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Emotion no substitute for clear thinking

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Tim Vickery | 11:00 UK time, Sunday, 4 July 2010

Diego Maradona compared Argentina's 4-0 World Cup defeat by Germany to being on the wrong end of a punch thrown by Muhammad Ali. Perhaps he needed Ali's legendary trainer Angelo Dundee alongside him on the bench.

In one of the great sports books. David Remnick's 'King of the World,' Dundee recalled his involvement in the first fight with Sonny Liston, when Cassius Clay (as Ali was still called at the time) had been blinded by a substance allegedly put on Liston's gloves. He was threatening to abandon the fight, but Dundee managed to calm him down.

"Isn't experience wonderful?" reflected Dundee.

"I've only been doing this for 48 years. You can't get to where you're hysterical and lose your cool. Then you're no good to the fighter."

The pressure of the World Cup quarter-finals exposed the inexperience - and the lack of emotional control - of Maradona and Brazil coach Dunga.

Diego Maradona and daughter DalmaMaradona is consoled by his daughter following Argentina's defeat by Germany - photo: Getty

In Maradona's case, he allowed himself to get carried away by euphoria. As he will surely be reflecting on the plane home, back in March his side won away to Germany with a cautious 4-4-2 formation. In South Africa he went with something more expansive and refused to change back, even when the warning lights were flashing.

After 20 minutes of the second round match against Mexico it was obvious the team was not right. The Mexicans could have been two goals up and Maradona was in earnest conversation with his assistants. There was, as German coach Joachim Loew said after the quarter-final, no balance between attack and defence.

Against Mexico two mistakes got Argentina out of jail - one by the linesman, allowing Carlos Tevez's offside goal to stand, the other from Mexico's Ricardo Osorio, who gifted Gonzalo Higuain the second - but they were not going to get away with it twice.

This is not hindsight - it was clear as day before the game against Germany began. With the same starting line-up that played against Mexico, they were inviting a rout.

The big change that Maradona had made since March was to include Tevez in place of Juan Sebastian Veron, a switch made largely on emotional grounds.

Tevez is key to the soul of Argentine football, even more so than Lionel Messi. His upbringing in the poor outskirts of Buenos Aires, his time with Boca Juniors, his never say die spirit - it is reminiscent of Maradona himself. The two of them have a bond.

But despite the glorious finish Tevez came up with for his second goal against Mexico, his inclusion in the team was a huge mistake.

Messi's best football in the tournament came while Veron was on the pitch. They formed a partnership which looked like being the central axis of the team. No Veron meant that Messi had to drop deeper in search of the ball, but Messi setting up play for Tevez made little sense, especially in the light of the latter's poor international scoring record.

No Veron also meant no raking diagonal passes to bring Angel Di Maria into the game and left Javier Mascherano desperately overworked with the defensive midfield duties.

All this was apparent before the Germany game. But to act on it, Maradona had to first recognise it - and with Argentina's campaign riding on a wave of optimism, there was no place for a dose of realism.

If Maradona was undone by euphoria, it was anger that did for Dunga, who has always been a man on a mission to shove it down the throats of his critics. As a player, this can be useful. As a coach in charge of 23 players, it can be dangerous.

Brazil coach DungaDunga's demeanour transmitted itself to his team during the quarter-final against the Netherlands - photo: Getty

Being in charge of Brazil is not a job for the faint-hearted. There will be lots of criticism, some of it fair and thoughtful but much of it irritatingly stupid. Dealing with it may have sent Dunga over the edge.

There were signs in the tournament that he was out of his depth, that anger was controlling him instead of him channelling the anger. In the press conference after the Ivory Coast game he looked like a man in need of therapy, muttering and swearing under his breath at one of the least offensive members of the Brazilian press corps.

Whatever controversies may exist about his philosophy of play and his selection policy, there was much to admire in the work he carried out in his first coaching job - as his players showed in a magisterial first half performance against the Dutch.

But as well as picking the players and determining the tactics, one of the key functions of the coach is to set the emotional tone of the team - and here the occasion proved too big for Dunga.

On the touchline he was a nervous wreck, wailing his disapproval of every decision that went against his side, pummelling the dug out and looking a picture of despair. An uptight coach inevitably produces an uptight team.

After the Dutch equalised, Brazil suffered a collective emotional collapse, and when this happens there is no one to blame but the coach. An obsession with arguing with refereeing decisions can spread from the touchline to the pitch.

Robinho spent much of the second half protesting and with two minutes to go Gilberto Silva was pleading with the referee to give a Dutch player a yellow card - a total irrelevance at that stage in the game.

Brazil were praised as a team of '11 Dungas,' all with the warrior spirit of the man who selected the side, but that backfired badly in the quarter-final - under pressure they became 11 nervous wrecks, a reflection of their inexperienced coach.

Dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions is one of the hardest things about a World Cup. It proved too much for Dunga and Diego Maradona.

The four coaches who are left in the competition may not have quite the experience of Angelo Dundee. But they have been around the block, taken the blows, and can now have their sights set on becoming champions of the world.

Longer than usual this week, so no space for questions. Normal service resumes next week - questions on South American football to and I'll pick out a couple for the next column.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Still waiting to see Maradona's press conference where he mocked Bastian Schweinsteiger.

    Hope he stays on.

  • Comment number 3.

    Maradona is like Tyson. Still box-office years after their retirement.
    Maradona's press conferences & sideline antics have brightened up a World Cup that has, at times, been quite boring.

    Nearly all people in the public eye are egotistical and have major character flaws. Anyone expecting role-models from "celebrities" of any kind in our superficial, fame-at-all-costs culture is an idiot.

    I hope my favourite footballer of all time stays involved in the game.

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    It looks like God took his hand back!

  • Comment number 6.

    Brilliant blog Tim, summed up perfectly the downfall of arguably the 2 strongest teams in the world cup. I couldn't believe Brazil were knocked out, they had looked so efficient, well organised and lethal on the counter. I really thought they were going to win it. Who are your favourites now? Surely with the way things have been going, we could see anyone in the final.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great blog, and very good point about the previous Argentina/Germany encounter. As much as I love the Dona, he just didn't do his homework on this one, maybe highlighting his inexperience. I hope he stays and gets stronger after this. There were many positives to take, so he should take and build!

  • Comment number 8.

    Nice analysis Tim. It was evident that the emotional side of Maradona was one of the weakest links in the Argentina team, but I had not realized the same was happening with Dunga. For what I've read, in the case of Maradona most of the blame should go to the football association (Grondona et al) and not Maradona himself. He never pretended to be a cold blooded tactician. They tried to put a few assistant coaches around him to help with that issue, but because of a stupid clash of egos Ruggeri was never allowed to be part of the process. He was going to be guy with real coaching experience in the team, the guide for Maradona's temper. Also Bilardo was pushed aside to a meaningless role.

    It's also a good point that the pressure from the press is sometimes too much, and you have to feel sorry for these coaches. There are quite a few mediocre journalist that seem to have never played football in their lives. They just repeat and amplify whatever makes the most fuzzz and gets more attention: the lack of Ronaldinhos in the Brazil team... the super-magic unstoppable argentinian forwards. And it's all over the place... look at the NY times (gringos, I know) flipping opinions like a coin with all their apologies to the genius Maradona.

    PS: thanks for not making this post about Uruguay. It almost looks like your previous posts were the kiss of death to Chile and Brasil. Now I'm really starting to like our chances against Holland!

  • Comment number 9.

    So what happened between the post from the 21st June:

    and this post? We've now got 3/4 of the remaining teams from Europe, and Uruguay definitely the outsider. Is it all down to mistakes from the manager, as outlined for Brazil and Argentina here?

  • Comment number 10.

    I think any reference to the Hand of God from now on should be directed at Uruguay's suarez.
    Everyone takes Mourinho to be a great coach, but i still remember some emotional outbursts every now and then, but he does settle down to get his team playing the way they should. i believe Ferguson and Wenger have also had to control their anger and direct the boys even when things are bad. too bad though, really love Maradona. I heard someone saying he messed up messi's world cup to ensure Argentina continue to regard him as a God, with no heir apparent to his throne. well, it was great watching him work though, truth is he isn't a great coach, an okay one, at least better than most people take him to be.
    i still wonder, how come nobody ever told him martin demichealis is a terrible defender, i still find it strange that he is first choice at bayern who have a tradition of great defenders, well, c'est la vie

  • Comment number 11.

