“Brazil, it’s just like watching Brazil” is what long-suffering fans of lower-league English clubs sarcastically sing when their team of cloggers and journeymen strings together two or three passes. (See the clip from the Barnsley terraces below)
But anyone who’s watched Brazil lately will have the disturbing feeling that watching Brazil these days just isn’t much like “watching Brazil.” Actually, it’s more like watching Italy: The new Brazil keeps possession at all costs, and won’t risk turning the ball over to the opposition by gambling on skill and flair — it was noticeable in today’s warmup against Tanzania that when the Brazilian player on the wing got the ball at his feet in a one-on-one situation with the fullback, even on the 18-yard line, he always turned and passed it back to his midfield.
Dunga’s system features two holding midfielders (Silva and Melo), and relies on the full backs raiding while Gilberto drops back to make the extra defender. A team featuring Kaka , Robinho and Luis Fabiano has plenty with which to punish opponents, but “punish” — on the lightning break — will be the operative word. Samba soccer it isn’t, although with the modern game’s packed and very physical midfields this may be what it takes to win the World Cup. Remember, the last great Samba soccer team — Socrates’ 1982 side — may have given us some of our most memorable World Cup goals (see youtube clip below), but they got done by the more disciplined, if dour Italians.
They may have been beaten in the semi-final, but the ’82 Brazilians have earned a place in hearts of fans old enough to remember never matched by those that actually won the World Cup in ’94 and 2002. Here’s why: