Samba Boys no more
By Igor Henriques, Contributing Editor
Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - It's long been a staple of Brazilian soccer, a free-flowing offensive attack that had opponents in fear of what was coming next. Referred to in Brazil as "Jogo Bonito" - beautiful soccer - fans in Brazil and across the world have come to expect nothing short of marvelous and entertaining play from the Brazilian national team.
However, under the direction of coach Dunga since 2006, a reshaping of Brazilian tactics took place. Gone were the days of the flowing attacking soccer, and in came a more defensive-minded approach. Outrage over such a system followed but a 2009 Confederations Cup victory allowed for a reprieve, albeit for the time being.
When the Brazilian roster was announced for the 2010 World Cup, criticism ran rampant once again. Star players such as Diego, Alexandre Pato, Adriano and fan favorite Ronaldinho were all left off the squad, much to the dismay of Nike which included Ronaldinho in their widely publicized "Write the Future" World Cup commercials.
The omissions were a huge gamble by Dunga, one that did not pay off considering the performances of the players he did include. Several Brazilian starters had terrible seasons yet were still counted on to produce. Star midfielder Kaka struggled mightily at Real Madrid and, by the end of the season, began to see less starting opportunities.
Winger Robinho. who became the first big-name acquisition of new billionaire owners at Manchester City, was seen as surplus to requirements by new coach Roberto Mancini and was sent off on loan to the Brazilian club team Santos midway through the season.
Perhaps worst of all was eventual goat Felipe Melo, who was transferred in a big-money move to Juventus at the beginning of the domestic season and promptly became the whipping boy for Juventus fans after a seasons worth of sub-par performances. A red card and a terrible gaffe that led to the Netherlands' opening goal in Brazil's 2-1 quarterfinal defeat was not very surprising to individuals that watched Melo throughout the year.
While the Brazilian defense featured the likes of Inter Milan teammates Lucio and Maicon along with Michel Bastos and Juan was quite strong, other aspects of the Brazilian squad lacked depth, something that was unheard of in 2002 when Brazil won its last World Cup.
Striker Luis Fabiano performed admirably throughout the tournament, but the lack of forward depth beyond him was prevalent in the squad. Players such as Nilmar and Grafite, though quality players, are nowhere near the world-class standard Brazil has set in the past. Such forwards were available in the likes of Pato and Adriano, both of whom had produced quite well for the national team in the past, but for one reason or another were passed over.
The midfield also had many of the same problems that came to the forefront in the final group stage match against Portugal. With Kaka suspended thanks to a red card in the previous game, the Brazilians lacked creativity throughout the contest as replacement Julio Baptista added little to their offense.
Though not nearly at the level he once was, one can only wonder whether the inclusion of Ronaldinho in the squad would have allowed for a more creative approach thanks to his wide array of skills, while providing for more of a spectacle for soccer fans who throughout the years have been entertained by his constant flair and bravado on the ball.
What can be taken away from the underachieving performance of Brazil at the 2010 World Cup is simply that the current crop of Brazilian players was not at the same caliber to those of years past. Two World Cup quarterfinal losses in a row, and a narrow 3-2 escape against the United States in the '09 Confederations Cup final, has brought warning signs about the caliber of Brazilian soccer.
With Dunga's dismissal as manager, the opportunity for the Brazilian team to go back to the more conventional Brazilian offensive-oriented style is there. Whether they have the current personnel to pull it off successfully, though, is another matter.
07/08 15:00:52 ET