    Tevez wasn't the reason for Argentina's downfall. Maradona probably saw the flaws of his system but could not afford to drop Tevez after his performance vs Mexico. However he made a serious mistake in not changing his formation. He could have done it even with keeping Tevez in the side. He just needed to drop Maxi ROdriguez, bringing in Veron next to Mascherano and putting Messi on the right. Messi would have been much more dangerous wide right against Boateng than in the middle where he was crowded out time and time again. A 4-2-3-1 formation could have saved Argentina but it wasn't to be. The early goal didn't help either, it played into Germany's hands with theit strength on the counter attack.

    Hopefully Diego stays in the game and learns from it. Football is in better state with characters like him around.

  • Comment number 12.

    I do agree with your columun that you need more than emotions to be a good coach in the professional game.

    It is a factor in the English game as well whereby an ex- player automatically assumes they have a divine right to coach a football team whether at club and international level based on their past achievements.

    As illustrated in the exits of Brazil and Argentina at the quarter final stages of the 2010 World Cup, without an effective alternative tactical strategy, then ultimately disaster strikes which sometimes can be painful to watch as a spectator.

  • Comment number 13.

    I hope Diego stays in the job but I can't see him hanging around for 4 years, for another shot at the World Cup. The chance to win it in Brazil may tempt him however...particularly if he can arrange for Pele to hand over the trophy.

    As for Dunga, he's probably just glad it's all over. Half an hour of madness from his team made sure of that.

  • Comment number 14.

    To be interesting, I want to say that match was done before it started. This has nothing to do with any of the participants in this game but the commentators.

    Soon as the press, the pundits got behind Tina, I knew she was done for. It was lust that brought them around and it isn't about it getting to her head(though tis important), but the fact that they got interested.
    Bad, bad luck

  • Comment number 15.

    good post tim i agree with pretty much everything here.

    during the argentina v germany game, did anyone else see maradona's reaction to veron being shown on the big screen in stadium, minutes after the first german goal?

    he whinced as veron came on the screen - maybe not quite the admission of a mistake that early in the game, but he certainly knew what was going on. my question then, is why did he stick so dogedly with the same formation? If a character like maradona doesnt have the balls to make fast changes, then who does?

  • Comment number 16.

    I saw Maradona almost crying on the back of one of his players?


    Anyways, he's a joke of a manager and a player that was a 1 man team. I think everyone had seen the weaknesses in the German side except him, and he's made them look like footballing gods.

    When Germans can showboat in a game, you've done something terribly wrong.

  • Comment number 17.

    Very, very astute as usual.

  • Comment number 18.

    Once again an excellent blog Tim! It's good to see Blogs written from a partial viewpoint compared to other Blogs from BBC correspondants which can't seem to get past England's glorious failure. Although Capello is an experienced coach he seemed to have difficulty controlling his temper, do you think this affected England's performance on the pitch?

  • Comment number 19.

    L, Yes I just realised why on Earth was Veron not included?? Of all set-ups he should face, Germany's would be perfect for him! What a waste, could have single-handedly had a game-changing effect!

  • Comment number 20.

    Sry forgot to mention No11, good points.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ 16 - ok so messi is world player of the year and there is obviously going to be a massive amount of hype around him, but i dont see how you can call argentina a "1 man team"?

    messi was joined by one of the best strikers in la liga and one of the best in the premiership in higuain and tevez. also di maria, just bought by mourinho for madrid. also mascherano one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, et etc.

    thats not even thinking aobut the bench. if there was a one man team in south africa it was ENGLAND. Unlike messi, who was argurably the best player in the group stages, rooney was totally anonymous and it underlined englands impotence without him.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Tim,
    I hope you don’t get offended by this, but this article is really thin, to say the least.

    You seem to suggest that the lack of emotional control of Maradona e Dunga accounts for the defeat of their teams. But this cannot stand as an explanation for their downfall without a bunch of intricate and complex assumptions about things of psychological nature that are unobservable.

    It is hardly novel that Dunga and Maradona were inexperienced coaches and, like most latino men, prone to intensely display their emotions. But it is very hard to take seriously the view that, had Maradona been less euphoric and used Veron instead of Tevez (btw, can you prove this was an emotionally driven decision?), that per itself would have changed the outcome of the game.

    Likewise, it is equally hard to believe that, had Dunga been more emotionally controlled and less uptight a coach, the game against the Dutch would have a different result in favor of Brazil. Why not simpler theses, one that Argentina and Brazil were simply outplayed by a better opposition on the day – a point of view that you, like many other football pundits, seem so reluctant to accept as an explnation for the result of so many games (e.g. England vs Germany). Or, alternatively, that “unlucky” events and individual mistakes on the course of the game (Brazil’s goalkeeper mistake and a “unlucky” goal in the first 3 minutes of the game) end up determining a result that sometimes does not reflect the performance of the teams on the field (e.g. Paraguay vs Spain).

  • Comment number 23.

    Whatever anyone says, Maradona was a disastrous choice of coach for this Argentina side.

    They scraped through qualification (albeit the previous coach had allot to do with this), and they've fallen at the first major test they had at this world cup. For me, this is the most talented Argentina side I can remember yet to have a clown like Maradona is charge has ruined that. You can't run a team on pure emotion and passion and no tactical nous.

  • Comment number 24.

    22 - "Why not simpler theses, one that Argentina and Brazil were simply outplayed by a better opposition on the day – a point of view that you, like many other football pundits, seem so reluctant to accept as an explnation"

    Of course when one team beats another its usually because they outplayed their opposition!

    that doesnt mean that you should just ignore all the reasons for why that might have happened.

  • Comment number 25.

    #22: If you were to read some Argentinian press you will find tons of indications that the choice of Tevez was, in large part, a stupidly emotional choice ("Carlitox is the player of the people"). Some Maradona's decisions were not just emotional, but plainly irrational, superstitious.

    Let's hope he stays. It makes futbol more colorful... it can also make the WC qualification easier for the other South American teams ;)

  • Comment number 26.

    I see the downfall of Brazil and Argentina (like i do with most football issues) as very simple.

    Argentina didnt have a midfield playmaker to supply the attacking talent they have and also i dont think Aguero played nearly enough. Plus their defence was dodgy. No management can correct 2 of those issues.

    Brazil were serious architects of their own downfall. They pummeled Holland for 45 minutes and then just decided to be complacent in the 2nd half as if they'd won it. Ridiculous! This has always been Brazils downfall when they have fallen in past tournaments - complacency and lack of discipline. The dutch game was a certain win but for that.

  • Comment number 27.

    An interesting argument, Tim, but I'm not sure it's one I totally agree with, at least as far as Brazil and Dunga goes - I just think the Dutch outplayed them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they beat Dunga at Dunga's own game, for which they deserve massive credit.

    I think your points vis a vis Argentina are a lot more accurate, but I also think you're not giving Germany enough credit. As for the 4-4-2 vs 4-3-3 thing, I think that change was undoubtedly made to try and get the best out of Messi. And it worked well until the German game. I think Maradona was right to make changes to his team for that game, but I certainly don't think they were the right ones to make. Of course, hindsight is 20-20...

  • Comment number 28.

    24 - "Of course when one team beats another its usually because they outplayed their opposition!

    that doesnt mean that you should just ignore all the reasons for why that might have happened."


    Surely you should not ignore the reasons. But it is the causation mechanism and direction Mr. Vickery advances in this article that I'm challenging here.

    One thing is to say that "team A was outplayed by team B, and that happened BECAUSE team A passed better, had more skilful players, were more organized, more precise, etc, etc. Another completely different is to say that team A was outplayed by team B BECAUSE the coach lacked emotional control - whatever that means.

    Mind you, very often teams are outplayed by others even when they put in a decent performance. Still, pundits hardly acknowledge the superiority of the other team (specially when national teams are involved) and, instead, will just look for faults on the loser side or just blame them for a poor performance, even when sometimes these so-called poor performances do not fall short of the team's average performance! (England comes to mind here)

  • Comment number 29.

