Brian Homewood of Reuters put it best when he described Argentina’s 3-0 win over Brazil at the Olympics yesterday:
“Argentina’s crushing 3-0 win over Brazil in their Olympic Games semi-final was another demonstration of how the two great football rivals have swapped roles in the last few years. Argentina, often associated with pragmatic defence and gamesmanship, have adopted a stylish, passing game while Brazil have exchanged their previous flamboyance for brute force and counter-attacks.”
Dunga won’t be the first former great to fail at management but it has been difficult to watch Brazil play since he took over. The high point of his managerial reign was the Copa America triumph in 2007, but that was achieved thanks to Robinho carrying the team in Venezuela and then by picking off Argentina in the final – hardly what we have come to expect from the five time World Cup winners.
Brazil were second best in the game yesterday and what was most concerning was their lack of attacking intent. This Argentina side contains some great players but Brazil barely even tested their defence until they were 2-0 down. Dunga’s tactics were summed up by leaving Alexandre Pato and Thiago Neves on the bench.
Dunga publicly criticised Pato before the semi-final, surely a questionable move considering Pato’s age but dropping Neves made no sense at all. The Fluminense attacking midfielder has been in the form of his life, notably scoring a hat-trick in the Copa Libertadores final. He will surely be on his way to a major European league in the coming months and he could have provided Brazil with some attacking dynamism, skill and flair of their own.
Luckily for the man nicknamed “Dopey,” the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia are just weeks away and they will be the true test of whether he will stay in a job. Brazil are currently fifth in the World Cup qualification standings in South America and it would be no surprise if they lost in Chile, although they should comfortably see off struggling Bolivia at home.
Perhaps Dunga has been shaped by the fact he was captain of the 1994 World Cup winning team, arguably the worst team to watch of all the successful Brazilian teams. And of course the fact that he was the ball-winner in the team.
Brazil should be playing the right way and Dunga had enough silky players at the Olympics to make this happen. Some may call it a romantic way of viewing the game, but currently the two most likely teams to win the World Cup in 2010 are Spain and Argentina.
Stylish football is firmly in fashion, how sad that Brazil aren’t leading the way.