people remember.

    Besides the Brazil Football Federation is not so gung-ho and stupid and to make knee-jeck decisions based on a meaningless Olympic football competition.


    Not sure how many Copa America they have won.. But 5 times world cup winners and last Copa America Champions...well that does not sound like a team that needs to change. Sometims you win sometimes you loose.

    Tim I think ENGLAND should be your focus next. I hear a GB team is being considered for London 2012..that should be very interesting.......

  • Comment number 11.

    A couple of points have been made about winning being everything and nobody remembering the losers.

    That is not always the case as Holland in 1974 and 1978 prove.

    A decent footballer once said that there is no greater prize than being acclaimed for your style.

    I think that for truly exceptional teams who fall short at the final hurdle, that still holds true.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Brazil will overcome their present problems and will win the next world cup. Remember Europeans don't travel well and at the moment only Spain, who despite winning the Euros are notoriously inconsistent, can mount a decent challenge for the World cup.

    That leaves Argentina as the possible favorites going into South Africa 2010.Again history shows that Argentina do not win senior tournaments they are favorites to win...WCs 2002,2006 and Copa America 2007.

    That leaves Brazil and a possible surprise challenge from an African team (the Ivory Coast?).

    In the run up 2002 WC they(Brazil) were horrible and just about qualified.They lost Emerson...and Ronaldo only just started playing again after months out with injury!In the end they won with a midfield pairing of Gilberto Silva and Man Utd flop Kleberson!

    I do not no how they are going to do it,but in 2010 I'm quite sure they will win the WC again,with or without Dunga!

  • Comment number 13.

    In the last 14 years Brazil have won:

    2 World Cups
    4 Copa America's
    2 Confederation Cups

    Out of the last 4 World Club Cups - 3 Brazilian Football Teams have won.

    Tell me what other country has the same success as Brazil?

    You also have to remember Tim, when Brazil won the Copa America last year - their defence didn't even let Messi and Tevez Breathe.

    That defence had Gilberto, Maicon, Alex and Lucio.

    4 extremely powerful, technical, fast and strong defenders.

  • Comment number 14.

    i think people live in a dreamland. The times of jogo bonito are well and truely over.
    The game is improving all the time and today it's not easy to beat small countries comfortably. England were not able to beat a country like Macedonia at home. Decades ago England could destroy Turkey 8-0, but is that possible now?
    The one and only country that are true to its principles are Argentina. They always play their passing game. It's a bit like Arsenal and Spain.
    Tell me why would Brazil otherwise change a winning formula if they had not foreseen that the jogo bonito is out of date?
    Teams don't allow you to play you want anymore so pragmatic solutions must be used.
    By the way i congratulate Argentina for winning gold medals again. It's good to see teams like Spain and Argentina triumph.
    And people who downgrade the Olympics should get real. Brazil arrived to win the olympic gold, their 2 red cards against Argentina showed just how much they wanted to win. It's the only medal they don't have so they wanted is badly

  • Comment number 15.

    Dear Tim,

    Can you please tell me more about the River Plate defender Matteo Musacchio?. He is known to be nearly completing a move to Real Madrid. Has he got the ability to succeed there?.

    Thanks, Omar

  • Comment number 16.

    Lets face it, the reason Argentina won was that they had for all intents and purposes their number 1 players out there. Dunga was refused Kaka and Robinho. He had to take his 3rd choice player Ronaldinho!

    Lets face it, if Argentina were missing Messi or Riquelme and Brazil had Robinho, then I suspect you would have seen a 3-0 the other way.

    Now given Dunga's career as a defensive midfield player he is going to play a defensive midfield, but it is clear he was looking for some creativity, but had to opt for the out of form Ronaldinho as the clubs would not release his better players.

    With Kaka, Robinho, and when he is in form Ronaldinho you have essentially the best fast breaking attacking players in the world. Why on earth would you not play to your strength, and play the same way many of the top clubs in the world play with fast transition / breaking football. You would be mad not to.

    As for the mention of the Ivory Coast being possibly outside beats. It is an interesting suggestion, but the team I saw in the Africa nations looked a bit too old to really compete at the next world cup. Although they certainly have plenty of talent, I am not sure if they have enough youth talent coming through. it would be great if an African nation could make it to the semis or even further, it would definitely make an interesting challenge to the old favourites...

  • Comment number 17.

    Brazil's recent record, does indeed, shame Argentine football a good deal. But then, truth be told, Argentines and their fans never cease to flatter themselves of the quality of their football and the injustice of recent WC and CA tournaments. It must be said that Dunga won one of those WCs as captain and a CA as coach - with some 13 years in between. The Copa squad was, admittedly, a B-grade squad that surprised everyone.

