Posts filed under ‘Brazil’

One last look back at what ifs for Dunga

Only two days remain before Dunga’s call-up and though I love to pick my own teams as much as any Brazilian, I always settle on a pragmatic approach ahead of the cup. I’m not one to lobby for surprise inclusions or to drop X or Y player in favor of the flavor of the month. Before I retire my wishes though and focus on Dunga’s 23 and how they’ll look in the World Cup, let me share with you some of the more interesting what ifs I’ve gone over in my mind.

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Continue Reading May 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

Pra Frentre Brasil!

As Dunga’s tenure began and he demonstrated the same trouble in breaking down defensive opponents that I and other fans have suffered through for over a decade, I criticized and hoped he’d find versatility in midfield. I do not want two purely defensive midfielders and two purely offensive midfielders. Though Dunga’s team has still found trouble in qualifiers against defensive sides, he has evolved a system that while nominally a 4-4-2 is much more dedicated to a versatile midfield than it is to a box midfield.

Click continue reading for more on Dunga’s system including some links to great analysis by zonalmarking.net

Continue Reading May 3, 2010 at 8:59 am Leave a comment

Predicting Brazil’s call-up

Dunga has said he will call up his 23 on May 11th, even though he is only required to submit a preliminary list of 30 players.  Here’s a late-night write-up that should help you pick the squad yourself and impress your friends!

The starting line-up:

Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Ramires, Kaka; Luis Fabiano, Robinho

You’ll notice that’s 10 players, which leads to the next category.

Left-back du jour: pick two from Michel Bastos, Filipe Luis, Andre Santos.  If Filipe Luis does not come back strong from injury, that makes the choice easy.  Chances are Michel Bastos is first choice regardless.  We’re now at twelve.

Locks that will sit: Daniel Alves, Luisao, Elano, Nilmar.  That makes sixteen, with keepers naturally next but instead, let me add an intermediate category:

If they started for their clubs they’d be locks but they don’t so if they’re called up people will say “WTF, those guys ride the pine every week for Roma, how did they make the Brazil team?”:  Doni, Julio Baptista.  If these two make it, that’s eighteen and while it would surprise outside observers, I doubt it would surprise most who follow Brazil closely.

We now need five more, possibly six or seven if the Roma pine isn’t good enough for Dunga anymore.  The third keeper could be any of Victor, Diego, Helton or Gomes.  If Doni doesn’t make it (cross your fingers!) pick two, if he does, pick one.

We now need to figure out the fourth defender.  Thiago Silva and Miranda are the choices.  Flip a coin.  Bias it to Thiago Silva if you can.  Time then to fill out the midfield, let’s do it the Brazilian way – call the defensive ones “volantes” and the offensive-ish ones “meias”.  Volantes will probably include Josué and maybe one more.  Meias will include Julio Baptista or Ronaldinho Gaucho.  Let’s call it twenty-one at this point, say JB is in and RG is not.  Who’s the last forward?  The answer is Adriano with the caveat that he’s shot himself in the foot so often that what should’ve been a lock is very uncertain now.

So let’s say we have a final 22 and I honestly can’t figure out the 8th midfielder:

Julio Cesar, Doni, Gomes; Daniel Alves, Maicon; Juan, Lucio, Luisao, Thiago Silva; Michel Bastos, Andre Santos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Josue; Kaka, Elano, Ramires, Julio Baptista; Luis Fabiano, Nilmar,  Robinho, Adriano

Let’s call these probables and set the next two levels to outsiders and long-shots (although one of those will have to make the final 23).

Keepers: Helton, Victor, Diego

Central Defender: Miranda (long-shot: Cris)

Left Back: Filipe Luis

Mids: Mineiro, Lucas, Ronaldinho, Kleberson, Carlos Eduardo (longshots: Sandro, Fabio Simplicio, Alex, Ganso, Tardelli, Diego Souza)

Forwards: Hulk, Grafite (long-shots: Pato, Neymar)

As ever, the longer the list becomes the more speculative it gets.  Some of these are just guys who got call-ups in 2009 and limited playing time.  Neymar and Ganso would be big surprises and while Dunga has said there won’t be any surprises some journalists speculate they may nonetheless make the squad (I won’t go into the rationalizations they use here).  The more you look at the list of probables the harder it is to see a long-shot sneaking in.  Dunga has done his homework and he’s not likely to change things at the last minute.