    Great to get your opinion Tim, I love your South American posts. Two things from me: 1. do you know if Veron was fit, and if so, had he had a fall out with Maradona? I couldn't believe he didn't start and then wasn't brought on and for me these are the only 2 reasons. 2) From what I saw of Di Maria, he will struggle at Madrid. In fact, he looked like he would struggle at Middlesborough. Is he a better player than he showed, because to me he looked like a very poor player - a winger who can neither beat men nor cross a ball?
    Argentina should have started with Gutierrez and Veron rather than Maxi and Di Maria. But as you pointed out pre tournament Tim, the mistakes were made then - no matter how poor Cambiasso may have been for Argentina over the last two years, when Veron was out they were crying out for a real CM like him to come in and lift the mantle. They had no-one in the squad who could play that way when Veron was out. It could also be argued that Zanetti would have done a lot better at RB than Ottamendi, who had a stinker. You could have written an 'I told you so' column, Tim!

  • Comment number 30.

    3. At 12:13pm on 04 Jul 2010, when you are the moon... wrote:
    Maradona is like Tyson. Still box-office years after their retirement.
    Maradona's press conferences & sideline antics have brightened up a World Cup that has, at times, been quite boring.
    But it really isn't nice to laugh at the mentally challenged.

  • Comment number 31.

    That's what happens when you appoint passionate players as coaches of the national teams.

  • Comment number 32.

    If Argentina carry on with Maradona they could potentially destroy the best chance they have for decades of dominating world football. This crop of players does not come along everyday, they were an amazing team in 2006 but only lost on penalities, if perkerman stayed they would have won this world cup, under maradona they looked unfit, no tactics just relied on individuals to rescue them. I see Heinze has come out saying he wants Maradona to stay, wow what a surprise which other coach would have picked that turtose to place at left back. He was slow in 2006 and even slower now.

  • Comment number 33.

    Could you ever explain, why such important national teams appoint coaches with little or no experience???

  • Comment number 34.

    26 - Brazil were serious architects of their own downfall. They pummeled Holland for 45 minutes and then just decided to be complacent in the 2nd half as if they'd won it. Ridiculous! This has always been Brazils downfall when they have fallen in past tournaments - complacency and lack of discipline. The dutch game was a certain win but for that.


    Congratualations! The best analysis of why Brazil lost to Holland after such a good first-half.

    You are spot on when you say Brazil was complacent and lacked discipline. I am Brazilian and hurts to say this but our team has been soaked up in the hype surrounding them ("the only 5-time champions"). Quite often, in the last two world cups at least, the Brazilian team seem to think that they only need to show up on the field and pull off some magic tricks to win games, playing the laziest football in South America as the display of the other south american sides on this WC can show.
    To sit in such a fragile lead (1-0) at half-time was just sheer arrogance.

    More than anything else, it is this lack of concentration and careless attitudes of brazilian players when they take the lead that needs to be worked on by the next manager if they want to be serious contender of the next WC.

  • Comment number 35.

    Time for notice that Maradona is not the "semi God" u thought he is.

    He sucks, and very hard.

    You ppl from Argentina are guilty.

    Bye bye.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm with 22. It's a bit flimsy to put things down to emotions when you don't really know how those emotions played out etc.

    Also, as one of the least mobile midfielders at the World Cup, Veron might easily have been overrun by the German midfield. Argentina would have played slowish, sideways balls to Veron and been pounced on by Schweinsteiger and co. Then some people would have called it an "emotional" decision to pick an ageing star.

    Despite England and Argentina having very different styles and different emotionally-calibrated coaches, the Ger-Arg game followed a remarkably similar pattern to Germany's match with England: early German goal, gradual ascendancy of the other team either side of of half-time; then disintegration via third and fourth German breakaway goals. The Australian game wasn't that different, either, as they also had their bright periods against Germany.

    Germany have proved themselves the masters of getting ahead early and playing well on the break when they have done so. Their early goals have been of different natures (straight ball through the middle; break-away; set-piece) in the three games mentioned, so I'm not sure we can come to a general tactical conclusion on that part of the equation, but we can on the breakaway part: whatever your tactical formation or emotional state, don't chase the game too soon.

  • Comment number 37.

    Dunga was on a hiding to nothing, a team created in his own image fell apart as a result of a freak goal. Until them Brazil played beautifully and with a bit of luck could have gone in three nil at half time against Holland. He created the perfect balance between defense and attack,with the two defensive midfield players Melo and Silva making Brazil hard to beat over the last few years. But the warning signs were there with Melo losing it against Portugal. The Dutch employed the tactic of using Brazil's suspect temperament to get free kicks.Their only hope of beating Brazil was through set pieces and not open play. I felt Dunga and Brazil were unlucky.

    Maradona on the other hand made the mistake of leaving The experienced defensive duo of Zenetti and Cambiasso at home. All of Germany's goals came from attacks down the right, Which would have been meat and drink to a hardened right back like Zenetti. Maradona also wanted to win the world cup playing football of the Brazil 82 vintage. A Brazil team that included Zico, Socrates, and Falcao failed back then, there was never going to be any chance Maradona and Argentina were going to pull it off in 2010. The emotional make up up Dunga and Maradona had no bearing on the result of the two quater finals

  • Comment number 38.

    Maradona's managerial skills have been cruelly exposed. Team selection was, at best, questionable, and the defence always looked suspect. So once the 'score more goals than we concede' philosophy failed. the house of cards collapsed.
    The good news for Argentinians is that they will not be exposed to the spectre of Maradona running naked through the streets of Buenos Aries.

    If he has any concept of dignity, he will resign forthwith. However, this is Maradona, and dignity is not in his lexicon.

  • Comment number 39.

    It has been sad to see Brazil this tournament. Traditionally most fans second favourite team, but the standards set by Dunga in screaming his challenges of every referee's decision that went against Brazil, clearly led to the players indiscipline. It was wonderful justice that a Dutch team that has almost as many annoying, play acting individuals as Brazil2010 should out manouevre the Brazilians and lead them to a defeat, that even at 1 - 2 was recoverable with 11 Brazilians playing their beautiful game. Instead they played the ugly game, reduced to 10 men and good riddance to them. I did not think I would say the World Cup is a better place without Brazil, but Dunga has brought it to this level. Very Sad.
    Maradonna - well it's Maradonna, and all credit to Germany.

  • Comment number 40.

    22 - the evidence in favour of veron comes from the game between the two countries in march - a friendly but, as acknowledged by the coaches at the time, played with world cup intensity.
    on that occasion, the same germany side posed no threat - one shot on target in 90 minutes. no problem of a lack of balance between attack and defence. messi receives the ball further forward, there's space to launch di maria on the diagonal. all that could have happened again on saturday - argentina could have done to germany what serbia did. but not with that side. no hindsight here - if you were listening to radio 5's world football phone in on the eve of the game (and if not where were you?) you'd have heard me arguing that if argentina went with the same team as v mexico then germany would roll them over as they did england.

    nothing against the dutch team - robben's goal v slovakia is the goal of the tournament for me - but i don't think they outplayed brazil. i don't think they did very much. they were comprehensively outplayed for 45 minutes, and then managed to overcome a team that beat itself.

    i have my differences with the dunga school on tactics and philosophy, but i think they showed in the first half that they were good enough to win the world cup. why are they out? a collective emotional collapse when the pressure moment arrived.

  • Comment number 41.

    This article is totally flawed. If Dunga and Maradona are inexperienced, please explain Barca's Guardiola's success or the highly experienced Vicente Del Bosque's 'slow to react' approach in this cup. Chile's Bielsa would have done the same thing with this kind of an Argentina team. Basically, Dunga said "defend at all costs" and Maradona said "attack at all costs". Joachim Loew spotted Maradona's tactical error, as a good coach must. With Dunga, he did his job right, building a functional if not beautiful team. He wanted a 1994 redux- but if you hire Dunga a catenaccio defender, you can't expect artistry His team became hotheaded in the second half and lost. How is the coach to blame if a team of adults, not schoolboys, lose their cool collectively? What can Dunga do, spank them? Also, you are forgetting that Dunga and Maradona relied on assistants who worked out the actual details, much as Klinsmann relied on Loew in 2006. What did those backroom boys do?
    Lastly, if an uptight coach produced an uptight team, why hasn't del Bosque produced a team of stoics with Spain?

  • Comment number 42.