    Dunga makes too many mistakes as a coach. To not have expected the Albicelestes to broaden their game and contain the counter (all 3 Brazilian goals in the Copa final came as a result of counters) is a sad indictment of Dunga the tactician. Argentina looked a completely different, much better balanced side from the onset. Dunga's squads, winners and losers alike, seem unable to create much out of the middle of the pitch.

    Also, there is no real camisa 9. Pato is announced as the Next One, but isn't showing much consistency yet. The rotating door of strikers has yet to stop under Dunga, and smacks of desperation.

    Brasil will return and, undoubtedly, beat the Albicelestes in a major tournament. And vice versa. But if Brasil are to return sooner to the top of their game, they will need a trainer who understands how to bring back some real creativity in the middle and shape the attack more effectively. Dunga's football thinking seems stuck in 1994.

  • Comment number 18.

    I hate this software that keeps cutting off your comments!!!!!1

  • Comment number 19.

    Let me try again!

    We (Argies) have learned how not to lose games we completely dominate. Brazil, and, very few, others, have won games against us by waiting and counterattacking. Well, if crazy mean doing the same thing all over again expecting a different result, we are not crazy any more and we still attack and dominate games (we are the best after all), but do not over expose ourselves. Hence why we tied the match against Brazil in Brazil and kicked their bottom (ass in the USA) at the olympics. We (Argies) are not crazy or, completely, stupid. We learned!
    Vamos Argentina and Forza Obama!!

  • Comment number 20.

    I am a die hard Brazil fan but I am saddened by the loss to Argentina. My worst nightmares came true, they looked out of sorts against Cameroun and scraped through. Brazil fell victim to star eclipse- they blocked Messi and Riquelme but forgot about Di Maria.
    The same thing happened to Spain in WC 06 where they covered Henry but fell to Riberry. This current team whether Olympic or national have the same style and ability as Pele's, Zico's and Dunga's boys. They all show great ball control and flair. The problem in the Brazil camp is how to control that flair. Romario at first did not like Bebeto and they ended up working well. Brazil has not only been blessed with great footballers but also cursed with temperamental primadonnas!
    The Brazilian formula is Brazilian I don't care if its based on a Martian football system Brazil will always play like Brazil.
    Santana was it? was praised for losing the 82,86 World Cups and Parreira was criticised for winning! You got to love Brazilians!
    Argentina for all their great promise have been big underachievers on the world stage. The way Brazil decimated them at the Copa was breathless. Aside from the 86 win in dubious circumstances and in 90 they reached the final of a way below par finals by lottery. They are not synonymous with good football Brazil are. Argentina are the proponents of the defensive style that won the 86 WC.
    The jogo bonito lives in our hearts and on the field when Brazil play as they are meant to with style and flair

  • Comment number 21.

    It was the Germans who invented the idea of a "Kampfgruppe" (combat group) - a mix of armour, armoured infantry and the "poor bloody infantry" (foot soldiers) - and used them so successfully against superior forces.

    So likewise in football, a few heavy-duty players mixed in with a few fluid, fast-moving attackers and anchored by some solid blocking defenders seemed to the "correct formula" !!

    Still, who are we to talk when it is they who have sweated blood to get on to that field in Beijing. Well done, all; regardless of winning a medal or not !!

  • Comment number 22.

    How can you critise Brazil when our own team are no better?

  • Comment number 23.

    Just wondering what your opinion is of a young corinthians attacking midfield, Lulinha. My knowledge of younf south american players is really limited to computer games and in most comuter games lulinha is rated quite highly. Just interested to see whether this holds true in real life?

  • Comment number 24.

    People seem to be forgetting the fact that this is an under-23 tournament and the side that Brazil played is far from their best. Their defence has no resmblence to one that includes lucio alves etc. and they lack the spark of kaka and robinho up front. On the other hand, Argentina's team full strength team has a lot of players under-23 who played in this tournament like messi, aguero gago and they used riquelme and mascherano as over-23 players to bolster the side. This was a match between Brazil under-23s and Argentina's 'almost international' side. We shouldn't be. too quick to judge Brazil on this match

  • Comment number 25.

    People seem to be forgetting the fact that this is an under-23 tournament and the side that Brazil played is far from their best. Their defence has no resmblence to one that includes lucio alves etc. and they lack the spark of kaka and robinho up front. On the other hand, Argentina's full strength team has a lot of players under-23 who played in this tournament like messi, aguero gago and they used riquelme and mascherano as over-23 players to bolster the side. This was a match between Brazil under-23s and Argentina's 'almost international' side. We shouldn't be. too quick to judge Brazil on this match

  • Comment number 26.