April 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

I found some jogo bonito

How would you characterize the following play? Brazil’s number 10, alone amid several green shirts, finds the center-forward with his back to goal. The center-forward meets the pass and one-touches it back, the number 10 drifts left as he receives it and defenders close in, the left-winger drifts in to fill the open space in the middle. A smart back-heel pass into the wingers path leaves him facing the goal, he releases quickly to the center-forward, runs into the box, gets a back-heel pass right into his path again and, where minutes ago 3 yellow shirts were outnumbered and unmoving, now the winger sits alone facing the keeper and side-foots home an easy goal.

Would you call it beautiful?

Continue Reading April 24, 2010 at 4:48 am Leave a comment

Learning what Brazil is all about

Talk of Brazil, both in Brazilian and foreign media, suffers from so many cliché’s and stereotypes that I want to start from my perspective. A perspective at once grounded in reality but discovered by the hopeful child. Hopefully I can set aside platitudes and connect to what it means, through my eyes, to watch Brazil.

Continue Reading April 20, 2010 at 8:05 am Leave a comment

The CONMEBOL Rollercoaster

CONMEBOL switched to a single-table qualifying system after the 1994 World Cup and has retained the format since.  With the World Cup winner no longer being granted automatic qualification we will always see a 10 team, 18-game qualifier.  The last two editions have kicked off in the year immediately following the World Cup, resulting in a 3-year marathon wrapped around a Copa America.

I like the format.  For one I like single-table formats – I think they work best for determining the best team.  I also like it because throughout the 90s and even today South American teams struggle to get together for qualifiers and friendlies due to the travel required.  Spreading the games out over three years eases the problems associated with calling up players based in Europe.  Finally, it helps give each and every team a better chance to develop depth than they would have in a short tournament a year ahead of the Cup.

I don’t like every single thing about it of course, but I prefer it to the constantly changing mini-tournaments of the past.  If CONMEBOL can settle on a 4-year interval for Copa America I’ll like it even better.

This qualifying cycle began with Brazil’s coach as stand-out storyline.  Dunga replaced Parreira despite having never coached a professional team before.  Some would predict a repeat of 2002 – during qualifying Brazil lost 6 games and ended in third all of 13 points behind Argentina.  Late in the process Scolari was hired; he went on to win World Cup 2002.  I certainly feared, yet at the same time hoped, this might happen again.  These days there is little talk of a miraculous recovery because it turns out none is needed.  Though heavily criticized at times for his style, Dunga has Brazil on top of the table with four games to go.

At times Brazil was as low as fourth, but unlike the 2002 cycle noone is running away with this one.  The difference between the top four has been and remains tiny.  The difference between the first and fifth place team only recently expanded to more than two games.  No team has clinched yet.  Argentina, as expected, have led at times but they now sit 5 points back of first and only 2 points out of the playoff spot (and a further 2 away from sixth place).  Their coach?  Since 2008 it has been Maradona, just as inexperienced a coach as Dunga and certainly more controversial.

I expect Argentina will qualify, along with Brazil.  Paraguay, unsurprisingly consistent for those who follow CONMEBOL, will also make it through.  I’ll add that I expect Chile to qualify as they have an easy (overall) last four matches while Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador all face each other and will be fighting for their playoff lives.  Of those three, Ecuador has the easiest final game and it may be against a qualified, uninterested Chile.

Let me reiterate that I expect Argentina to qualify, however, if Brazil were to win in Argentina in the next round expect a panic of historic proportions as Argentina still have to face Paraguay away and Uruguay away and would desperately need points from those matches to keep them safe from last minute elimination.

I’ll end with a little more focus on Brazil.  We’ve learned that Dunga is a limited coach, but one who has improved.  whether he can win the World Cup depends on how much he has learned on two fronts: handling stifling defense and motivating his stars for certain games.  Handling open teams has not been a problem, nor has motivating his team for big rivalries.  Brazil will likely win the qualifiers and go on to the World Cup having won every competition they entered since their 2006 WC exit.  To win the World Cup after such a successful stretch is yet another challenge.

July 10, 2009 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

A brief content preview

Tonight I’ll post a brief, personal, CONMEBOL round up.  This weekend a CONCACAF round-up and next week posts for Europe and the remaining regions.  Once all those are up I’ll get in a post dedicated to Brazil’s current team and players and go a little more in depth into the Brazil subjects hinted at in the CONMEBOL post.

Come August and USA x Mexico I’ll be able to tackle individual games more closely and I’ll do so for the USA and Brazil as often as possible while still looking at the overall picture.

July 10, 2009 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

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