I take back every bad thing I have ever said about Dunga…well, maybe not everything.
But, you know what I mean.
His second spell in charge of the Selecao has been tremendously successful. Brazil have displayed ease and efficacy, winning all 7 matches since Dunga took over, following that limp 3-0 defeat against the Dutch at the World Cup.
And my new favourite player is Willian (above). Such speed, such slick passing. He was deadly against France!
And, beautifully, China-based Diego Tardelli wasn’t featured as Brazil’s sole striker. Instead, Dunga used Firmino as a false number 9 – a bold, relatively new tactical move. Gladly, it paid off.
Brazil still lack proper attacking power, but the mid-field issues have been addressed, and the team now looks like an actual team: cohesive, and muscularly together.
And boy, does it ever feel good to beat arch-rivals France. Brazil have now scored 6 goals in the last two meetings against the French, winning both matches, naturally.
Viva Dunga! Screw it: Brazil’s best manager since Tele Santana! Woo-hoo!
I can’t even write about it. I can’t even.
I can’t even bring myself to properly lament the loss of Diego Costa, who’s currently killing it (as the kids say) at Chelsea, having turned down his right to wear the amarelinha shirt, choosing Spanish citizenship instead.
Dunga has, historically, called up players whom he feels comfortable taming, who are agreeable and willing to work hard. Dunga has no time for individual talent. Never has, and never will.
And that’s why Brazil’s starter striker is Diego Tardelli. Of China. A nice chap.
Brazil Vs France on Thursday 26th. Followed by Brazil Vs Chile on Sunday 29th.
Well well, Dunga’s 5th consecutive win, and 5th straight clean-sheet in charge of Brazil.
Impressive, one might say.
And with a squad that plays like a well-oiled machine, smoothly and attractively – and full of confidence. A total reversal of the anxiety-driven football we saw at the World Cup.
It seems that, indeed, Dunga did learn a few things during his 4 years of exile from football – the necessary break between his two spells in charge of the Selecao. The cranky commander went from being the symbol of pragmatism to becoming the emblematic figure of a more solid, cohesive team. And the key word here truly is team.
Brazil hadn’t played like a team in ages. They had forgotten how. It’s quite surprising that Dunga, a famous contrarian and proponent of “futebol de resultados”, is the sargent in charge of this effectively attractive revolution that is bringing back the vintage Brazilian way of playing. And I don’t mean that purely in a nostalgic way: Dunga is bringing back the vintage effectively – not just for show. He is winning matches by playing properly slick football…who would have thought?!
Let’s hope it sticks.
But, for now: not bad.
Not bad at all, Mr Dunga.
Ok, Dunga. You are back, you are dressed in a proper suit, you are smiling, and you crowned Neymar as your Captain after having refused to take him to South Africa in 2010.
Ok, I get it. You have changed.
And so has Brazil, it seems. Well done on the convincing victory over Colombia.
But it was still classic, vintage you, no? A defensively compact team, strong on the counter-attacks, tight in the mid-field, lacking true creative power up front, and scoring the winner from a set-piece…
Ok. Well, at least Brazil are winning again.
You have my attention. For now.
Let’s see what you can build on this.
Oh, I saw that you called up Robinho. Please don’t do that again.
And don’t even think of calling up Felipe Melo…
Dunga, Brazil’s 1994 grumpy Captain turned 2010 grumpy manager, is set to return to coach the Selecao and lead the 5-time World Champions to Russia 2018.
This absolutely conservative, borderline suicidal move by the Brazilian FA (CBF) only reflects how Brazilian football, and Brazilian society, are managed: development and improvements are marked by spectacular regression.
The path towards 2018 will look a lot like the frustratingly pragmatic path towards 2010.
So much for the “footballing revolution” that was promised following Brazil’s apocalyptic 1-7 defeat against the Germans at the 2014 World Cup semi-final.
Ironically, Dunga was appointed manager in 2006 because the Brazilian FA were looking for an inspirational Klinsmann-like figure. The whole of Brazil had been seduced by the many images of the superbly slick duo of managers Klinsmann and Low, dressed in well-fitted, white shirts, enthusiastically celebrating every German goal at the 2006 World Cup.
Carlos Parreira, Brazil’s manager at the time, was seen as a bit of a dry figure, a tad sad-faced and bureaucratic by nature. The cry was desperate, and the cry was for joy and passion to be infused back into the Brazilian squad after they were eliminated by France in the 2006 quarter-final.
So Dunga was brought in, without any coaching experience whatsoever.
To be fair, he did display passion and enthusiasm – and plenty of it – screaming his head off by the sidelines as though he had been scoring goals himself. And he was, in fact, rather successful in charge of Brazil: qualifying the team for 2010 at the top of the South American table, taking Brazil back to the no. 1 position in the FIFA rankings, and winning both the 2007 Copa America and the 2009 Confederations Cup.
But Dunga was never a good casting director. His favourite players were controversial names – Melo, Grafite, Josue and Elano were far from world class – and his temper and relationship with the public and the media were absolutely atrocious. Cranky, downright rude and just plain unpleasant, Dunga designed a Brazilian squad that was effective, defensively organized and highly physical, but also joyless, cold and distant from the warmth of the fans.
I have nothing but respect for Dunga’s ability to manage a team; he understands how football works and has highly competent organizational skills. However, he is not what the Selecao need, which is respect, hope and sincere fan support – and, above all: change.