    I think some of the critics of Tim's piece need to remember that Tim has lived in Brazil for many years and is one of the foremost English speaking experts on South American football. It isn't a Phil McNulty etc piece designed to get up people's noses. Tim is making a point that examines the philosophy and evolution of Brazilian football, he isn't making a comment about what trophies they have won recently or not. Tim is analyzing the mindset in Brazil at the moment, not what people from the rest of the world think Brazil should be playing like. This is a valuable insight into Brazilian football at ground zero.

  • Comment number 27.

    Another great blog Tim, I always eagerly await your blogs as I feel they give a genuine insight into South American football in all shapes and forms, something which is very hard to come by over here in Edinburgh!

    I do feel as much as Brazil maybe were unlucky to lose by such a deficit and with 9 men (although in saying that Argentinas midfield duo of Messi and Riquelme played them off the park) i still agree that its time for Brazil to change both their footballing mentality and possibly even manager. The football we saw at the 2002 World Cup from Brazil and the 2008 Euro Champs with Spain shows that with the perfect balance of flair and physicality a team can still win major tournaments, I feel Brazil are thinking too extremely, once it was all flair and that didnt win them anything and now its all hard working physical players (with the exception of just a few) and theyre not winning anything, they need to return to the balance found in 2002 imo.

  • Comment number 28.

    This game was U23 olympic tournament. Argentina won 3-0, fair deal. In the last copa america, which was a senior/full national team tournament , brazil won 3-0. Argentina may have the upper hand when it comes to the youth tournaments, but in the decisive professional tournaments Brazil is way ahead of Argentina....FACT. world cups to Argentinas 2, and who has been wininig last4- copa americas..Brazil, even when argentina has been favourities , they bottle-in when brazil steps unto the pitch.
    Argentina has only 1 major wc winner in maradona, brazil has pele, romario, ronaldo, rivaldo....FACT. In recent times in the champions league Argentina just has ....., Brazil has Ronaldinho, Kaka

  • Comment number 29.

    Most of the brazilian's are in Europe playing football, and their footballing squad need to have more younger players as their older ones are not fit anymore, and they shall be dissapointed with a bronze at the Olympics.

  • Comment number 30.

    Clarke_one_nil, while I think you are right in pointing out that Tim Vickery has some useful insight into Brazilian football, I think you should not think of the other contributors as the beer-swilling, culturally-retarded yobs that English football culture is so adept at mass producing. They have other blogs outside of the BBC, where they can parade their clever ideas about modern football and England's perennial right to be considered a favourite, whatever the tournament may be.

    I have lived in Brazil for many years - and while I enjoy reading Tim Vickery's column on South American football - he is by no means the only football writer to write about that same subject.

    Besides, this is a blog. Open comment and criticism is the very point of having a blog.

  • Comment number 31.

    Need4skillz and others, I dont know what point you are trying to make, Tim fully acknowledges Brazils victories.
    But you were seriously poor in 06, lacking in any imagination and cohesion, the pragmatic style doesnt really suit the players, the flair players ended up trying to do occasional moments of brilliance on their own.

    Plus, on a global scale,

    Joga Bonito is coming back, after Greece's success in 04 (among other things) European football took on a very defensive attitude for a while.

    But last year we saw entertainment regain dominance with Chelsea v Utd being seen as almost good (utd) vs evil (chelsea) by the media. In the mean time, Rangers fighting their way to Uefa cup final on sheer will power alone made alot of fans sick. But Zenit triumphed with out and out attack.
    These feelings all culminated in the universal happiness that followed Spains victory at Euro 08.

    The beautiful game is coming back and winning cups again, it would be sad to see the masters not take part.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's rather unfair to blame all the woes of Brazilian soccer on Dunga, who in my view was an excellent midfield anchor in his day. And by that I don't mean that he just broke up the play either: his range of passing was excellent, especially with the outside of the right foot.
    Of course, Brazil had to become a bit more pragmatic after that 1982 debacle, and there's nothing wrong with that, as long as there's balance. Football is afterall about attacking and defending. In 94, Brazil's success had as much to do with Romario's finishing as Dunga's midfield role did, and for all the beauty of Spain's Euro triumph, it's worth y to note that most people''s choice of outstanding player was the defensive Marcos Senna (a Brazilian, no less!)
    As for the Olympics, well, Argentina won this round - and they played very well. But despite the 3-0 scoreline, it could have gone the other way too. Consider, Ronaldinho hit the post from a free kick, Rafael Sobis hit the same post from distance, and Pato's "goal" was a close call - as was that Aguero penalty.
    Had Brazil won, Dunga would still be king of his domain. BTW, how come no one's commenting on the no-show perfomance of Ronaldinho against Argentina?

