Wednesday, 23 July 2014

No order, no progress: Dunga reappointment shows Brazil have failed to learn from mistakes

The Brazilian national flag is unique in including, in text, two ideals the country purports to uphold. One is order, the other progress.

A whistle-stop tour through the history books – colonisation, slavery, corruption – reveals that, at various points in this country's short, fraught history, one or other of the two has not always been perfectly preserved.

Sport, of course, has a funny way of echoing or mirroring society at large, and so Brazil's football history has been peppered with its fair share of ignominy in between the dizzying highs. At times there has been order; at others progress; but rarely have the two gone hand-in-hand.

Read this piece on the return of Dunga to the Brazil national team on the Yahoo! Eurosport site.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Luiz Felipe Scolari must go, but Brazil's issues run deeper

If the World Cup final is the game no one wants to lose, the third-place play-off is normally the game no one wants to play.

On this occasion, though, one of the coaches might just have been glad of the opportunity. Having seen his Brazil side eviscerated by Germany earlier in the week, Luiz Felipe Scolari was likely eyeing a consolatory victory over the Netherlands on Saturday night.

Like being handed a Twix after a tornado, it would not have provided too much comfort to most. Brazil fans were left stunned by the Mineiraço, the days since blurring together in a state of disbelief. But for Scolari, the old war horse, it was a chance to shift the landscape, even if just a touch.

He had spent the days since the Germany game speaking of a mental “blackout” on the pitch – a six-minute spell during which he “could have done nothing” to prevent the Seleção conceding four times. While he explicitly assumed responsibility for the loss, there was a hint of buck-passing here: if not onto the players then at least onto some higher power who had seen fit to curse his side in this manner. Such ideas hold some sway in superstitious, God-fearing Brazil.

Read the rest of my final Yahoo! Eurosport blog from Rio de Janeiro here.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Five players Brazil should have selected for the World Cup

They say that while success has many fathers, failure is always an orphan. That, though, is categorically not the case for this Brazilian World Cup campaign, at least in the eyes of the local media, who have spent the days since the earth-shattering defeat to Germany pointing the finger at anyone with even a passing connection to the squad.

The first victim of the guillotine, of course, is likely to be coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Tactically, he got it all wrong against Germany. Instead of following his scouts' advice and bolstering his midfield, he elected for the nippy, playground flair of Bernard on the flank. The 21-year-old never looked like he was making an impression, while Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho were outnumbered and overwhelmed in the centre of the park.

But perhaps Scolari's biggest errors came in his squad selection. Both he and Neymar have insisted in recent days that anyone would have picked the same 23, but that does not ring true. One look at the squad reveals players (Henrique, Maxwell, Jô) who could and should have been left out in favour of other, more dynamic options.

Read the rest of this piece on the ESPN FC site.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Who should stay and who should go from the current squad as Brazil look to the future?

Brazilians might just about be recovering their breath after the shock and awe of Tuesday night's Mineiraço, but the inquest is just getting started. The Seleção's worst ever World Cup defeat has sparked understandable soul-searching in Brazil, with fans and journalists alike trying to make sense of the savage 7-1 loss to Germany.

Much of the ire thus far has been directed at coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who, despite remaining tight-lipped over his future in the wake of the game, will surely vacate the building after this most galling of failures. "Go to hell, Felipão," read one front page on Wednesday. It captured the nation's mood.

But while debates over the structural changes that must be made to get Brazilian football back on track will rage for months and years, there is a more pressing question at hand: Which members of the current squad deserve to be preserved for next year's Copa América – and thinking further ahead, the 2018 World Cup?

Read my player-by-player assessment on the ESPN FC Brazil blog.

What now for Brazil? Humbling at the Mineirão must spark changes

If there was ever a result to shake a nation to its core, this was it.

Brazil did not expect this. Even if Neymar's injury had lowered expectations a touch ahead of the semi-final against Germany, nothing could have prepared the home fans for what happened on Tuesday night.

It was their biggest home game in 64 years; the pressure was at fever pitch. They knew Germany would be a tough side to beat, especially without their captain and best player. But still. 7-1?

The question, once the dust has settled, will be this: "What now for Brazil?"

Read the rest of this post on the MirrorFootball site.

Dante's inferno: Without Thiago Silva, Brazil's defence crumbles to dust

When Neymar was stretchered off the field in the dying moments of Brazil's quarter-final victory over Colombia on Friday, Brazil fans feared the worst. Confirmation came from the hospital soon after: the forward had fractured a vertebra and would miss the rest of the World Cup.

Immediately, the speculation began over how Luiz Felipe Scolari would set his side up to counteract the absence of its talisman and top scorer against Germany. Pick an extra central midfielder and hope for a goal from a set piece? Start Willian wide and give Oscar a more central role? No one could replace Neymar's star quality, of course, but there were decisions to be made, plans to be foiled.

Yet amid all the bluster, it was almost forgotten that Brazil would be missing another key player in the semifinal. And in the event, Thiago Silva, suspended after picking up a silly booking against Colombia, would prove the more telling loss.

Read the rest of this piece, on Brazil's defensive implosion, on the ESPN FC blog.

Living room scene: How (some) Brazilians watched their team get destroyed by Germany

Volume up, lights down. A fairly typical family in Rio de Janeiro state settles down to watch the game.

The scene is being repeated all over the country: it is 4pm but when Brazil play 200 million people down tools and head home or to a bar. They even declare a half-day public holiday to make it official.

The game is on almost every channel. Of course it is: this is the biggest game in Brazil since 1950. We opt for Globo, not because its coverage is the best (it's definitely, definitely not) or because, on such occasions, when history is to be made one way or the other, it feels appropriate to do what everyone else is doing. The power of shared experience, or something.

Read the rest of this piece on the Yahoo! Eurosport site.
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