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Brazil seeking the right mentality

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Tim Vickery | 13:38 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

Last July, in his first press conference as Brazil coach, Mano Menezes said that he was aiming to include a sports psychologist in his back-up staff.

Brazil had just lost their heads as they bowed out to Holland in the World Cup quarter-finals and Menezes was aware that in 2014, on home soil, the pressure would be much greater.

The events of the last few days have shown just how important the mental aspect is likely to be for the next World Cup hosts.

In midweek, Brazil lost yet again to France, a well balanced game transformed into a comfortable victory for Les Bleus by the attempt of Hernanes to remove Karin Benzema's head. The referee had little option but to send Hernanes off after such an uncharacteristic lapse - which I can only presume was borne of frustration.

This was a big game for the Lazio midfielder but, unwisely selected wide on the left, he was struggling to get into the action and, perhaps as a result, lost self-control.

But the worrying signs for Mano Menezes were not so much in the red card - which we can put down to a one-off - but in the reaction of his team. They had nothing to complain about. And yet they kept on complaining, team captain Robinho even pulling the referee's shirt.

They were more focused on the referee - moaning, waving imaginary cards and trying to con him into giving free-kicks - than on playing their way back into the game.

Brazilian sports psychologist Regina Brandao, who worked with Luiz Felipe Scolari, has carried out psychological profiles of contemporary Brazilian players. She has outlined their tendency to have extreme reactions, to believe that everything is against them - especially the referee.

This goes beyond psychology, to the way the game has developed in Brazil. Leonardo Gaciba has recently retired after a career as one of Brazil's top referees. A few years ago he told me that the criteria he used in a domestic Brazilian match was different from that he employed in a Copa Libertadores fixture involving teams from other countries.

The referee, he said, has to be a chameleon, shifting his interpretation of the rules to suit the context. Elsewhere in South America, he continued, the players were more interested in the ball. In Brazil, they would always look for the foul. And so he would give more fouls. It was what everyone expected from him - players, spectators, media.

Brazil's Hernanes is shown the red card against France

The referee had little option but to send Hernanes off after his foul on Benzema. Photo: Getty

TV coverage of football in Brazil is obsessed with the referee. High profile ex-officials are often in the commentary box, giving their verdict on decisions. If not, analysts are forever calling for more fouls to be awarded, more cards to be distributed. Players are diving all over the place.

It was not ever thus. The great Zizinho, idol of the young Pele and star of the 1950 World Cup, once told me something truly startling. He was highly proficient at breaking the leg of an opponent. And so were all the top players. That same sense of timing that made them so good also made them so dangerous.

Knowledge of this black art was so important because Zizinho and co served their apprenticeship in the greatest production line of footballing talent known to man - informal street, park and wasteland football.

It was an unruly world where self-defence skills were essential - and not just violent ones. Players were also learning vital lessons such as the safest moment to part with the ball, and move into position to get it back.

But urban expansion ate up many of those spaces, and urban violence turned some of the others into no-go zones. And so, instead of these informal games, futsal became the new breeding ground for Brazilian talent.

There is a lot to be said for small-sided games, with the opportunities they bring for prolonged contact with the ball. But in this case perhaps there has been a down side as well.

Before, as we have seen, players developed their own self-defence strategy. Now, in organised football, it is supplied by the referee.

Of course, we should celebrate the fact that today's young stars no longer need to learn to break legs. But in Brazil the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. It has led to systematic diving - the player going to ground either because he has run himself into trouble, or to gain a free-kick in an advantageous position.

Current wonderkid Neymar is a truly remarkable talent. He glides past his marker on either side and finishes with gorgeous precision. But his diving is out of control. Like all skilful players, he takes punishment - though not nearly as much as stars of previous eras - but all too frequently there is either no contact or, before he plunges to the ground, it has been provoked by Neymar himself.

These antics have been tolerated in Brazilian football. But what happens when he steps outside the bubble, where referees employ different criteria?

Then there are two big risks, as the recently completed South American Under-20 Championships make clear.

First, Neymar will pick up cards for simulation. Secondly, there is the danger of he and his colleagues losing their heads, convinced that the referee is out to get them.
Brazil were head and shoulders above their Under-20 opponents, and were crowned continental champions.

But on the way they still managed to lose to a hugely disappointing Argentina side - and loss of emotional control was a key factor in the defeat.

Right at the start centre-back Juan was sent off and gave away a penalty for throwing an elbow. It was the only time that Brazil went behind in their nine games. Even with 10 men, they were better than their limited opponents. But they were more concerned with diving and protesting than with playing, and lost 2-1.

In the context of the Under-20 tournament, it hardly mattered. The championship is organised on a league basis. The World Cup is a different matter. No matter how good you are, one bad game (even one bad half) can bring the campaign to a traumatic early ending - as happened to Brazil in South Africa.

Mano Menezes must surely be worried at the prospect of something similar happening in 2014. Sports psychologists should be sending him their CVs.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

Q) I would be interested to know your opinion about the Ronaldo experiment at Corinthians. With their quite spectacular exit from this years Copa Libertadores, their failure to land any silverware in their centenary year, and his, to put it politely, rather rotund physique, is it all considered a tragic misadventure? Or is he worth it purely for shirt sales and gate receipts?
Brendan Clark

A) Let's remember that when Corinthians signed Ronaldo, there was no guarantee that he'd actually be able to play - in that light, it's all been a bonus. He helped them win the Brazilian Cup, and qualify for two successive versions of the Libertadores.
Also, though latterly he's as stately as Queen Ann with gout, he's still been a useful player - but he needed others buzzing around him, as Elias did so well. Not replacing Elias was one of the key factors behind the team's Libertadores exit, which has (and I think rightly) forced his retirement. I certainly enjoyed watching him for Corinthians - he added a few more to the fabulous pile of memories he leaves behind him.