    37 - you haven't followed the development of maradona's team with enough attention.
    if his overall aim was to play 1982 football, then why did he start off so cautiously? That team that beat germany at the start of march was a cautious 4-4-2, with a back line made up of 4 centre backs. After the game he said it would be his starting line up for the world cup.
    that was an emotional decision - as time went on he began to realise that a cautious line up might be good for germany away, but wouldn't be right for the group games of the world cup - so in came tevez and he went with something more expansive - but then got carried away with the emotion of that, and didn't tighten up when he should have.
    a parallel perhaps is brazil in 2002. they were in an easy group, and so juninho paulista played in an attacking midfield. against belgium in the second round they very nearly didn't get away with it. they were lucky to win that game. but coach scolari had seen the signs, in came kleberson for the rest of the tournament and balanced out the midfield. maradona lacked the experience to do something similar because he got carried away with the euphoria of the campaign.

  • Comment number 43.

    41 - i wrote that one of the main tasks of the coach is to set the emotional tone for the team. if you see this as 'totally flawed' then we are in profound disagreement.
    who's job is it then? the kit man?

  • Comment number 44.

    If you looking for real answers, this what most probably happened. Maradona lost Walter Samuel and with it, the cup. He failed to pick Cambiasso for strange reasons. Cambiasso would have disrupted the Germans enough in the middle. Dunga always fielded an averagely talented and beatable team, unlike the mighty Brazil of the past. The difference was his team was disciplined and made every move count. They lost their discipline in the second half and imploded. His only mistake was not having Ronaldinho to help him, if the team was being outplayed. Ronaldinho should have been used marginally as he was used in 2002 and not as in 2006. Adriano would have been better to replace Luis Fabiano if the latter was failing in a match. Also, he could have given Grafite more matches before the cup and had him match-ready.

  • Comment number 45.

    43: Vickery: You are forgetting these players are professionals who play football day in and day out at their clubs. How much can they let their emotions play on them? And how much must their coach do? The players play for their bread and butter at their clubs and have much more of a relationship with their club coaches. The national coach gets his players x number of a days for each year, and then for 45 days every fourth year. How much emotion can he instill in them or control in that time? In termas of playing time and player development, the FIFA world cup is little more than a quadrennial cameo, though an important one, for a pro footballer. You are overvaluing the "emotional" tone way too much. Do you really believe all these pro players turn up at the world cup as emotional clay for their coaches to mold? That they are not hardened professionals already? The disproofs of your point are many. Starting with the lugubrious del Bosque.

  • Comment number 46.

    Why not simpler theses, one that Argentina and Brazil were simply outplayed by a better opposition on the day – a point of view that you, like many other football pundits, seem so reluctant to accept as an explanation for the result of so many games


    I think the simple theses would be to simply suggest they were outplayed but at least Tim has gone someway to explaining how and why they were caught out as they were. Brazil's implosion at half-time suggests some type of mental collapse stemming from the coach's involement, whereas Argentina's problem stemmed from a Maradona "heart over head" tactical selection.

    I don't think the Dutch outplayed Brazil for most of the match though, that was simply not the case in the first half. I don't think the Dutch were altogether fantastic, they were fortunate enough to see Brazil come out in the second half in poor-form and them get defensively caught out by two crosses.

    Argentina weren't really that outplayed either and I think to some extent the score-line flattered Germany. Argentina had more of the ball and more chances on goal but were undone on a set-piece, a blatant off-side goal by Miroslav Klose on the second and maybe a slight bit of fortune by Arne Friedrich on the third. Don't get me wrong, it was a great performance. But clearly one that Maradona could have won had he not been so blinded by Boca nepotism in his team selection.

  • Comment number 47.

    Good article Tim...

    I was amazed not to see Veron play alongside Mascherano..the 2 of them infront of an awful back 4 (including the worst full back in the tournament Heinze.. who was beaten for pace by Philip Lamm !!??) would have helped to nulify the threat caused by Schweinsteiger, and given more protection to the germans dangerous counter-attacking.
    Its seems that Argentina's last 2 world cup failures has come about by making atrocious decisions over the midfield.. firsty 2006 when Riquelme was subbed early against Germany and again yesterday by not playing Veron who looked great when I saw him early on. Maxi Rodrieguez and Di Maria contributed nothing in my opionion, do you rate these 2 highly?
    Lastly what about the defense.. where does Maradona, or the new coacg go from here.. any new talened players likely to break through for the next copa america and 2014?

  • Comment number 48.

    Btw, Maradona was extremely calm as the match wore on. Not much theatrics. This, before the second goal. So, the emotional tone was alright. They had not defensive timbre on the pitch and that cost them.

    I don't support Dunga or Maradona's approach. I think a coach must be a studied tactician like Loew or Mourinho. As for Brazil's emotional tone, Brazil have been using team shrinks and team physios, since before the European teams started using them. There is a lot of analytic brilliance behind Brazil's game. Dunga put out a team with a thick shell and little muscle inside- like a bug. One thing was clear when reports started singing hosannas for any team at the cup. They are not studying the game enough anymore before typing. This German team too is highly beatable. In fact, Dunga's team would have blocked them out of the game. But most reporters would have us believe we are watching supermen. All they do, is capitalize on mistakes. Not really playing outstanding football. Any time that just doesn't make mistakes and has its own outstanding moment will thrash them. The Dutch can do this, if they aren't sloppy. And if sub-par Spain start firing all cylinders at some point, this German team cannot beat them.

  • Comment number 49.

    Having played and watched this game for over 50 years I have always thought that the majority of the post match analysis in terms of how much a coach's decisions has had on the result is hogwash. Sir Alf got it right in 66 because of a dodgy decision by a linesman. He was booted out in 74 because of a game against Poland when we had a zillion shots and just couldn't score. Then Hunter makes a slip and a nonsense shot goes under Peter Shilton's body. Same bloke (Sir Alf) goes from hero to clown. Pish.

  • Comment number 50.

    9 - you aim a swipe because of a piece i wrote a couple of weeks back saying that the south american sides had started well. you now seem to assume that the piece did not hold up well.
    read it again - first, i mentioned that this was nothing more than a promising start. secondly, this was before the end of the group phase. who would have thought it likely then that 4 of the last 8 would be from south america?
    whatever the outcomes of the 1/4 finals, the tournament has been a great showcase for the continent - and especially for it's strength in depth. brazil and argentina may have participated in their own destruction, but remain global powers. chile impressed. the ever resilient paraguay took spain all the way, and uruguay - who finished 5th in south america's world cup qualifiers - are now in the world's top 4.

  • Comment number 51.

    49 - but there is still a case for analysis. in 66 alf was revolutionary with 4-4-2, a system that obliged his full backs to make an attacking contribution.
    that was taken even further in 70 with newton and cooper - alf makes a mess of substitutions, tiring full backs get roasted, bonetti has a bad day and germany win - and throws the whole project off course.
    come 73 against the poles, no attacking full backs - a right footed player at left back, with bobby moore on the bench screaming at alf to get kevin hector on to give us a left foot.
    there's always space for analysis!

  • Comment number 52.

    "Dunga's demeanour transmitted itself to his team during the quarter-final against the Netherlands"


    Not sure what game you were watching but Brazil were dominating before a communication mixup between the keeper and defender. These things
    can happen to any team, a bit like Terry and Upson watching the ball kicked the length of the pitch and getting nowhere near it for the Germans first goal. So is this all to do with Capellos's demeanor ??? Or does your logic just apply where you want it to ?

    Yes Tim, hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way...and still only one world cup for England, a handful of quarter final exits, a vacation in 94, and a moratorium on English managers.

    "Emotion no substitute for clear thinking"

    With 5 world cups and counting why would Brazil ever change

  • Comment number 53.

    Tim, looked to me that Dunga instructed his players to target Robben. Basically to kick him. Dunga's behaviour on the sidelines was that of a guilty man as he jumped up and down contesting every tackle from behind on Robben. How do you think this was received in Brazil? A Brazilian team that goes out to kick the opponents? Last time I saw a team do that was Uruguay many years ago..

  • Comment number 54.

    52 - in the spirit of Dances With Wolves i'm going to award you with a red indian name
    Cannot Follow Simple Argument

  • Comment number 55.

    C'mon team, your answer to 52 is not just mean, but also a fallacy commonly used in debates - you are ridiculously attacking the person, rather than his argument.

    What Tim you did not understand? Like many other comments here, he's challenging your argument that emotions from coaches (!) had anything to do with the defeat of Brazil and Argentina. I concede, though, that such a psycho-bullshit argument cannot be defended - either you buy it or not. like 52, I don't.

  • Comment number 56.