  • Comment number 33.

    I think its time to give credit to Argentina and hail a new era, its happened before, late 70's and most of the 80's Brazil lagged behind Argentina.

    And Tim, I know you live in Brazil, and its pretty obvious that you would go for Brazil in an Arg vs Bra game but how about writing about how Argentina won the Olympics and not about how Brazil lost in the semi final

  • Comment number 34.

    When a team begins to think in a singular manner (i.e. we need to be strong and tight and catch them on the counter) they become too predictable. They struggle to adapt to anything else. A team filled with midfield battlers is great for stifling the opposition but they don't offer enough creativity. Likewise there is a flaw in playing a team of skilled flair players as they won't be able to battle enough to keep control of the ball. There has to be a blance to the side in order to be effective. Defensively sound, good passing, pace and height, able to break quickly if there is a chance to or equally good at slowling the play down and passing through the defence.

    Also as with many teams with so-called superstar players, (England and Holland are prime examples), there is always the question of ego ruling over tactical awareness. Big name players, used to performing a certain way for their club sides are hyped up and so then think they need to do something special all the time rather than concentrating on playing as a team. Too many players trying to change the game themselves rather than pass the ball to a better positioned player.

    The coaches can take some blame for this also, as players tend to bepicked on who they are and then wedged into a specific formation. What really needs to happen is either to pick the players and then play a formation to accomodate them OR (and probably the better option) is to pick a specific formation you want to play and then pick players for each position on the basis of them playing that position - if that means a big name player is left out to play a worse player but one who fills a specific role betetr then so be it.

    Modern football has seen too many teams internationally and in leagues, play negative tactics to stifle the opposition, which leads teams to rely on counter attack footbal too much. But there needs to be balance to the sides to combat this strategy. Height in the box nullifies a tight defence, pace nullifies teams pushing up, flair nullifies a battling side and good tackling nullifies all matches up for a well rounded side.

    The players and coaches need to realise that certain elements need to be ironed out for the big name players to be big name stars on the international scene.

  • Comment number 35.

    giganticivan_bosnjak, I got to agree. But the mind of the brazilianm when it comes to football is really hard to understand.

    Most of us like the good game, the "jogo bonito", and all. But no one likes losing. And losing to Argentina takes all the reason out.

    And, someone asked about Lulinha. Even though I'm for Palmeiras, and he plays for our biggest rival, that's not only my opinion. He is in the bench of a second division team. Should be enough of a description.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's not like Brazil lost to some rubbish football team like, erm, England. They lost to the team ranked first in the world (unless I'm not up to date with the fifa rankings). While they do hate losing to Argentina, I don't think we should necessarily point the finger of blame at a man who has achieved a hell of a lot during his career as a player and as a manager, deservedly or not.
    I think everybody wants to see Brazil playing with grace, style and flair, but as we aren't Brazilian, we don't care so much whether they win or not, and are more focussed on seeing the game played beautifully. Let's face it, the majority of English/French/Italian/Brazilian people would rather see England/France/Italy/Brazil play boring, bore-the-opposition-into-submission football and win the world cup than attempt to play a pretty passing game and achieve nothing. There's no reason I picked those particular nations, by the way, they were just the first ones that came to my head. If teams can play beautifully and still win the cup, then obviously everybody's happy, but remind me, how long is it since Holland or Portugal won a major trophy?

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm really disappointed when I hear a Brazilian manager happy to play defensive football, though Dunga was a more defensively minded player rather than a player full of flair, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised and it sounds like he's happy to create sides which reflect his own playing style - but that's just not Brazil.

    Brazilian football captures the imagination of the world, you would pay to watch the flair of Brazil. Full of creativity, imagination, expression, skill and movement, they're a joy to watch and it's no coincidence they've won the World Cup more times than anyone else, their style of play and approach to the game has earned them their success.

    Brazilian's demand to see good football, it's what Brazilian football is all about and they need a manager who creates sides who are successful without losing any of the Brazilian soul.

    It's not only Brazilians who miss out when Brazil aren't playing as we've become used to, it's football fans all over the world.

  • Comment number 38.

    Altaco - winning two Olympic football tournaments is much less of a feat (important, I agree) than winning the WC or a Copa América title. You should know this; after all of the wonderful hot air from Buenos Aires was sent around the continent after the 2004 Olympics. And yet that same year Brasil thrashed your golden generation. In 2006 the golden generation failed again in winning the highest honours. In 2007, the golden generation were thrashed by the seleção in the Copa final. One would think that you Porteños are used to false dawns, but I guess when you haven't had much of a meal - you are happy with a few table scraps. Enjoy your meal.