Q) Just wondering what you make of Dario Conca ever playing for Argentina? He was voted best player in Brazil last season, and is still yet to be called up by Argentina. Brazilians praise him, and some rival players from Botafogo said they inspire to play like him. Is it a personal issue between Sergio Batista and Dario Conca? Or has Conca just been unfortunate? He's such a talent and highly influential. Better than D'Alessandro in my opinion.
Luke Vooght

A) The case against him - he's never come off in Argentina. Also, Brazil has become a playmaker's paradise. There are few of them, but for those who can play there, pickings are rich - lots of space and protection from the referee, plenty of quick players (strikers and attacking full-backs) to bring into the game.

I don't believe there's any personal vendetta against him. David Ramirez was outstanding, perhaps even more than Conca, for Godoy Cruz last year and he wasn't called up. And there's no space in the Argentina starting line-up for a sensation in Europe such as Javier Pastore. Conca faces an uphill battle. His big - probably only - chance is to make a major impression in this year's Libertadores.


  • Comment number 1.


    Superb as usual!

    Sad to see Ronaldo finished, he is one of the all time greats!

  • Comment number 2.

    Another great post as usual and it's nice to see the referees getting a mention.

    In Colombia, it's a similar situation in the sense that the principal radio station, Caracol, has an ex-FIFA referee commentating on the major talking points and the weekly TV shows have their own ex-referees providing analysis which is great to see. The problem we have in the UK is that the commentators (Mr Hansen, Mr Shearer, formerly Mr Gray) in many instances don't have a correct interpretation of the laws of the game which leads to frightening misconceptions at a local level, for example, the idea that if a player wins the ball it can't be a foul, it doesn't matter if you managed to break the players leg whilst doing so.

    On the other hand we have excellent ex-referees such as Dermot Gallacher and Graham Poll helping to educate the masses through their various means but supporters are generally blinded by their support for a team and perceived injustices made by these referees against them.

    On the simulation point, it's always important to remember that whilst the referees have a responsibility to manage the game and discipline the players where necessary, they are not the ones committing the infractions. Blame the criminal, not the judge.

  • Comment number 3.

    There's always a bit of pressure on the hosts at any World Cup but in 2014 the expectation in Brazil will be incredible. Regardless of the team they put out on the field, overcoming the opposition and their own fans to lift the trophy would be an extraordinary achievement.

    Agree with #1 about Ronaldo. Great career, but could have achieved even more.

  • Comment number 4.

    Tim, I'd be interested to read your views on the recently finished South American Under 20 championship. Personally, I was very impressed with Sao Paulo's Lucas, a very dynamic looking Number 10. Are you likely to summarise the tournament here or should I wait for World Soccer?


  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Tim, I've watched you on Redação Sportv and also agree with what you say here in regards to refereeing. Players do tend to dive a lot and are a big part of the blame, however, I think the refereeing and the referees are also to blame here in Brazil. Any kind of physical contact is a foul, and very oftenly a yellow card. That incetives the players to simply fall down.

    Watching your usual premier league game and comparing with a game in Brazil will bring you shocking differences. Where a game in the EPL has quite oftenly 10, maybe 15 fouls total and 1 yellow card, in Brazil you have 30+ fouls with multiple cards, removing any kind of fluency from the game and often making the supporters worry more about the referee then their team or the game itself, which quite clearly translates intself to the players.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great Blog this one.
    I think most referees officiate games differently depending on Region...S america,Europe,Africa,etc n Competitions...Uefa,Copa Lib.,World Cup,etc.But the Brazillian team has to start instilling a sense of ''we wanna play our old sleek footbal not look for cheap fouls'' mentality in their young players to avoid a huge disappointment in 2014!

  • Comment number 7.

    Interesting as ever Tim, nice work.
    Ronaldo was a fantastic footballer and a real, modern striker. I watched him destroy United for Madrid at OT a few years ago, one of the best displays you will see from a centre forward. Perhaps he could have done even more but you would have to be satisfied with his career and impact.

  • Comment number 8.

    its funny that the article starts talking about the violence of a brazilian (Hernanes) and then changes to saying brazilians dive too much.

    Was Neymar diving in the sub-20? Yes. But he was also being constantly fouled and the refs were complacent.

    Brazilian football IS quite violent, and the diving probably is a response to that. You dive before you suffer a potential injury.

    Leonardo said EPL games have less fouls. Yes, but that is only PARTIALLY because english players dive less or award less fouls. Its also because there ARE less fouls in the EPL. Really, I watch EPL games, and there is much less ankle kicking in the EPL than in Brazil.

  • Comment number 9.

    Fantastic Blog as always Tim,
    was just wondering, who from the U20 Brazil team will be pushing for the full squad in the next year or so, and whether they have the quality to get ahead of the current first team, I know the new regime is more favoured towards youth so it would be interesting to see if the team now is the one that will be used in 4 years time

  • Comment number 10.

    9 - Neymar is already a member of the full team. Central midfielder Casemiro and right sided attacking midfielder Lucas have also pushed themselves in conetnion for a squad place

  • Comment number 11.

    4 - i'll do a round up of the competition and pick out some of the most promising players for World Soccer magazine

  • Comment number 12.

    I think that there is another great generation of brazilian players on the horizon, like 2002 when there was ronaldo, ronaldino, rivaldo, cafu, robaerto carlos etc. Now players such as neymar, coutinho, ganso, herenanes, and luiz are coming through, and if players like robinho, and pato can find form for both the national team and their club sides then brazil will be a real force to be reconed with in 2014, which i'm really hoping to go to, simply for the experience and hopefully to c a few matches. I think that their is always an indifferent stage before a team really starts to produce and i really believe that now is the time for the players which i have mentioned above, to come to europe. This will further their development greatly, in brazil they have already developed there talent and ability, but in europe they will get the right mentality, will become physically and mentally stronger, they will become more aware tactically and defensively and will be able to play the game at a higher tempo. If they do these things then i have no doubt that brazil will be one of the contenders for the trophy and maybe not having the expectation will help them, well they are playing in brazil which brings with it, it's own pressure.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well, despite the celebrations in Brasil, getting rid of Dunga doesn't look the smartest move in the book so far does it?