    Dunga created during this 4 years a siege mentality among the players, it was them vs the world, and they had to be a team of "warriors" (so much that one of Brazil main sponsors used exactly that image in their campaign, using Julio César, Dani Alves, Fabiano and even Dunga himself) and with paranoid rants almost daily.
    So, the result was a team that was extremely nervous from the start; Kaká is the best example of this, getting as many yellow cards in the WC as he did in the entire La Liga season. And you take a team that is already too nervous normally and puts them in a situation of extreme pressure and only one thing can happen: implosion.

    The result of four years of rants, war with the press, and complete demolition of everything that made Brazilian football famous: a WORSE campaign than the 2006 World Cup. And before it, the SAME results as Parreira. Where are Dunga supporters now?

    Also, assistant coach Jorginho seems as bad, if not worse than Dunga. He even tried to provoke Cruyjff saying "he doesn't know what is to win a World Cup", which is sad and pathetic, specially considering one of Jorginho's idols and his former teammate was Zico.

    #48- Brasil didn't bring any shrinks this time, Dunga didn't wanted any.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes I agree Dunga's play acting at every perceived foul - either way- was very distracting.
    One would expect coaches to have emotions, Wenger and SAF have been known to lose it, but Dunga's reactions were bordering on cheating!

  • Comment number 58.

    Well I think is very easy to say Dunga complaining with the referee was not due to his lack of experience. It was because the referee was killing his side.
    He showed across his career to be an inteligent and calm guy under presure, as seen on his penalty kick on the US94 final. However when you get that referee doing what he was doing there is very little else to do, other than complain and get angry.
    The very fact that Van Bommel had only a yellow card by the end of the match just goes to show how absurd the whole thing was.

  • Comment number 59.

    ( disconsider please my last post ) Well I think is very easy to say Dunga complaining with the referee was due to his lack of experience. It was because the referee was killing his side.
    He showed across his career to be an inteligent and calm guy under presure, as seen on his penalty kick on the US94 final. However when you get that referee doing what he was doing there is very little else to do, other than complain and get angry.
    The very fact that Van Bommel had only a yellow card by the end of the match just goes to show how absurd the whole thing was.

  • Comment number 60.

    I agree with #11 Micheal83. Tevez wasn't the one that should be blamed though. I agree with the author Tim that another central midfielder/playmaker should have been used alongside with Mascherano to instill stability. Messi or Tevez could have been played on the right or just behind an out-and-out striker like Higuain/Milito/Palermo. Both Messi and Tevez are flexible players with Messi given more freedom to romp and Tevez brings more stability as Tevez can attack and defend at the same time. In other words, Messi is a free role and Tevez is a vital supporting role.

    Di Maria was deployed to the left but should have help Heinze to defend the left side while Argentina not having the ball.
    Using 2 central midfielders in Mascherano and Veron/other player, with Di Maria on the left helping in defense, Messi/Tevez on the right to attack and defend at the same time, Messi/Tevez just in front of Mascherano and Veron and just behind of Higuain/Milito/Palermo, this could have brought more balance to the team without sacrificing the beautiful attacking football. This is 4-2-3-1 formation.

    Thus, using both Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez as attacking players without asking them to support the defense could be a mistake here. Di Maria and Maxi were really good at attacking but not quite there with defensive work. Maradona could have used only one of them if he wanted to use Tevez as Tevez is better in doing the defensive work.

    Another weakness in Argentina team was that the attacking/defensive roles were clearly specified by Maradona which Germany Coach Lowe saw it very clearly and thus exploited it. The back 4 plus Mascherano were specifically asked by Maradona to do defensive work ONLY. Thus they stayed back and rarely helped in attack. Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Di Maria and Maxi were specifically asked by Maradona to do attacking work MOST OF THE TIME, thus they couldn't get back in time to help the defense. Even Tevez there was a mention in news that Maradona asked him to play more striker role than play like a midfielder, thus less defensive work by Tevez.

    This clear-cut attacking/defensive role really spelled disaster for Argentina simply because the Germans knew, when Argentina defended, they only had 5 players: back 4 and Mascherano. Once the Germans got the ball, they attacked fast in numbers, perhaps 8 players in attack. 8 against 5, thus the disaster.

    Same can be said to Argentina's attack. When Argentina attacked, they only had 5 players to do the job: Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Di Maria and Maxi. The German simply deployed perhaps 8 players to defend. 8 against 5, no wonder Argentina couldn't penetrate them.

    Argentina had been outnumbered when defending and attacking simply because of this clear-cut roles, plus the German attacked with pace, thus disaster happened. This was quite a blatant weakness and error by Maradona and his management team. If Argentina matched the German in numbers while attacking and defending, and with pace as well, with the fact that they have better talents i.e. better players in controlling the ball on their feet and having ability to change the game, all else being equal,they would have beaten the Germans already.

  • Comment number 61.

    58 - If Dunga had only reacted in his infantile way when there was a possibility that the call was wrong then your comment might have merit, but he did it virtually every time. The opposition could see the coach was losing it, the refs could see he was losing it, and the players followed suit - lost it.

    An awful coach, who certainly could not bring his on field footballing personna to the dug out - totally unsuited to the off field pressure.

    Good riddance to him and his team, they besmirched the name of Brazilian football.

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree 100 percent about Maradona, not so sure about Dunga. Yes Brazil fell apart, I don't agree it was because of the managers emotions getting the better of him, I think there may have been stage fright from some of the top performers. Robinho has already shown this year how mentally frail he is not being able to settle when he finally decided to go to City and then not wanting to come back. You have to take into account, Brazil scored and own goal, and then went absent. Perhaps there was 11 professionals on the pitch thinking at half time job done. I understand the fallacy of that but they overawed the dutch so much I can't blame them for thinking it. Argentina however, I said from the start on various blogs, they were an accident waiting to happen. Anyone who thinks Maradona got calmer as the game went on needs a course in psychology 101. He was defeated totally and utterly, but not only defeated, he was clueless, as clueless as he was in qualifying. The players available to Argentina, should result in them lifting the world cup. However 4 central defenders in the world cup, and in essence 4 forwards doesn't leave a lot of scope for team defending. I have to say given everything I have read, Dunga doesn't come across angry, he comes across determined and stubborn, and direct, perhaps not at ease in front of the press but then who would be? I had Brazil to lift it, because I thought that even if they went behind, they had the mentality to get back in front. Not this team during this match. I had Argentina to receive a hammering, but for me that was easy to predict. I had Spain to be beaten in the final...but hey... the world cup of the South American teams has very quickly become the world cup of the European teams. I don't agree it's because the coaches let their emotions get the better of them, although I understand completely your point. I wouldn't want a statue on the sideline, if my team were down 2:1 I would want a serious kick in the whatsits which is what I think Dunga tried to do while Maradona let his players down badly.

  • Comment number 63.

    Mr. Vickery,

    this is another classic blog. I also noticed that the Argentina midfield had too much space for the Germans to exploit. Besides that, I feel Maradona chose a few players that were not good or not the best options available.

    Romero - surely Argentina have better goalkeepers.
    Demichelis - always looks unsure, as his mistake in the group stage shows.
    Rodriguez - was not incisive enough.
    Tevez - I agree with you that Veron would have given the team more balance. Still, Aguero is a better option than him.
    Higuain - needs five chances to score one (like Adebayor). They are the new (Fillipo) Inzaghis. Milito is much more decisive.

    Maradona made more mistakes than just not selecting Veron. What do you think?

    Anyway, I hope he continues as Argentina coach. Football needs him, the world needs him. Maradona is a one-of-a-kind. There is no one around like him.

  • Comment number 64.

    Always a pleasure to read Vickery's insights (though he could have praised germany more) but i think a Cambiasso figure would have contested the midfield better (could veron have done this job) i have to say i was pleased with the Q/F run all things considered. I think the Argentine squad and team of 2006 was a gloriously missed chance when the Germans should have been put to the sword, better balanced and organised by miles in relation to that German 11 and the rest of tournamnent's team's.

    i think Argentina need an excellent first class tactical expert (the players are there) i don't know whether if Pekerman had stayed it would be different but would he have learnt from his errors???? The second area of work is to build a world class backline (in 2006 they had that apart from a slight vulnerability to crosses due to lack of height)...2014 here comes Argentina !

  • Comment number 65.

    #63 cjewelz. I disagree with you. Aguero can't be deployed alongside Higuain and Messi playing against a tactical team like Germany, simply because he is somewhat the same player like Messi i.e. second striker. Aguero perhaps has slightly better speed than Tevez but lack the tenacity and all-round attacking and defensive role of Tevez.