  • Comment number 39.

    It's not about playing "defensive" soccer, it's about playing smart. Would you rather Brazil play with all creative players without paying heed to the likes of Messi and Riquelme? Even Argentina, for all the talk about attacking soccer, played Mascherano and Gago in defensive midfield. Had the result gone the other way, as it did at the Copa final last year, no one would be complaining. It's all well and good to watch the fluent football - as in 1982 - but at the end of the day it's all about winning.
    And this notion that Dunga has a defensive attitude because he was a defensive midfielder in his day is rather ludicrous. Platini's France were much more defensive and unimaginative at Euro 92 - is that a reflection of his playing career?
    I don't think we'll ever see Brazil play like they did in 82 again - or anyone else play like that - for the simple reason that you need both attack and defence to win in football.

  • Comment number 40.

    Guys, stop finding excuses why Argentina beat Brazil. No, we did not played with senior team players, only Messi, Riquelme, Mascherano and Gago play regularly in the senior team (and 2 of them are under 23). All other players, including Aguero do not play regularly or at all in the senior team's games. If you have time (and you blog so you do have time) go and watch the games again, the second time you see the games you'd be more impartial, and you'd see that the 3 games that Argentina lost to Brazil (2 Copa America finals and a friendly at Arsenal's new stadium), Argentina dominated the games and most of the play was in Brazil's half. In the 3 games they scored in quick counterattacks. So, we learned not to unbalanced and we are not going to lose that easy any more. As far as jogo bonito. Check the 26 pass goal Argentina scored in the last World Cup against Serbia?? (not sure which of the old Yugoslavian Republic). that'is jogo bonito...

  • Comment number 41.

    Perhaps Argentina have more self-belief in Olympic competition, whilst Brazil have more self-belief at the World Cup?

    I know Brazil badly wanted to win this, but wanting it and believing you can do it are different things.

  • Comment number 42.


    No, I don't think teams should play attacking football without giving any thought to defending. Every team needs balance between attack and defence, every team needs ball winners as much as it needs attacking, creative players. But the issue here isn't necessarily the individuals in the side but the focus and style of the team decided by the manager.

    Football, in my opinion, is more about just winning, it should be played in an attacking, creative way, but that's down to personal preference. I'd personally like to see teams try and win playing good football than only try to win any old how.

    My point about Dunga was with him being more solid than skilful could be the way he now wants to build his teams as a manager. But I agree that a manager's playing style doesn't necessarily dictate what kind of teams he'll create as a manager. We're seeing managers in the Premiership who were defensive as players creating sides which play attacking football.

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    SoCalRed - Don't forget the thrashing that Argentina's golden generation took in the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany: 4-1.

    I'm happy that you think that Argentina should have won the Copa final last year with jogo bonito. The truth is, for many of us, we expected once again to see his majesty Riquelme parade his new clothes as Emperor of football - and yet again he put on a perfectly pointless display of midfield leadership that had little cutting edge and no ability to punch through Brasil's second choice defensive back line. Argentine national football never looked so inept and irrelevant. But I guess the key to the game was that fluid passing that never ended up in the twine....

  • Comment number 45.


    "The truth is, for many of us, we expected once again to see his majesty Riquelme parade his new clothes as Emperor of football"

    Who ever told you that Riquelme was that lied to you. He is just one of the few players of his kind if not the last one in the world. Nothing else...a great player.

    "Argentine national football never looked so inept and irrelevant."

    If you watched that final game of the Copa America you would have realised that the most pathetic thing was how Brazil was defending all the match in his own field, you could say it was only one game but no, It wasn't. They have been playing this same way with Argentina all this last few years... That's something you can expect from Peru or Venezuela but not from Brazil

    I'm not an anti- brazilian football, i just love football, and if you ask me lately and without taking in account the results, I prefer to see Argentina rather than Brazil. Tell me that I'm not partial for being Argentinian or whatever. The true is that I love football and not numbers in a scoreboard. In any case it's sad to see this Brazil, as it's sad to see England right know. Hope they get better for the good of the roundball game.

    Sorry if some parts of this post doesn't make sense too.


  • Comment number 46.

    I think a lot of people are being very harsh about Lucas and Anderson, both are incredibly talented young players that will carry the Brazil team in the future.

    I think Anderson's performance for Man U this weekend should show that he performs far better when surrounded by fully developed players who can, in turn, help him develop (Playing with Scholes will make him a great player)... likewise with Lucas and Gerrard, he was getting better with every game last season and hopefully this development will continue this year.