    I said at the time, as an outsider I couldn't see the sense in it - Dunga had a superb record, winning everything there was available up until the World Cup, where failure in one game cost him is job. An emotional reaction from a nation who didn't like losing their footballing identity under a well-organisd, tactically astute manager.

    The truth is he lost one game in 20 something, won a bucket load of trophies and basically lost his job because the World Cup wasn't one of them. Oh no! The Horror!!

    The team are now looking like they could do with that organisation and a bit more intelligence & organisation rather than going for the all out "Brasilian flair". They've got what they deserve for elbowing such a successful manager in my opinion.

    This guy was the fantastic breath of fresh air a few months ago, and no-one wanted to listen to people with opinions like mine. I wonder how many similar performances against top sides will have to happen before more people realise how wrong they were, and how shabbily Dunga was treated?

  • Comment number 14.

    Lucas did well in the last match (vs Uruguay) of the U20, but I think he has to work a lot on team play.

    He will rarely make assists... when he gets the ball, it seems he can only see the goal and nothing else. Fortunatelly, in the last game, he was able to dribble past Uruguayan defenders or kick from afar and score, but his individualism was quite a liability in previous games.

    I am quite happy with Fernando, from Grêmio. The team improved a lot after Ney Franco put him on the main squad.

  • Comment number 15.

    13 - if dunga and his team couldn't cope with a quarter final in south africa then i don't think they'd have much chance dealing with the pressure their own fans will pile on in 2014 - especially as dunga, who thrives on conflict, would inevitably go out of his way to alienate people.

  • Comment number 16.

    14 - agree on lucas - he seems to play in a tunnel - but there's potential there, especially for the wide right position in mano's 4-2-3-1

  • Comment number 17.

    The part about our players diving / psychology / media is so true it hurts. In Brazil, every time a club loses to another south american team they are being robbed and the latino community is against us.

    No wonder the teams with better set-pieces are the ones that get closer to win championships in Brazil.. heck, Muricy's Fluminense was outplayed many times but won due to corner kicks and fouls close to the box..

    Its funny that most people in the world imagine that our league is full of flair and horrible defences, but the truth is that because of the massive number of games and refereeing, Brazil has become the country of pragmatic football and big strong defenders, focused on set-pieces and counter-attacking..

    Thats one of the reasons Cruzeiro do well at Libertadores (they pass the ball well and open up defences) and Muricy's team do bad. Fluminense wasnt able to open up Argentino Jr's defence, but in Brazil they would get freekicks close to the box for Rafa Moura to head in, while Cruzeiro's gungho tactics dont work so well in Brazil since they have to defend set pieces all the time they want to have a more pressure-based defence (they lost to Flu 1-0 at maracana, outplaying them but got scored on by a corner kick)

  • Comment number 18.

    I think you're being a bit harsh on Lucas. He has a good touch and an excellent short passing game, plus enough confidence in both to always support the man on the ball. If Liverpool's other players had those attributes (on top of those they already have) then we'd never give the ball away. If it's good enough for Barcelona....

  • Comment number 19.

    18 - you're confusing 2 players with the same name - the lucas under discussion here is not the liverpool player, it's the sao paulo youngster who was in action in the u-20 championships

    17 - some excellent observations - one aspect i didn't have time to explore in the piece was the importance of diving as an attacking strategy - to win set pieces close to goal - where Brazilian teams are often so dangerous, either shooting directly, or crossing for a phalanx of giants to attack the ball.

  • Comment number 20.


    I don't really fault Dunga for his tirades toward the media. They were as much out to get him as he was out to get them -- and it's been a feud that has been around for more than 20 years.

    The frustrating part about the media in Brazil is how forgetful they are -- and well, blatant when it comes to ignoring the obvious short-comings of Mano's current regime. Globo was talking about how Mano has brought back the "happiness" during the France game. Yeah, I havent seen this team play "happy" in a long time, even under Mano. During the WC, they criticized Dunga a lot because of his "cohesiveness/coherence" -- picking the same guys. It was almost good enough and well, I understand that's not enough for Brazil.

    But looking at Mano's team now, all I can do is shake my head at the nepotism. Not even Dunga did this. I don't understand Mano's insistence on starting guys like Andre Santos and Lucas - both of whom appear to be untouchable at this point - let's try more left backs - and we do have other d-mids worth a start (Sandro and especially Luiz Gustavo). Or his extended use of a mediocre Elias in the last game. Or his calling up Douglas dos Santos against Argentina (and who cost Brazil a meager draw). The fact that it just looks like Mano is settling so early is very troubling to me as a Brazilian. Outside of the obvious up-and-coming guys, no new player that Mano has used looks like a World Cup caliber player. Meanwhile, Dunga found Elano in his second game - and was pivotal in defeating Argentina in that game - and he was always looking for those missing pieces, despite the "coherence." There's still plenty of time but I'm very concerned about the current state of the team. More so than I was when Dunga got the sack.

    As for the "the referees against us mentality," I definitely agree with you. It IS quite a big deal. One stark difference though between the U20 team and the senior team. The senior team gave up against France and did nothing. Granted they lost a key player in their formation, but that's as much Mano's fault in not adjusting properly - which he didnt do and I fault him for the loss in keeping Robinho and Elias, both of whom were quite poor. But the U20 team kept on fighting and even with 10 men, were unfortunate not to have gotten a draw out of it.

  • Comment number 21.

    20 - agreed that mano's preference for players he's worked with at club level could prove a problem for him.

    I'm worried about the treatment of ganso as a saviour - it's very early for such talk - and, in trems of the 'happiness' thing - so much of this will depend on whether he can find central midfielders who can pass the ball with imagination.

  • Comment number 22.