But change is not really what the Brazilian FA is all about. Change means letting go of power; it means surrendering control.
Notoriously corrupt and Jurassic in mentality, the Brazilian FA will always choose to keep it in the family.
Dunga’s second spell in charge will create divisions, controversies and general doubt. He’ll select footballers that he needs, or thinks he needs, but not the ones that deserve to be there by virtue of their talent. He will create a team based on muscularity and strength, not beauty or the ability to surprise. In short, Brazil will continue to explore the extremes, lacking the balance they so desperately need.
If 2014 saw Luiz and Neymar hugging fans and generously taking photos with boys who would invade the pitch during Brazil’s open practices, the path towards 2018 will be a throwback to the 2007-2010 season of secret shenanigans and sheer stubbornness – with the media viewed as the enemy, and public opinion rendered pointless.
Indeed, as Parreira said in 1994, magic is dead.
The Brazilian FA have now officially embraced the idea of Brazil as a tough, bully-like, power-thirsty, humourless and overly athletic squad – as we saw during that quarter-final match against Colombia at the World Cup.
In happier days, back in 1982, Brazil’s Captain Socrates famously said that “beauty comes first, victory is secondary, what matters is joy”.
And let us not forget that Dunga deeply detests it when the media reminds us that everyone loves Brazil’s 1982 squad of “losers”, while no one cares about his exceptionally boring 1994 winning team.
So my advice to Brazil is this: stop trying to win.
Somehow, since 2002, that has been the sole goal: to win.
And the cost has been massive: Brazil’s football identity is in the gutter.
Winning is not worth it.
Winning for the sake of winning, whatever the cost, does not produce joy.
It creates powerful enemies. It creates an unhealthy, egocentric, self-righteous attitude that cares only about, well, winning.
That is a painfully childish, empty and ultimately disappointingly unrealistic way to lead any sort of project.
But, most of all, it’s just a stupid waste of time.
The Brazilian FA is just a stupid waste of time.
This Brazil is just a stupid waste of time.
Dunga is just a stupid, stupid waste of time.
It’s all so stupid.
The 2014 World Cup has come to a close.
It’s useful, if not necessarily therapeutic, to remember the very beginning of a tale when things come to an end.
The combined scores of Brazil’s defeats against the World Champions Germany and the Netherlands display absurdly shocking results: 10 x 1 for the visitors.
Brazil have now entered a new footballing category in World Cup history, that of teams that allow staggering amounts of goals into their net. In the Selecao‘s company are now the likes of North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, this is a national disaster for the 5-time World Champions.
Truthfully, Brazil haven’t played stylish Jogo Bonito, or “futebol arte” as we call it, since 1982. Since then we have seen flashes of it here and there, great victories, some defeats, and slightly mediocre Brazil teams that – albeit not made up of ‘artists’ – certainly never managed to taint the legacy of the nation as the spiritual home of the game – as the nostalgically golden standard for beautiful football.
Brazil may not have been utterly brilliant in the last two decades, but they still won tournaments and, more importantly, weren’t as bad as North Korea! Ever!
That image, unfortunately, has now been torn to tatters. Brazil’s football has been conquered, and its future demands a revolution; a profound self-examination.
The brilliantly victorious German reform, which started in 1998 following a dreadful 3-0 defeat against new-kids-on-the-block Croatia, and culminated with their 4th World Cup title at Rio’s Maracana this Sunday, serves as as a powerful and inspirational lesson.
Germany invested in their youth academies, heavily; they reformed their entire approach to football management and administration within the last 15 years. They’ve embraced their multiculturalism and, through it, developed an incredibly strong sense of team-work and classy sportsmanship. They worked at it, diligently and patiently.
Germany are now the standard for modernity and efficient beauty.
Brazilian football must enter the 21st Century too. We must evolve.
But first, a brief pause for nostalgia. Let’s go back in time, all the way to October, 1894. The very birth of football in Brazil.
Let us remember those first steps…
Charles Miller, the son of an Anglo-Brazilian mother and a Scottish immigrant, returns to Brazil after attending boarding school in Southampton, England.
His father awaits his arrival at the port city of Santos, in the State of Sao Paulo. Miller recounts:
On the quay…solemn, as if he were at a funeral, my father was waiting for me to disembark holding my degree certificate. But in fact I appeared in front of him with two footballs, one in each hand … the old man, surprised, enquired:
Additionally, in his back-pack, Miller brought with him a copy of the Laws of the Game.
A few months later the book of rules had gone viral, fiercely spreading all across Brazil; footballs were made and sold at an increasingly frenetic pace, and hundreds of teams were formed.
Charles Miller changed the cultural landscape of Brazil forever, assisting in the development of the nation’s very sense of identity and pride, and thus establishing football as a pivotal element of Brazil’s heritage.
Thus, football was born in Brazil 120 years ago. It has come a long way, and now, more than ever, it needs help.
Brazil once again needs persistent visionaries like Charles Miller.
The World Cup this year was a success, and Brazilians proved to be gracious, warm hosts. But our football needs mending.
We may be on the quay right now, solemn, as if we were at the funeral that followed the 7-1 thrashing against the Germans…
Let us work so that the next 120 years of Brazilian football never reproduce this kind of pain and void. Let us learn from the Germans.
We owe it to Miller. The man changed a country with just two footballs and a book.
Surely, we have better resources at our disposal today.
Let us use them.