    This failure might have something to do with Argentina not bottling it this time round... Mascherano showing he is getting better than Cambiasso... Riquelme enjoying another chance in the limelight... MESSI AND AGUERO!! They had the better team this time round, an incredibly well developed team considering the tournament.

    So don't judge Brazil's young quality before they have really had their time, in 2010 they will only make you eat your words.

  • Comment number 47.

    What utter rubbish.

    Brazil have had two successful periods in their history. 1958-1970, primarily because they had players so much better than anyoen else that is didnt matter what style they played and 1994-today where they have played largely with a defensive central midfield, attacking full backs and fluid wingers.

    The traditional brazilian style that you advocate has won them absolutely nothing without a pele in the team.

    The current Brazil setup has too many luxury players without having anyone strong enough in the midfield to hold it all together like Dunga could. The exact same problem as barca had last year.

  • Comment number 48.

    didou_sait_tout- I completely agree that Brazils achievements are far greater than Argentina. I am talking about now, the last time Argentina played Brazil in Bello Horizonte the Brazilians were chanting "Argentina"

    The only reason i posted anyway, was because the bbc's SOUTH AMERICAN correspondent chose to write about Brazil losing in the semi final rather than Argentina winning the tournament which i think is wrong, and sometimes it seems that Tim Vickery should be named the Brazilian correspondent

  • Comment number 49.

    That's a French children’s book, isn't it?
    Are you perhaps French and are still bitter about the 1-0 we inflected to your team in Paris? Check that game again and you'd see that, once again, Argentina dominated the game. France hardly touched the ball. Riquelme an Emperor? I thought that was Adriano's nickname. If you don't like Riquelme, shall we exile him to Elba?:)

  • Comment number 50.

    Hombrerelents wrote:

    "Let's face it - nobody remembers the loser.

    It's trophies that last forever."


    I've heard people say this before, but it is manifestly untrue.

    Just one of the many examples which disprove it. The legendary Hungarian side of the 1950s never won a single major competition, but they are revered as one of the finest, most groundbreaking football sides in history.

    If you ask most people who won the Euros or even the World Cups in the 1950s, most people would not be able to tell you - with the notable exception of Brazil in 1958, remembered as a fine attacking side. Oh and perhaps West Germany in 1954 - remembered simply as the side that undeservedly beat Hungary!

  • Comment number 51.

    Please leave poor Mr Vickery alone - I think the many (mostly) informed responses here pay testimony to popularity of his articles and I, for one, would be at a loss at work on a Monday without this ray of light from Sur America.

    I too saw the 26 pass gOlAzO against Serbia and a finer moment of the juego bonito I never saw! Unfortunately, I was in Brasil at the time watching it live with (mostly) Brasileros who soundly rounded on me when I applauded the goal (some with comedy, some in darker ways) which surprised me somewhat but offered me an education in the rivalry - I have to say my experience has been that this is a bit nastier from the Brasil side although this is obviously limited experience.

    I was lucky enough to return to Argentina to watch their victory over Mexico and celebrate wildly in the streets of Cordoba with my Argentinian girlfriend (now wife) despite being of the generation (probably age about 13) reduced to tears by the hand of god - and to think I used to play footy in the streets in a cheap yellow T-shirt my mum bought from Sheffield market with those ironed-on letters spelling Z..I..C..O (don't tell my wife!).

    Anyway, my wife is happy, the Argentine flag flies from our window in London and I get to support an attractive side beating their main rivals (Sheffield United and England not providing much of that in my lifetime, sorry fellow Blades - I am sure we will stuff the pigs this season and be chanting "It's just like watching ARGENTINA"!!).

    Enjoy the beautiful game whoever the purveyors are TAC TAC TAC TAC TAC GOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!! (sorry couldn't be bothered typing 26 TACs/ touches but you get the point).

  • Comment number 52.


    Rivalries are rivalries, but, the same way I'm for Palmeiras and have friends who support Corinthians, there are guys who think rivalry means hatred. Not all of us are the latter, mind you.

    Oh, and, please, do not say that "winning is what counts". It hurts deeply those who truly love football.

  • Comment number 53.

    Altaco - I'm as French as requeijão is cheese. So you're jibe against the French may be relevant to others - not to me.

    As for Brasil losing to Argentina in BH, I am not too worried. Mineiros wanted to voice their displeasure against the performance of the seleção - I think you would be largely imagining a situation where the mass actually voiced their support for Argentina.