    Question for you Tim. I watched some of the Brazil U20 matches in the recent South American championship. They looked way superior to their opponents, are they that good or was the opposition generally poor for this tournament? Even with ten men against Argentina they looked the better side for most of the game. Uruguay played as if they were scared of a thrashing. Lucas was a revelation though he can be very selfish at times. Neymar really needs to grow Do you see players like Lucas and Willian in the senior team for the upcoming Copa America?

  • Comment number 23.

    I think the National team is doing fine.. and I think Dunga did a great job, I prefer Dungas more physical and direct type of football.. good against top dogs (holland game aside), Manos tactics are the opposite.. shaky againt bigger teams and deadly against smaller ones..

    I also was very annoyed at Mano calling Andre, a normal player, and him using a tactic with no real striker against Argentina, which had fail written all over it, and it did fail (attack composed of neymar and robinho)

    He did that at Corinthians using Dentinho and j.Henrique and it also failed, so he kind of insists upon himself..

    Lets wait some more to make a more solid evaluation on Mano

  • Comment number 24.

    Great blog Tim,

    In fact, I agree with almost all you wrote. I just disagree with the way you associate futsal with the current diving trend of Brazilian players. The real problem is that – at club level – young players are surrounded by “butchers” (club managers, agents, media and false friends) who are always buzzing at their ears that will be stars and that they can do anything. Neymar is a perfect example of that. His team’s coach was sacked because he tried to put obedience into Neymar’s poor head. The result was that the coach was sacked and citing Neymar: “I don’t understand. I’ve always been told that I could do anything”. Poor management at club level is the first reason for both Neymar and Hernanes actions.

    On the other hand, I think futsal is one of the reasons why Brazil still produces bundles of talented players. In fact, Spain has adopted futsal as an ideal environment for skill (and fun) development for kids. The last World Cup has shown the results.

    But still, great blog! I am glad that all this behavior problems have emerged now. Mano an Ney Franco, unlike Dunga, are very calm and prudent. The 2012 Olympic Games will pose as a sound test for the 2014 team. And this is clearly Mano’s first target: The Olympic gold.

  • Comment number 25.

    # 13 – I don’t think Dunga was sacked because Brazil lost the World Cup and nor due to his media issues. He knew that many of his key player where injured but he had no plan B. He could have taken other players (e.g, Ronaldinho, Neymar and Ganso) but he refused, because he wanted to stick to his loyal clan. Just to mention a few players, Kleberson, Julio Batista, Felipe Melo, Doni, Robinho and Kaka had all had a disappointing season. But Dunga refused to accept that. Dunga is a bull on the loose.

  • Comment number 26.

    #13- For one thing, Dunga would have left even if he did won the World Cup. And you're deliberately not mentioning that the one that said that only results matter was Dunga, and was Dunga who said that the 1982 team were specialists in losing (never mind the fact that the likes of Zico, Falcão, Cerezo, etc, won much more trophies than him). He was only being judged on his own terms.

  • Comment number 27.

    # 23 – It is too soon to judge Mano. And it is clear to me that Brazil is in transition. Most of 2010 WC players won’t make it to 2014 WC. Mano is just managing the media by calling Andre, Dentinho and others. His eyes are on younger players like Ramires, Hernanes, Neymar, Ganso, the two Lucas (from São Paulo and from Liverpool), Anderson and David Luiz, just to mention a few. I think we can expect many of the u-20 players to show up at the next friendly games. Lets also hope that Robinho keeps improving (and recovers his form) as well as Kaka.

    The interesting point about this blog is that it points to a true Brazilian problem that Mano will have to deal with. The team attitude at the second half against Holland in South Africa can not happen again in 2014.

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim, you make good points, but I don't quite agree that mentality is all Brazil lack at the moment. Also, I'm not sure about the cause and consequence here. Are the players mentally weak and cannot cope with the dispute or they are physically weak (some frail and short) and hence diving is pretty much all they can do against physical sides like France? Besides, all those players play in Europe.

    I'm seeing a pattern here: the same way Dunga's side performed best against top physical sides and pretty much destroyed top weak sides (like Argentina--yes we share the weakness atm), they never performed that well against smaller sides.

    In my opinion, the Brazilian coach must prepare the team to face the big guys. He can, and should, adjust the team to get more agressive against the smaller sides, but he should not worry about them. Brazil should be prepared mentally and tactically to play the likes of France, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Argentina. Duga did that, and Mano is not doing that. Mano's team is not only young, but also very weak, not to mention short. It doesn't matter how talented Neymar is (going to be) if he's not allowed space. Mexes had no trouble with Pato or Robinho. Robinho is one of the few mistakes both coaches share. He should be a sub player because he is too one-dimensional.

    Dunga had another problem, which was his preference for players of a certain (religious) belief which Dunga and Jorginho (Assistent Manager) shared. That alone drastically limited the talent pool available to Dunga and increased his reliance on Kaka.

    I really don't understand what Mano is trying to do. OK, perhaps I do; he is trying to make Brazil play possession football just like Spain. And he will fail! Spain play like that because the players know each other very well and they play together like that all year long (the two players who play in the EPL are subs). Also, to accomodate all those talented midfielders, Spain play with a single forward (not even a striker). Now look at Brazil with the likes of Robinho, Neymar and Pato on the pitch--it cannot work! Against top sides, Brazil will not get enough of the football for those players to shine; it's simple math these days.

    Brazil as a country lacks memory and the same happens to the national team. Have we not learned anything from the "Magic Quartet"? Robinho, Pato, Neymar, and Ganso/Kaka/(AM)... I still count four.

  • Comment number 29.

    Indeed it is early to judge mano, but there was one thing i found very interesting about the france game, while it was 11 against 11.
    In the first half Brazil pressed the ball very well, marking high and forcing france into mistakes not far from their own goal.
    This is not something i traditionally associate with brazil, and it was impressive to see this done after just a couple of traning sessions.
    Last july one of the first things mano talked about was the necessity of learning to play better against defensive opponents - not many will come out and attack brazil in 2014, so this is especially pertinent. It will be interesting to see if this pressing continues to be a characteristic of the new side he is putting together.