    In other words, Tevez is much more versatile and different than Higuain and Messi. The difference gave extra "dimension" to the team. Aguero is just younger, similarity could become redundant.

  • Comment number 66.

    A well written, well analysed commentary.

    The best manager/coaches usually bring the cups home.

  • Comment number 67.

    I cannot begin to describe how BAD Argentina were against Germany. Oh for a midfield general to knit their awful defence with all that talent in attack. Maradona and his coaching team facing their first real test against quality opposition failed badly, Veron should have played in this match. Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger has been the best player at this world cup.

    Brazilian legend Socrates has described Dunga's tall, muscular, pragmatic team and tactics "an affront to Brazilian culture" and I agree. Judging by the mediocrity on the replacement's bench, Brazil just don't have the quality / superstar's at the moment. If Dunga goes - as he surely must, I hope Leonardo gets the job

  • Comment number 68.

    I am begining to think this whole competition is a joke. We have seen so many wrong decisions by referees and linesman, it seems incredible that FIFA is still living in the 19th century and stubbenly refuses the introduction of modern technology that would reduce the number of errors, both blantant and otherwise. The basic rules need to be changed too and penalty goals introduced when, for example, a player uses his hand to prevent what otherwise would certainly have been a goal.

    An apology by Blatter afterwards doesn't put things right. Too many games have been seriously influenced by wrong decisions, and I don't just mean the England game. At 2-2 it woud have been a different game, although I think Germany would still have won.

    As a Brit living for over 30 years in Germany I really am sick of all the stick I receive from German "friends." Our local newspaper (the FAZ) considered England's not allowed second goal "revenge" for 1966! Germany then lost 2-4, not 2-3 and were very lucky to equalise in the 89th minute. Since then Germany has always beaten England in the final rounds of any international competiotion where the two teams have played each other, so why not forget 1966? Even if England's second goal then was doubtful, do two wrongs make a right?
    I shall be interested to see how good the German team really is when they don't score an early goal. My bet is that if Müller tried 100 times he would only once or twice put exactly the right amount of head on the ball to score, as he did with the opening goal against the Argentine. If that had not gone in, would Germany had looked so good against a team that didn't have to score a goal come what may? Germany didn't look so good in defence against England in the second part of the first half and the first part of the second half. Only after the third goal did they really shine again, when England simply had too much to do to win.

    I nevertheless expect them to beat Spain but if they then meet Holand in the final they may look very ordinary, as they did in their second game of the group stage.

    If they win their next two games convincingly, I shal not hesitate to applaud but German teams in the past seem so often to have been so blessed by luck and won despite not being the better side. If that happens yet again I may have to think of moving from the country I otherwise so love!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Now knowing the result everybody knows who should have played in Argentina, i think the formation was good enough, the problem is that Germany got that early goal that changed the match all the way; just from the beginning they had the advantage so they relaxed and played their best football; Argentina i think was surprised the first minutes by such an agressive play from Germany so they started nervous and one goal behind them, the german defense were superb i never saw them playing like that in the whole world cup, im more surprised by Germany then disappointed by Argentina tho i dont think they can play that well again or atleats not very often i just think they have had one of those games when everything you do goes fine and we had some of those days when you do everything bad, we were clueless.
    Anyways before the worlcup i was waiting less from Maradona and mroe form the players.

  • Comment number 70.

    I am delighted Dunga's shameful, disgusting Brazil team was dumped out of the WC.

    It was clear to see that they tried to be overly physical and Holland reacted by employing the same tactics. The game reminded me of the Holland-Portugal game from 2006 ('Battle of Nurenberg', was it?). It is true What Vickery said about the coach transmitting his emotions (as well as his ideas). How else could nice guys like Silva, Kaka and Robinho turn nasty during this tournament?

    Dunga got emboldened by winning the Copa America and Confederations Cups. Those wins made him even more convinced that his policies were the right ones. The funny thing is, Dunga's Brazil has been training to hurt teams on the types of set-pieces, tactics and overall play that Holland used beat them with.

    It must have frustrated a proud man like Dunga to watch this unfolding in front of his eyes. Hence, he folded under the weight of the stress. He must be having nightmares now with Ronaldinho in them.

  • Comment number 71.

    Re 56: It wasn't Dunga who created the siege mentality. The press in Brazil had an extremely unfair grudge against him as a player and carried this into his term as coach, attacking him before he'd selected his first squad. Since then, by sheer hard work and competence, he has put together a string of results that managed to quiten them down a bit. However, omitting the press favourites from his WC squad got them baying for his blood again and it was this that created such a hostile atmosphere surrounding the group that even such a calm player as Kaka was clearly nervous. This didn't stop them from turning in an excellent display up to the end of the 1st half against Holland (tricky opener against unknown quantity, commanding display against the strongest African side in the tournament, holding Portugal to the draw they needed - without their 3 creative playmakers, and then seeing off one of the revelations of the competition). They may have gone in at half-time feeling confident, after all, they'd just played fancied Holland off the park and could've been 3-0 up. But as has been pointed out elsewhere, Holland are a team that can get on your nerves during a game, with all the niggling behaviour they indulge in. Brazil were wound up, and when an unexpected mistake by one of the world's best keepers led to the equalizer and they had to start all over again, they weren't up to it emotionally. To lay all the blame for this in Dunga's lap is the height of injustice.
    Please don't jump on the media bandwagon, Tim. Your quality of reporting and analysis is above that.
    Nice observations 37 and 62.

  • Comment number 72.

    Re 67: Dunga's mandate was to win the WC 2010. During his time in charge, he has built a squad that blends the muscle that the modern game requires with the individual skill and teamwork that are also essential to success. He has been accused of negativity by the press ever since the 1994 WC win, despite being an inspirational captain and setting up and scoring goals - as a defensive midfielder, simply because the side containing the strike force of Romario and Bebeto didn't play the way the 1970 (winners) and 1982 (losers) did. Yet his teams have contained all Brazil's most creative footballers, until Ronaldinho's form slumped. And he has made them into an effective unit, which he was unwilling to change in the light of Ronaldinho's recent ressurgence and the explosion onto the local scene of youngsters Ganso and Neymar (who have never been tested at this level). I might have been tempted to take them, myself, but who of his tried and tested squad would he omit to make room for them? He made his decision, and justified it to the media, who just used this as another branch to beat him with.
    If I were Dunga, I'd turn my back on this country that so singularly fails to appreciate him and take a coaching job (for which he is now eminently qualified) somewhere else, where he can make lots of money and enjoy a bit of relative peace and quiet.

  • Comment number 73.

    Overall comment here in Brazil was that the entire team entered the pitch on "high heels" in the second half.

    Regarding Dunga, the thing is when the game was going bad (as it was against the Portuguese) he looked at the bench and probably thought: "Oh my, we suck." And my guess is that somehow all the players were aware of it.

    He had no backup in case his plans with the main 11 went wrong or inefficient. Especially when the subject is midfielders. I do agree with Tim regarding emotional control during the games. That translated into the main attitude he cultivated during his time as a coach: stubbornness - since the announcement of the 23, before the competition.

    The symbol of this squad and of Dunga's behavior as a coach is the presence of Felipe Melo instead of Ronaldinho, Paulo Henrique Ganso or Hernanes in the same position. I think that says it all.

  • Comment number 74.

    Yes,MARADONA did make some silly selection mistakes but being a coach he can't always control his players on the pitch.He trusted OTAMENDI and this player was at fault for the 1st two goals.In the 1st goal OTAMENDI conceded a silly free-kick & then there was a total school-boyish defensive dis-organisation while they were defending it.They didn't have any proper defensive line & only because of one defender MULLER managed to remain on-side and scored the goal.In the 2nd goal OTAMENDI allowed KHEDIRA to get past him very easily & then this mistake ended up in a goal.In the same way for other goals,I'd say it was footballing horror show by the ARGENTINE back 4.So,I'd say that in ARGENTINA's loss players must share equal blame as MARADONA & I still think MARADONA is the best man to coach ARGENTINA.

  • Comment number 75.


    I think Maradona made a tactical mistake against Germany. That was all. Had he played Veron - instead of perhaps Maxi R - he would have been able to give Messi a more damaging role.

    Let's not forget that the Germans only narrowly won the first 65 minutes of that game. It was 1-0 and Argentina were pressing.

    Had they been able to score then, I think we would have seen a different outcome. (A bit like "What would have happened if England had been allowed their 2nd goal").


    Always looked short of a few players to me. BUT, mainly, they needed a much more dominant Captain (on the pitch) AND an in-form Kaka or, at least, a figure who could do what Kaka wasnt doing. I guess that may have been Ronaldinho. He could have had the last 20 minutes against Holland. And may have made that little bit of difference.

    But where was their discipline in that 2nd half? The Dutch overran them. Something you could not have forseen in the 1st half.

  • Comment number 76.

    55 - We know what he's like

  • Comment number 77.

    This is the best analysis of events regarding the Brazil World Cup campaign. I am Brazilian and end up reading most of the press in Brazil Vickery refers to. You are spot on about Dunga as well. He did do a good job, but he was clearly unbalanced and the reflected on the team. Excellent work.

  • Comment number 78.

    77 - many thanks. i don't share dunga's approach to the game - and one of the great strengths of football is that it can be interpreted in many different ways.
    in nearly 4 years in charge, he clearly showed merits - ironic to think about, but perhaps never more than in the first half against holland. it was the performance of champions - no discussion necessary about tactical approach or players who had been left out. that team, whatever its limitations, looked good enough to win the competition.
    the goal they scored was a showcase for the virtues of dunga and jorginho - you might remember this was a move they worked time and again v england late last year - luis fabiano drops, draws the marker and space is created for a quick runner cutting in on the diagonal to expose a slow or flat back line. against england it was nilmar, against the dutch it was robinho. whoever, it was a goal from the training ground, well worked out.
    criticism should always strive to be fair, but it should always exist. no one likes getting criticized. even more so, no one likes getting criticized by idiots - there's one here who referred to my article as 'rubbish' and then started talking about the england side, as if that had anything to do with me. dunga had to face that level of criticism, from that level of idiot, to the power of a thousand. no one is going to like that - carlos alberto parreira always used to say that the treatment given to the brazil coach back at home is inhumane.
    come the big day, under pressure, dunga and co found it all too much.

  • Comment number 79.

    As regards to Brazil I have to disagree with you Tim this time. The dutch admitted that they didn't put in the focus in 1st half as they should have done and before they knew it they were 1 down. The dutch were disappointed with themselves as was shown in reactions from them already during the 1st half. What if the dutch had started the match with the same mentality as in the 2nd half? The dutch (Sneijder) told the day before the match that Brazil defensive weakness was the high ball coming in and corners...... and it showed. I don't see much respect for a team that 1) hasn't lost since Sept 2008 (25 matches), 2) has a 9 matches winning streak, 3) has a defense that is difficult to beat etc etc. Give credit where it should be. The Brazil team did after the game, good on them.

  • Comment number 80.

    Following the Selecao throughout Dunga's reign, I was confident he had built a team with a great chance of winning this tournament. The Selecao as a team, for one of the few times I can remember, was greater than the sum of its parts(i.e. the individual players). Alas, it was not to be.

    The main reasons for Brasil going out:

    (1) Two uncharacteristic defensive errors. Brazil vs Holland has always been tight (remember Branco just nicking it in 94?). Two soft goals - with Holland admittedly playing well in the 2nd half - is reason enough for any defeat aganst Holland. For this Dunga cannot take any blame.

    (2) An inability to react and turn the match in Brasil's favour again. This was partly down to Melo being sent off and partly down to the lack of options available on the bench. This can all be attributed to Dunga. The Brasilian player/ journalist Tostao warned some time ago that Melo being sent off is just a question of time - how right he was. He is an often violent player and Dunga should have realised this and either calmed him down or not selected him. The squad beyond the first 11 was also badly picked by Dunga and left him no options. By picking his "loyal" 23 he was in a sense comitting the same mistake as Parreira in 2006 who was loyal to the "stars" - giving no weight to current form and picking "last year's" team. The best teams at World Cups tend to evolve (look at Germany). By not introducing fresh/ in form talent in to the squad, Dunga had few if any options available to turn the game, especially with Ramires and Elano not available. Holland were playing counter attack in the 2nd half and playing it very well (how ironic) - any chance of turning the game would have required a tactical change with a more creative/ higher quality of midfield player and Dunga left these at home. Baptista and Kleberson were woeful selections. To believe that the squad was "complete" many months ago with no room for new players, in particular creative players, was naive.

  • Comment number 81.

    I take nothing away from the Dutch - the goal by robben against slovakia is for me the goal of the tournament - ball won deep left, crisp exchange of passes into centrefield, lovely sneijder ball to robben high right, great run from van persie outside to put doubt into the mind of the defence, creating enough space for robben to cut in and steer a lovely left foot shot into the near post - a goal with everything you want to see - good movement of the ball, good running off the ball, excellent individual skill. top stuff.
    and of course - and this makes a nonsense of dunga's protests - they'd clearly worked out that the way to deal with robben was to kick him if the ball was played up to him in deep positions. michel bastos was very lucky not to be sent off, and had to be subbed to save him - incidentally, brazil did a similar job on argentina in the final of the 2007 copa america, halting the rhythm of argentina's passing with foul after foul.
    but the subject of this blog is not how the dutch won - it's how brazil and argentina lost.

  • Comment number 82.

    'Pundits' and 'experts' are all (including you, I suggest) blinded by the legend of these personalities and the teams they manage. Not ONE of you has STILL written a lament about the way Brazil resorted to irritable, tetchy, cynical tactics in the first half against Portugal. Brazil won the game so you're all ok to sweep it under the carpet in the pursuit of the 'dream story' of the purveyors of the beautiful game winning the ultimate prize. That's great if they play in the beautiful way. But they showed their true colours well before they ran into Robben, Schneider, etc.

    Your thoughts on Argentina - thumbs up from me. I think everybody now knows Maradona was merely a cheerleader for the players, not a coach in any sense of the word at all.

  • Comment number 83.

    82 - i'm not convinced that lack of options off the bench is the big story here - nilmar is a classy card to play. and the 11 starters showed in the first half that they were good enough to get the job done - there was even a wonderful goal-making pass from felipe melo, who has since become the villain.
    intersting to see where brazil go from here - the big name star approach failed in 2006. persoanlly, i would like to see them change their approach to central midfield play, but this is going to take time. if anyone saw the world under-17 and under-20 cups last year they will have observed that brazil's central midfielders were big, gilbero silva, types, strong and tough but not very imaginative on the ball.

  • Comment number 84.

    Sorry, i'm a little bit confused about Tim Vickery's argument about how the Germans could have been stopped...Is he saying that if Veron had beeen anchored in midfield alongside Mascherano that would have halted the Germans thrusts on the basis of the German friendly in March????? This was a very different German beast no??????????

  • Comment number 85.

    82 - you obviously didn't read my last blog when i talked about brazil resorting to rugby tackles and bodychecks in the 74 game against holland.

  • Comment number 86.

    Sorry, i'm a little bit confused about Tim Vickery's argument about how the Germans could have been stopped...Is he saying that if Veron had beeen anchored in midfield alongside Mascherano that would have halted the Germans thrusts on the basis of the German friendly in March????? This was a very different German beast no?????????? The 2006 team he should also consider was just superior to this 11???????

  • Comment number 87.

    84 - it was the same german beat, with ballack in midfield and adler in goal. ozil played, muller played, podolski played, schweinsteiger, klose. it was, as the coaches agreed, a friendly played with world cup intensity - people playing for their places on the plane.
    so i don't know what you're confused about. from an argentina point of view, going back to that side doesn't guarantee the same score - no 2 games are alike. but it does make argentina more compact - see the comments of the german coach above - and it does ensure that the ball reaches messi higher up the field.

  • Comment number 88.

    Hubris comes before the fall, the coaching by Dunga, Maradona and to some extent Bielsa was too rigid. What was Bielsa doing insisting on a 3-3-1-3 against Spain? It was suicide, what's the use in trying to prove a point? Get the win first, worry about how you did it later.

    Not taking Banega was a crime against common sense, why play with Veron if Maradona couldn't stand the sight of him? Why play with Messi acting as a play-maker when he's a natural born striker, Messi can't get the ball to anybody, you have to get the ball to Messi and watch him work his magic.