    Also, I think Riquelme is a very talented, ingenious midfielder. My point was not about liking or disliking him - it was to do with the the expectation of him in the national squad and how he, mostly, has failed to deliver at the highest levels. The Copa final last year was yet again testament to that fact.

    Back to Tim Vickery. I think you are wrong about his focus. I think he covers a lot of football outside of Brazil AND Argentina - and that he has written some very nice pieces on top clubs in Argentina.

  • Comment number 54.

    How many time have you seen Riquelme play? It doesn't really matter, what it matters is that he plays for us and for our competitors. You seem to favour Brazil over Argentina. So, if he doesn't deliver, be happy he plays for us not Brazil
    Shalom Didou!

  • Comment number 55.

    It may only have been an Olympic game, but there is a worrying pattern here. Earlier this decade Brazil were world champions at senior, U-20 and U-17 levels. Last time round they didn’t come close at any of the three levels.
    This is a dynamic process we’re dealing with - and I think it’s worth pointing out that one of the pillars of their post-94 success has been superb physical preparation, important in the 1994 World Cup win, and even more so in 2002. Inter Milan were unable to get Ronaldo fit - Brazil managed it, with devastating results. In 2002 everyone who’d played the European season was on their knees - with the exception of the Brazilians.
    But the rest of the world watches and tries to learn - Paulo Paixao and Muricy Sant’anna, two of Brazil’s top physical trainers, have been working in Europe. As knowledge becomes internationalised, the edge that Brazil have enjoyed in this field will be eroded.
    So where to improve? For me, central midfield, where in the past Brazil had so many great players.
    Before the two World Cp qualifiers in June I watched Brazil in training. Dunga organised this move where the full backs took it turns to fire in quick crosses, and the rest took in turns to attack the ball.
    Problem was, come the games, it never happened. The midfield was too poor to supply the pass needed to free the full backs - either a quick diagonal, or an exchange of passes to suck in the opposition and then the ball out.
    Lucas and Hernanes, who played in the Olympics, should be able to do this. Lucas has his virtues, especially the timing of his forward runs - which he was not really free to do in China, and Hernanes can pass well off either foot. But I think both of them are lacking ideas on how to play as a central midfielder, on demanding possession, mixing up long and short balls, dictating the rhythm. I name checked Fernando Gago of Argentina for this reason - he’s the type of player, with this understanding of central midfield play, that I’d love to see Brazil start producing again.

  • Comment number 56.


  • Comment number 57.

    yeah , Tim Vickery indeed made a great point ,which i agree with .We miss the samba Brasil!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    So don't judge Brazil's young quality before they have really had their time, in 2010 they will only make you eat your words.


    I'm not criticising young players for any poor performances - young players have the occasional off game (apart from Messi of course). It's Dunga's pragmatic and defensive style of play that I don't like. I've said that since I watched the Copa America last year.

    And it's BS that people are saying Brazil fielded too many flair midfielders - if I remember correctly I'm sure that Gilberto Silva AND Emerson anchored that midfield. It's just that these players didn't perform - Ronaldinho especially has failed to recapture the form that has dropped dramatically since the start of WC2006.

    Spain and Argentina have both shown that it is capable to win trophies with an attacking style of play. Brazil certainly have the pool of players to re-adopt this style of play aswel.

    Anyway, my point I was wanting to make agreed with the point above - BRING BACK THE SAMBA BRASIL.

  • Comment number 59.

    Can you imagine Brazilians trying to teach Americans how to play Basketball? Of course not!
    So how dare you guys think you might teach Brazilians how to play football?
    5 times world champions - When anyone gets closer to it - I might start listening!

  • Comment number 60.

    A few misguided souls have argued along the lines that only Brazilians have the right to have an opinion on the Brazilian national team - an extremely dangerous and unfortunate idea. That way fascism lies.
    Or, a variation, that because Brazil have won the World Cup more times than anyone else then no one else has the right to discuss the way they play.
    I find this very sad. The essence of football is debate - those content to switch off their brains and give way to this lazy nonsense have no idea what they are missing.

  • Comment number 61.

    cjunior: I feel I should point out that Italy have won the World Cup 4 times (don't think they could realistically get closer to 5 without having won it 5 times!) so they may have a say in how a nation is to play football ;) . That said, each country's style of football is individual and generally reflective of the people within the country so it's difficult to comment on where the Brazilians are coming undone.