  • Comment number 30.


    To what extent do you think there is any appetite in your region for standardising the football calendar globally (ie elite leagues across each territory moving to, say, 16 teams and 30 games per season to give elite players an off-season)?

    Not only might Brazil need a psychologist, they might also need a break from the incessant playing and travelling that could lead to fatigue from European travel, a risk of losing their current/ next stratospheric contract and the desire to play for their national team before 2014 (and that is despite your recent comments around the economy picking up and making the Brazilian sides more attractive - Europe will still lure some). The top guys in the Copa Libertadores and European Champions League need someone to start factoring in some down time for them so they are fresh and want to play in the World Cup, IMO.

    As Arsenal brace themselves this week, (Jack Wilshire even suggesting that they need to be ‘a bit nasty’ towards their opponents - I wonder if Wenger saw that..!), many people are asking if the current Barcelona side is the best club side ever....? My seven year old nephew, who lives in the third most populous settlement in Staffordshire, said recently that he supported Barcelona. Their appeal and reach transcends national leagues and global business territories. Where will all this end, I wonder...?

    As football increasingly presents itself as a hybrid of sport, entertainment and business it is easy to imagine that, in future, there might be one dominant global player in the football sector, like there is in other industries (facebook, social networking; youtube, creative visual media; twitter, briefly famous and Google, search engines and all the other stuff they are beginning to inhabit (though not the state of being evil, of course). The shift towards supporting one dominant football team could easily unfold once we have 100MB connectivity, unbundled broadcasting rights allowing the major clubs to stream their matches live and maybe a new world league comprising the top few teams from each territory (ie European Champions League, the South American Copa Libertadores and a concoction of revenue rich customers from the middle east, India and China).

    But, wait a minute – consider this: as the football heritage has been unpacked over the last twenty years, aren’t we in danger of forgetting about how the fabric of football internationally, nationally and locally is so interwoven? If the mechanism for engaging with football locally is lost then the bigger tournaments will become less meaningful. Already for some, the preferred choice of engagement with football is by watching a live hook-up at 3pm on a Saturday (or whenever their team is scheduled to play). Aside from the legal implication, this does not look like a good model for engaging with football and will lead, ultimately, to a diminution and detachment from the playing/ participative side of football, in my opinion. One feeds the other.

    With that in mind, I think that the whole pyramid from FIFA down to your local FA needs to resynchronise the football calendar to allow everyone a chance. Something like the following might work:

    - start the season in February (Jan winter break)
    - March 2 wk window for international qualifiers/friendlies
    - April 2 wk window for international qualifiers/friendlies
    - June/July summer break (planning & periodisation in July)
    - season recommences in August
    - Sept 2 wk window for international qualifiers/friendlies
    - Oct 2 wk window for international qualifiers/friendlies
    - do not play any internationals outside these times
    - Dec season end
    - Jan break (winter World Cup on the equator then more feasible...?)
    - 16 teams and 30 games for elite leagues globally to facilitate this
    - reducing game time for elite players allows Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Euros, World Cups, etc to be played with less risk of fatigue or injury
    - the result is better international tournaments with motivated players
    - an additional benefit is that some interest and supporter base can be shifted and focussed periodically on teams and leagues further down the structure otherwise they are going to go bust.

    January 2021 World Cup in Qatar, anyone..?

    It is not something that will happen quickly, I know, but I have factored in a decent planning cycle to kick off the debate. These are just initial thoughts and there’s no doubt a football special full of those willing to fight these ideas. But, can't we just make football itself, in all its local forms across each continent our one love – rather than having a love for just one team. I love Barcelona. The way the play the game is wonderful. But I also love Stafford Rangers, Wolves and the England national team as well. I want them all to live long and prosper so that our children and their children can also support teams like them, too.

    Do you?

  • Comment number 31.

    Fascinating stuff Tim.

    I can't wait for the 2014 World Cup!

  • Comment number 32.

    I am utterly disappointed that you chose to write about the selecao instead of the retirement of the greatest striker of all time. Delima Ronaldo..I'm not surprise you have only had 31 comments.

    When Gary Nevile recently hung up his boots, Phil Mcnulty wrote an article about dare you not write an article about the phenomenom? .you have lost the respect I had for you Tim. I did not even bother reading your article and I am sure this would have hurt so many true football fans too..

  • Comment number 33.

    one of the best-written blogs on the net, nice one tim

  • Comment number 34.

    @32 - I believe even a maestro like Tim cannot write an article about something before its even happened. I doubt he's sat in a Rio laboratory plugged into some machine and churns out wonderfully written articles about subjects as they instantly occur around the world. That would make him some type of journalistic savant.

  • Comment number 35.

    @32 Come off it, everyone else is writing about that (see the Daniel Gallas article on this site if you want another Ronaldo eulogy). The reason most of us come back time and again to read what Tim has to say here is that he often comes up with articles that nobody else in the mainstream English language press would even consider writing about, like the rise of Godoy Cruz in Argentina, goings on in the South American Youth Championships or the title race in Peru.

    Yes Ronaldo was a legendary player, it is impossible to deny but if Tim had've written about Ronaldo's retirement I'd've been disappointed as I've already heard hundreds of opinions and memories about the greatest player of his generation since the retirement rumours started up yesterday.

  • Comment number 36.

    32 - I touched on Ronaldo last month before the qualifying round of the Libertadores. You might recall that I wrote that while I made Corinthians favourites, I thought Tolima might be awkward opponents - the Brazilian media on the whole gave them no chance.

    Anyway, the comments section of that piece contained a lively debate on Ronaldo - so let's move on

  • Comment number 37.

    Once upon a time, Brazil used to instill fear by just turning up to a game with their yellow shirts and great players. They knew it and used that feeling of superiority to their advantage.

    However, those great players are all gone now and other teams realise the yellow shirt is no longer an object of fear.