    Dunga is not a bad coach, but he may have been even more rigid than Maradona. Excluding Ronaldinho made no sense, he refused to take teenage phenom Neymar when 99% of Brazil was telling him to take him. For me though the capital crime was not even giving Diego Tardelli and Diego Souza a chance to earn a spot (one half for Souza against Bolivia?) and a couple of friendly matches for Tardelli? Those two guys had their teams in the top part of the Brasileirao table for most of last year. And then he puts Robinho on a short leash? He lived and died with fullbacks and took Kaká to a tournament he had no business being in.

    Everyone who is in love with Kaká, forget one thing, he was part of the Fab Four @ AC MILAN (Pirlo, Seedorf & Shevchenko) --- without those guys, he's ordinary, even at Real Madrid he's been ordinary.

    In the end Dunga is what his nickname suggests, a big dope!

  • Comment number 89.

    Brazil went out because of Dunga's awful dress sense. That jacket, pink shirt and green t-shirt - what kind of message does that send out to the team?! Mind you, he got further than the sartorially elegant Capello...

    Seriously, the omission of Veron was mystifying and Brazil imploded (the diving Robben being a major factor) on that beach of a pitch. Who would have thought Uruguay would be the last surviving South American team?

    The new appointmets, assuming both Dunga and Maradona fall on their swords, will prove interesting. Tim: who do you think will take over?

  • Comment number 90.

    Yeah Dunga was an emotional wreck. That doesn't help but the guys on the field are pros, they need to keep their head. When the team saw the "world's greatest keeper and defence" (according to them) let that ball in, that undermined all their confidence. Deep inside they knew Robinho is not the guy to turn matches around and that Kaka has been playing poorly for over a year now. But none of this is Dunga's fault, he did all he could have done with what he had.

  • Comment number 91.

    the neymar stuff is indicative of what dunga had to put up with.
    no doubt about it - wonderful prospect. i picked him out for world soccer magazine at the end of last year as the most interesting revevlation of the brazilian championshhip. but for now? dunga was full of contempt for the lack of international knowledge of many in the brazilian press - and he has a point.
    towards the end of last year neymar did badly at the world under-17 cup - he was even subbed a couple of times when brazil were needing a goal - amazingly, they went out in the group stage. i remember mentioning this on the day of the call up for south africa - and there were plenty of brazilian journos who were unaware of it. now, the idea that a player who has failed at under-17 level will be ready for the senior world cup a few months later - pure fantasy.
    neymar was great in the sao paulo state championship - a competition in which 2 of the 3 rivals, corinthians and sao paulo, were looking elsewhere (the libertadores) while the other, palmeiras, were mired in crisis. even in this competition he acquired a reputation for going to ground very easily. by 2014 he should be ready, but no way was he ready for a senior world cup in 2010.
    yet dunga had to listen to people trotting it out as a fact that neymar was up there with pele - people who were unaware that he hadn't come off in the world under'17 cup.

  • Comment number 92.

    I'm amazed how the Serbia game has become the stick to beat Germany with. Did anyone see that game. Germany were better with 11 men, and better with 10 men. They got a man sent off to a scandalous decision and conceded straight away (due to inexperience). They stil had chances to equalize.

    The good thing about that defeat was Badstuber got dropped and Boateng (not great but better) came in.

    I'm still not convinced that Argentina would've beaten Germany as you are assuming Loew wouldn't have learnt his lessons from that game. In a way he did as Lahm stayed on the right and troubled Argentina's right flank the whole game, a more attacking stance as opposed to the defensive tactic of Lahm on the left. Also a more energetic player in Khedira came in.

    For me the problem with Maradona's selection wasn't Veron but Gutierrez being dropped from midfield. Gutierrez runs and runs and runs. Argentina badly missed his energy.

  • Comment number 93.

    Great article Tim. I think the signs were there for Argentina but as for Brazil it seems as if the pressure got to them.

    You saw in the game that Messi was at one time one of four Argentina players in their own half, with the rest ahead, because he wanted to collect the ball. I agree that this clearly shows a lack of a link between defence and attack. Xavi and Iniesta provide this for Messi at Barca and it works well, however Argentina didn't get the best out of Messi.

    Talking about emotion, I think Maradona's fall-out with Riquelme has cost Argentina. If Maradona used his head rather than his heart on this occasion i believe they would have gone further. Riquelme would have provided that link and has the ability to feed Messi higher up the pitch. He is also arguably one of the best passers in the game -Veron, although should have started, is a 'poor man's' version of Riquelme. Maradona's emotion in this example provides evidence of how it affected the team negatively.

    One last point, I think Messi, a la Maradona in 86', needs to step up on occasions like this, when things are going for Argentina. This may be extremely harsh, but this is detriment to the capabilities of Messi, as we all know what he can do.

  • Comment number 94.

    92 - i wouldn't go as far to say that argentina would have beaten germany with a different line up - but their chances of doing so would have been better.

  • Comment number 95.

    #63 I think you're being too harsh on Higuain. Remember he's still 23 years old, and strikers become more precise with time (usually). He's a much better striker than Milito at 23; heck, he's already on the same level or at least close enough today.

    #71 and #72- No, it was DUNGA who created the siege mentality. Sure, the press had reservations or outright disliked him because of his lack of experience, but at first he had no more pressure than EVERY manager has; Parreira, Scolari, Leao, Luxemburgo, Zagallo, Lazaroni, etc they all had to face similar problems, and none tried to create a war with the world like Dunga did. In fact, none had more pressure pre-World Cup than Scolari, and instead of isolate his players of the world and create a war with the press, he had every single training open to anyone and tried to avoid causing more problems.

    And it wasn't the press that had grudges against Dunga from 1990, it was Dunga who had grudges against the press from 1990. He was mostly remembered by Brazilians as the captain of the 1994 side, a hero, but he couldn't get over the criticism. Remember this was the guy that used expletives and cursed the world when lifting the WC trophy. And, like he said in a press conference recently, he has the memory of an elephant.

  • Comment number 96.

    Probably the most ironic point coming out of all of the above is that if Brazil HAD tried to play an attractive style on that pitch, they would have lost even more emphatically. No-one was able to dribble the ball consistently on that surface, it was appalling and ruined the game more than any niggly tactics or diving (which we saw from both sides, yet again the game at the highest level is ruined).
    The main point in favour of Mr Vickery's view is the utter disrespect the Brazilians showed the referee from the word go. They were in his face screaming at him at times, and that suggests to me that the coach had either told them he was incompetent or could be influenced, and most definitely did not try to curb these actions. In the end the ref showed his displeasure with this behaviour, not by booking the offenders, but by letting van Bommel stay on the field.

  • Comment number 97.

    #80- It wasn't just Tostão who said that Melo would get a red card eventually; every journalist and fan that I know said the same thing. Heck, in the Brazilian ESPN, where I was watching, the pundit said "Melo has to be removed or he'll get a red" literally 30 seconds before he stepped on Robben.

    And from the reactions of the players on the pitch (more resigned than shocked or angry), I'd say even they knew that would happen. The only one that didn't see it coming was Dunga.

  • Comment number 98.

    The main factor that's different from the World Cup game and the earlier friendly is Germany's form in between. Especially with its suddenly improved counter-attacking, it was a whole different kettle of whasisinames. You can't really talk about "how Argentina lost" without reference to this i.e how Germany won.

    Fair to argue that Maradona should have catered for new-improved Germany, but it's a big stretch to say he didn't do so due to some emotional tick.

    One story of football in recent times has been the story of the success of 'turnover' and quick counter-attack football e.g. Mourinho and Inter. That has carried through to the World Cup, most spectaculary with Germany and it isn't easy for attacking sides to cope. Many sides now are good at playing when ahead, but there have been few in SA who have looked likely chasing a game.

    It can't all be down to one little bloke's head temperature.

  • Comment number 99.

    as history will verify,just as it has in previous world cups,its about goals,in black and white,the coaches are irrelavant,the excuses lame FACT

  • Comment number 100.

    If the trio of Ronaldinho, Cambiasso and Zanetti were from my country -- Nigeria -- they would definitely make the first team. If they were English, they would be the only players -- besides Carrick and Haegraves -- with the skill level required to beat Germany and Algeria. The exclusion of these players cost both Brazil and Argentina big time. Morale of the story: Don't take away a deserving player's dream because the World Cup is what every player lives for- especially if you come from Nations -- such as Brazil and Argentina - with rich footballing traditions. Ooops, I forgot to mention that the footballing dreams of all English citizens were taken away by Capello, because with the form displayed by the likes of Lamps and Rooney, they certainly would have done much better.....VIVA BERDYCH!


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