    My own opinion on this matter is that it's not only Brazil who are faltering Internationally, but a lot of the big nations are - France, Italy, England, Germany - none of these sides are a patch on what they used to be. My explanation of that is simple; quality of that level is impossible to maintain and the quality of the sides that are "less good" than the afore-mentioned nations are naturally getting better at football. If you organised European International Rankings by talent/ability, then I'd personally put Czech Republic and Croatia in front of England, France and Italy at the current time. I think it's time we realised that times change - does nobody remember that Hungary were once one of the most feared sides in Europe? This is the side that struggled to draw with Montenegro within the last month. Everything changes eventually and whereas it's a sad fact, it remains a fact.

  • Comment number 62.

    Even as a purist I think Brazil's decision to adopt a more pragmatic style of play back in the early 90s was right one. After all, Brazil had gone over 20 years without winning the world cup and in that time they'd seen the efficient Germans take their mantle as the worlds number 1 football nation, so you can hardly blame them for following suit, but I think the evidence over the last couple of years is that the modern era pragmatic Brazil is running out of steam and I couldn't agree more with Tim Vickery, Tostao and Luxembourg that its time again for Brazilian football to have another re-think.

    Tactically, Brazil's way of playing (narrow through midfield, using the full-backs for width) is now looking outdated with opposing teams now fully aware how to combat this formation by getting their strikers to push wide and press Brazil's full-backs in their own half, limiting their chances of getting forward and providing width to the attack. With no out ball available wide, Brazil are then forced to either hit long balls forward or try to thread the ball through their narrow midfield. The problem then is the first port of call when passing the ball out of the back is the holding midfielders (great at breaking up the play and protecting the defense, but next to useless when asked to pass the ball creatively) so, Brazil end up playing what I like to call, 'going nowhere football,' just passing the ball aimlessly around between the central midfielders and the back line, clueless on how to service the attack. Then the inevitable happens, the attackers get frustrated with the lack of service so drop deep and before long end up playing in their own half, at which point the opposing coaches must be rubbing their hands together in glee, seeing Brazil's most dangerous players essentially putting themselves in a self imposed straight jacket and yet there seems to be no plan B from coaches like Parreira and Dunga on how to combat this - or maybe, the real truth is, that Brazil simply don't have the kind of player that you need in this situation, i.e. a deeper lying ball-playing midfielder, the kind Brazil traditionally use to produce in abundance, but have long since stopped producing in favor of churning out gritty hard working midfield generals instead.

    Personally I'd like to see a change in formation and Brazil playing more like Barcelona (a 4-5-1 when defending, breaking into a 4-3-3 when attacking) because having more natural width would relieve the burden from the full-backs and that would allow Brazil tactically to do away with the need of of having 2 or 3 holding mids, who are only really there to protect the space the full-backs leave when they push forward. Brazil could then get away with playing just 1 holding midfielder, supporting a couple of ball players, which would certainly bring back some much needed style and creativity in the middle of the park. Also, how great would it be to see the rebirth of the defense destroying Brazilian winger.

  • Comment number 63.

    First of all, congratulations to Argentina, They deserved to win against Brazil and the gold medal.

    Now, those of you who said we brazilians are being unfair with Dunga because of the titles he won, that's not true. No one denies he was a good (although not very skilled) player. He is a symbol of determination as a player here in Brazil.
    But he never coachd anything before in his life. His choices for the Brazilian squad (Gilberto, Gilberto Silva, Mineiro, Josue, Afonso Alves, Vagner Love, to name a few) shows how unprepared he is to be a coach. In his mind, Julio Baptista deserves to be on the starting line-up instead of Kaka, because Julio played Copa America, and kaka didn't. The only reason Ronaldinho played the OG was because Ricardo Teixeira (president of CBF) put him on the squad, and Dunga didn't have the guts to stand up to him and put Ronaldinho on the bench (you all saw him walking on the field against Argentina and Cameroon). Thiago Neves was playing much better than him.
    Even now, after seeing how brilliant Marcelo is, he didn't summon him for Eliminatorias, and he insist with Maicon instead of Daniel Alves, not to mention that Brazil really needs a center forward, but he just won't call Amauri.
    Pato will be a great striker, but it will take time, the same for Lucas and Anderson. Most of the games we won with Dunga as a coach were due to individual talent, from players like Kaka, yet Dunga keeps making comments about what he sees as Kaka's lack of interest for the National team, even when Kaka is injured.
    He's prepotent in his interviews, thinks that there's persecution from journalists, and justify everything with "I won Copa America".

    Those are the reasons why almost everyone in Brazil want him out of the National team, why the crowd rooted for Argentina in the eliminatorias, and why a lot of people here will root for Chile sept. 7. I still think that Dunga was a great player, and I'll always respect him for the 94 world cup. But choosing to coach the national squad was a very poor decision in his life, and many will remember him as one of the worst coaches Brazil ever had.


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