    The problem is, the brazilians still seem to bring that feeling of superiority to matches but that is no longer enough to win games, so they vent their frustrations on the referees.

    It is just a matter of watching a game where Brazil is losing to see how quickly they resort to their nasty side.

    Btw, this is probably the same reason why Dunga was a good coach for them, he had discipline and made the most of a team with no real stars. Trying to resurrect the myth of the Jogo Bonito won't do any good to Brazil as they don't have the players to suit such style.

  • Comment number 38.

    @29 "In the first half Brazil pressed the ball very well, marking high and forcing france into mistakes not far from their own goal.
    This is not something i traditionally associate with brazil"

    Could it be?...Is Brazil turning into a new version of Bielsa's Argentina?

  • Comment number 39.

    Tim, you really should have your own show, the Tim Vickery Programa hahaha

    preferably at ESPN Brazil, I think it would be great and you would enlighten a lot of people

    I have the same views as you about our football, and I also remember that in the 2009 libertadores final I saw you at SPORTV, and you were the only one that gave the estudiantes cruzeiro final a 50/50 chance, while everyone else said "cruzeiro is the better team, hands down"

    these kind of views are more needed on TELEVISION, since the brazilian public are highly influenced by it (I think our hatred towards Argentina is 50% because of Galvao Bueno and Globo haha)

  • Comment number 40.

    Hey Tim,
    I am a bit confused by what you mean when you say , "Knowledge of this black art". What do you mean by black art?
    martial arts supplies

  • Comment number 41.

    @ 35 and 36 The BBC article by Daniel Gallas was in fact a disgraceful piece. The context of the article highlighted Ronaldo's low more than anything else, We are talking about a legend who played for Barca, Real Madrid, Inter and Ac Milan scoring a minimum of a goal every two matches, a player who has scored more world cups than the legendary Pele himself. The article did not mention that Ronaldo was diagnosed for hypothyroidism four years ago, neither did he mention about the series of lengthy injuries that blighted his career. Daniel Gallas just kept reiterating the fact that Corienthians fans were throwing stones at the team bus, making Ronaldo the culprit e.t.c. I bet if it was some English Primadona like Rooney or John terry, the BBC will of course heap praises on them and polish their average career.. See Gary Nevile. Watch out the space when Giggs or Scholes hang up their boots....Bias! Bias! Bias! is written all over this, it makes me sick and this is coming from an English.

  • Comment number 42.

    Tim, thanks for bringing up the diving and leg breaking issue. Here in England looks like if your leg is not broken, then you dived. If it is broken, then you were on the wrong end of a mistimed tackle. Well, life is not as simple as that. Leg breaks could resulted from perfect timing (as Zizinho says). I have seen it happen in the EPL. And not all dives are created equal, or should I say not all divers are created equal either. Depends on where you come from and which team you play for..

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 36. At 01:41am on 15 Feb 2011, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:

    Possibly Tim, you should go with the people who make a blog what it is: the people who subscribe.

    They see this as a forum to discuss issues pertinent to South American football. What bigger topic than the retirement of possibly the greatest player of a generation and maybe all time. People love to discuss Ronaldo, it is very arrogant to suggest that people shouldn't on your blog

  • Comment number 44.

    French TV is reporting Ronaldo is retiring due to illness, but I can't find any mention of it on the report. Can you englighten us?

  • Comment number 45.

    A playmaker’s paradise. Nice. So painful to learn the extent of the diving in Brazilian football. Europe is bad enough so I don’t really want to imagine more of a circus.

    Hernanes has done some real damage there. Even in a 4-2-3-1 there are players like Kaka, Ganso, Nilmar, Neymar, and Luis Fabiano to consider who didn't play against France.

    Will Menezes give him several more chances as he rotates for a while or does he operate in a different way?

  • Comment number 46.

    mohtechnix - as someone has pointed out, but you ignored, this blog was written before Ronaldo had announced his retirement, so whilst there was mention of it being a probability, it would look a bit silly writing about something that hasn't happened yet. As for the bias, if you had bothered to read the various articles on Ronaldo there is one, the first one written and the main one on the site, that eulogises Ronaldo and praises his career. The second article that you focus on was written to discuss how the end of Ronaldo's career was an anti-climax as he wasn't able to deliver the CL to Corinthians. It is also lamenting the fact the fans in Brazil turned on Ronaldo so quickly and blamed him for all their ills. I believe if you properly read the article you will see it is written in support of Ronaldo and his talent and saying that he deserved a better farewell.

    In regards to the blog with diving becoming so prevalent in the Brazilian game will referees be warned about it in the upcoming W.C., or will they ignore it as it is in Brazil? Could this lead to potential security problems for referees? If the Brazilians have this 'them and us' mentality could we see referees lives at risk? People are talking about Qatar in 2021 but should we be worried about the many potential security risks that face officials in Brazil?

  • Comment number 47.

    Hey Tim interesting article. I do have a quick question in regard to the Brazil team. May even apply to discipline. Like you mentioned Robinho pulling the referees shirt. Do you think maybe Mano should consider changing the captain. Someone maybe more level headed and well rounded. I'm not really sure how the players are with each other... also depends who's going to make 2014.

    Players who could be considered and would probably play a better leadership role in that team. Options I could go with are Alves, Lucas Leiva, Cesar or David Luiz.

    Lucas Leiva could be a good option - especially since he's more or less guaranteed a place in that line up. Not sure how he's viewed by the other players but he's captained Gremio at 20, even Brazil U20's, and most recently even captained Liverpool for a Europa League game.

    What's your opinion on that matter?

  • Comment number 48.

    @18: so you made the SAME mistake as the Peruvian TV!!!

    Dont know if you notice it Tim, but when Lucas (which is a mulatto player) scored his first goal, the peruvian TV showed a photo of a blonde blue eyed Lucas... Lucas Leiva!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    it's sad but true what you say Tim, Brazilian wingers constantly seek to go sprawling on the slightest touch, when staying up would make it more entertaining and in fact give them a better chance of scoring. Regarding the mental side of things Brazil are like the Aussies at cricket or a pack of hyenas, you have to give them a good whack and they slink off but if you let them come at you they are all over you and in for the kill. One knock and they go groggy, I've seen it countless times, Cruzeiro in the 2009 Libertadores final, Brasil against Holland in the WC, and Brazil against Argentina in the recent youth tournament. Probably a good thing though, it's just as well they have a weakness, otherwise they'd win everything and that would be boring.

  • Comment number 50.

    pele debuto con un pibe

  • Comment number 51.

    I never thought I'd read the words "team captain Robinho." Have I mixed him up with another player of the same name or has he suddenly developed the character to be a leader of men?

  • Comment number 52.

    # 51 – Quite often we have Robinho as team captain while you have/had John Terry. What great display of character (or lack of it)

  • Comment number 53.

    Hey Tim,

    The Milan - Tottenham clash (0 – 1) has ended half hour ago. And I think it deserves a few comments at this blog:

    This blog suites perfectly to Flamini and Gattuso. A criminal behavior of two internationals. It indicates that behavior problems are not an issue just for Brazilians. It is a latin players problems (in South America and Europe);

    Amazing performance by Gomes and Sandro. Simply amazing. Count them in at seleção.

    Tim, your blog should have mentioned the referees’ role. Howard Web, the Milan-Tottenham referee and many – so called – world class referees are absolutely unfit for the challenges of world and European competitions.

    Any comments?

  • Comment number 54.

    Regardless of the ability to see into the future (or not, as the case may be), thank you for NOT writing another piece on Ronaldo's retirement.

    Would be interested to read reactions to comment 51 (Robinho holding the captaincy) from those better educated on South American soccer than I. Is it possible that a lack of leadership on the field is contributing to this tendency for the Brazilians to lose their heads when they're up against it?

  • Comment number 55.

    #52 When was John Terry captain of Wales? (yes, I'm not English!)

    If Robinho's period at Manchester City and Real Madrid are anything to go by he would not appear to be the kind of captain that sets an example for others to follow. That said, since the next world cup is in Brazil his notorious lack of interest in away matches (despite being on the pitch) will not be so much of a problem.

  • Comment number 56.

    37. Bladeruuner,

    Please stop repeating the old recycled claptrap about "myth of Jog Bonito" nonsense. Your article seems to be more based on repateating on they myths rather than what Brazil Dunga fans want. Firts of all, Brazilian Losing their

    "Once upon a time, Brazil used to instill fear by just turning up to a game with their yellow shirts and great players. They knew it and used that feeling of superiority to their advantage."

    There you go creating myth and then making argument based on myth to create another myth. Teams like Brazil, Italy, Germany play with same attitude, and their opponents in much the mindset of that of their preprocessors. Smaller team will always by in awe and other teams respectful but not fearful and wanting to prove a point. Once the ball is kicked player play their games. No Brazilian player looks at his shirt and thinks oooh I am wearing yellow shirt so opponents will be fearful,

    "The problem is, the brazilians still seem to bring that feeling of superiority to matches but that is no longer enough to win games, so they vent their frustrations on the referees."

    Dude, Brazil has lost one or two competition matches in last 4 so years.
    They have been regularly smashing teams like Argentina and Italy. So you are wrong, whether Brazilians or not they bring feeling of superiority to matches, it seems to be enough!

    "It is just a matter of watching a game where Brazil is losing to see how quickly they resort to their nasty side."

    Heh? Not defending Brazil's lackluster performance against France or Holland, but please check Brazil record before making sweeping statements. Brazil is criticized because expectations are high! They are not turning into team of hackers! Go look and see how many times Brazil have come back from losing position and stormed back to win. Have you watched any other Brazil matches beside that against Holland and France?

    "Btw, this is probably the same reason why Dunga was a good coach for them, he had discipline and made the most of a team with no real stars. "

    No stars? Kaka, Alvez ...

    "Trying to resurrect the myth of the Jogo Bonito won't do any good to Brazil as they don't have the players to suit such style."

    Stop parroting the same nonsense. Just because some people thought Dunga's style heavy on tactic, little too defensive, and not enough flair player, that does not make them dreamer! Creativity of like Ronoldihnu
    can make a difference against a team that is well disciplined and is not likely to make mistakes.

    Sorry about the harsh reply, but it is getting boring when each time fans or pundits want to see more creative player and style, you get the "Know it All" with accusing that these folks are dreamers and and caught up with "myth of Jog Bonito".

  • Comment number 57.

    #54, Robinho as a starter is a questionable choice. Robinho as captain is an insulting choice.

    Robinho is a 27 year-old player who is treated like a youngster by the (Brazilian) fans and media. Dunno if because of his little kid looks or his technique-and-nothing-else approach to playing football, but regardless he's consistently one of the weakest links in the Brazilian squad.

  • Comment number 58.


    If Robinho's period at Manchester City and Real Madrid are anything to go by he would

    The answer is no you don't go by what Robinhu did at AMn City or where ever. Robinhu has always played well and with lot of heart whenever he puts on national teams shirt. Many PL fans would like to think Robinhu's viewed the same way by Brazilians. But it is not the case. Robinhu was player of the Copa America outscoring Messi and was voted tournaments best player. He is one of the few big name European based players who will show up for national team duty where it may take him.

  • Comment number 59.

    #58, Robinho was the goal scorer and best player in all easy games of the last Copa America, especially Chile. Against Uruguay for the semis and Argentina in the final, he had no goal or assist. That has been his trademark: great player for easy games and vanishes in the big ones.

    Actually, he's not different when playing for club. Where was Robinho yesterday against Tottenham? He just can't cope with tight marking.

  • Comment number 60.

    Don't think diving is a purely Brazilian thing Tim, but that haranguing of the ref by Robinho against France doesn't sound dissimilar to what we saw from Robinho's AC Milan at the San Siro yesterday. I also saw Man City's game against Aris Thessaloniki, for who a few Brazilians play, and they would have beaten Brian Phelps to the gold medal as the most shocking, Spanish, ref I've had to endure in a while was giving them very high marks for technical merit.

    Or is it me that needs to re-evaluate the rule book? I was shocked to recently read on the BBC a Blackpool player saying that when the WC Final ref, Howard Webb, visited the club, he told them to dive if they expected to get the free kick. I've heard a German ref say that it's still a foul when a player slides in and wins the ball, if his follow through takes out his opponent. And as someone's pointed out above, attacking teams sometimes simulate to highlight foul play by defenders, a lot of which goes unpunished and doesn't get highlighted, especially in the penalty area. Roberto Mancini was complaining about a penalty awarded against City the other week, saying that if a penalty was awarded for every similar offence, then there would be umpteen penalties every game and something along the lines of we would be watching 5 a side on a full size pitch. So be it in my opinion, but one person's frustration is another's entertainment. As far as I'm aware, there is only one rule book, but from country to country, refs are arguably bending the rules to accommodate prevailing styles of play, including underhand tactics.

    Do Brazilians enjoy watching players dive for free kicks rather than trying to score from open play? What's the conversion rate as opposed to playing on? It sounds like Brazil's progress in 2014 might depend on what gimick FIFA decide to pluck from the rule book and champion rather than how well the host nation are playing, and if they get the guy who refereed in Milan last night rather than in Thessaloniki, they're really going to be b*ggered.

  • Comment number 61.

    #60 do all Brazilian footballers dive or just the ones who must? How likely is Robinho to remain on his feet after a nasty tackle/bump? Assuming the tackle/bump connects.

    Ronaldo (#9), Romario, Edmundo, were strong FW who weren't divers. Kaka, Felipe Melo, Julio Baptista, Lucas(lpool), Anderson (united), and Hulk do not dive. Robinho, Neymar, and Diego do.
    There is certainly a link between diving and lightweight players, rather than weak mentality. It could very well be both, but I still think the physical aspect is the determinant factor.

  • Comment number 62.

    #61, robguim, that's a good point, but I wonder how many goals are scored from resultant free kicks. Is it an advantage for Brazil to get the free kick rather than play on? It reminds me of the English rugby team in the 80s where a lot of the points came from penalties, and tries were few and far between. Not very good to watch.

  • Comment number 63.

    #62, nor overly successful.

  • Comment number 64.

    How soon before Shakhtar's Douglas Costa joins his teammate Jadson in getting a call up from Mano Menezes? Very impressive work from him in Shakhtar's win at Roma. Brazil's U23 team sure will look good with Douglas Costa, Ganso and Neymar attacking behind a center forward.

    And what of Cruzeiro's crushing 5-0 win in Libertadores group play over Estudiantes? I have never seen Estudiantes, since Veron returned there in 2006, beaten so comprehensively. Cruzeiro suffocated them with pressure and hit them quickly with plenty of speed and skill. Most notably from Walter Montillo, the ex San Lorenzo and U. de Chile, attacking midfielder who played almost as a withdrawn forward in this game. He only played slightly more than half of last season's Brasilian league with Cruzeiro, arriving after the World Cup break from U. de Chile, but he was just as good, if not better, in that time there than Dario Conca was at Fluminense. Montillo also is a bigger, stronger player than Conca, personally I would not mind Sergio Batista giving him a look as an attacking midfielder for Argentina.

    Soccer Futbol Forum

  • Comment number 65.

    I really worry for Brazil in 2014. If they don't win it, somebody (players, coaching staff, fans etc) will get seriously hurt or even killed. The players need to block out the "everyone against us" mentality and focus on the game at hand. If they are losing in a match, they should focus their attention on retaking the lead and winning instead of losing their heads

  • Comment number 66.

    # 65 - This week's blog makes all the sense since Brazil will present a new team at 2014. So many who played the u-20 south american championship are expected to be at that team. Therefore Mano Menezes will be forced to work on players' nerves. But it is RIDICULOUS to think that someone will die if Brazil loses the WC. Dunga and Ricardo Teixeira (Brazilian Football Federation president) are greatly hated in Brazil. Their homes and families can be easily accessed. But nothing was done to them.

    It is even funny to read that Brazilian players need to block out the "everyone against us" mentality. I guess you got confused about the country. What you said would apply perfectly to the present English team. That is what has happened to John Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, and Rooney, hasn’t it? But what are the prospects of substituting these four. That is not the case for Brazil.

    This month has indicated that Tim Vickery has plenty of subjects/players to write about. There are lots of promising young players to write about. For instance, did you see Douglas Costa’s goal for Shaktar at the Champions League?

  • Comment number 67.

    Brazil has no monopoly on bunker mentalities. They seem to be on the rise everywhere, and not just in sports.

    Very interesting to read Brazilian football is more foul-happy. I wonder if it's some kind of western hemisphere disease. American basketball is ruined, to my taste, by the endless procession of fouls, and football has too many. It's linked, I think significantly, to an obsession with the clock, which measures very publicly, in tenths of seconds, and is stopped precisely at various points for many reasons. Again to my taste, the MO for football may have gone too far the other way. The ref calls extra time, rounded to the minute, then often enough diverges wildly from that, and calls the game when he feels like it? That's a little much for me.

    But the larger point, I think, is that obsession with the regulation of a game feeds itself, and has to be kept in check. The most refreshing thing about football is that teams actually play the game for long periods uninterrupted. It's so much better than endless processions to the free throw line, followed by time outs, and more time wasting. People should accept that fairness is an unreachable goal, and concentrate on maintaining a free-flowing game. I will say one thing football needs is referees who call fouls/cards within a second of their occurrence; in other words, based on the action, not based on the outcome. It's because they wait that the players roll around hoping to influence them.

  • Comment number 68.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 69.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 70.

    thanks u r such a good writer.why dont u post 2 times in a week

  • Comment number 71.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 72.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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