For the second game running, Brazil left their fans disappointed with a lousy performance and result at the 2011 Cop America. Brazil were hoping that their disappointing 0-0 draw with Venezuela was just a minor glitch and that it would be business as usual against Paraguay. However, that was never going to be easy against the 2010 World Cup quarter finalists with the footballing gods seemingly cursing all strikers at this tournament.
And indeed the game started in difficult fashion for Brazil with Paraguay controlling possession and spending a lot of time in the Brazil half. Roque Santa Cruz should have put Paraguay in front when he latched onto a through ball with just the keeper to beat. Instead he fired wide.
Brazil belatedly managed to find a foothold in the game when Jadson â€“ a surprize inclusion at the expense of Robinho â€“ began to grow in confidence and started linking well up with fellow playmaker Ganso towards the end of the first half. It was always going to take a moment of individual skill for Brazil to open the scoring and that was duly provided by these two players. Ganso found Jadson in space on the edge of the box and the Shakhtar man was able to set himself up and fire Brazil in front with a hard and low shot.
I was watching the game on TV with some Brazilian friends and their reaction to the goal was muted. I wondered whether everybody eaten too much at lunch or it was a case of wow didnâ€™t see that coming donâ€™t really deserve that. I got the feeling my Brazilian company was embarrassed that Brazil had been playing so badly yet here they were in front. What was this foreigner (me) with a blog about the beautiful game going to write.
But as halftime approached the reality of the goal began to sink in and it seemed that Brazil had turned a page: Mano had pulled a masterstroke by including Jadson in Brazilâ€™s starting line-up. And with Paraguay now needing to push forward for an equalizer, Brazilâ€™s forwards would be able to enjoy some more space. Neymar would finally burst into life. Life was good again. Brazil was now Brazil. Letâ€™s finish them off. Crack open another beer!
Unfortunately, the lift in spirits was short lived because there was not much for Brazil to celebrate in the second half. For some strange reason, Mano Menezes decided to substitute Jadson for Elano at half time. The news from the dressing room was that Jadson was not injured and it was a tactical decision. The commentary team suggested it was because Jadson was on a yellow card which I find absurd. If Mano Menezes is going to substitute a player ever time he gets booked, he may as well ask his players to lie on their backs and get their belly tickled. Which leaves me to believe it was a defensive tactical decision. But why sit back on a 1-0 lead with 45 minutes to go? Absurd.
If including Jadson in starting line-up was a masterstroke, then substituting him was the complete opposite because Paraguay equalized on 56 minutes. Roque Santa Cruz was given all the time and space in the world to slot home. Where were Thiago Silva and AndrÃ© Santos?
And then Paraguay were in front. They broke down the left again and when it looked like Daniel Alvez would deal with the danger he lost the ball trying to dribble his way out of trouble. Not the kind of thing you would expect from a Champions League winning right back. The ball was played into the middle and once again Thiago Silva and AndrÃ© Santos were nowhere to be seen. 2-1 Paraguay.
Brazil were now shell shocked and totally lost on the field. Their ten minute period of dominance was well and truly over and at that point in time I even started to miss Dunga. At least his team was competitive. This team was limp. No personality. Apathetic. Neymar was poor. Ganso out of sorts. Pato lost. Nobody was there to drag the team forward.
Mano threw on Lucas and Fred for Ramires and Neymar but nothing really changed. Lucas at least tried to make a go of it with some direct wing play but the Paraguayans are no chumps and knew how to deal with that. And then in the last minute, Ganso curled a short pass into Fredâ€™s path. With back to goal the ex-Lyon man swivelled and struck a first time shot into the net. Brilliant finish and Brazil off the hook. What a relief. What a disappointing performance though. How did that happen? Lucky Brazil.
So, will Fred start the next game? Will Jadson keep his place for more than 45 minutes in the next match? And will we see Adriano come in at left-back for the out of sorts AndrÃ© Santos? Yes, yes and yes I think.
As for Mano Menezes, itâ€™s now only two wins in his last seven games. A terrible record for a team like Brazil. Can they turn things around dramatically and quickly? Theyâ€™ll need to in order to beat Ecuador. They must now win that match to be sure of a place in the last eight. And if they do progress, theyâ€™ll need to do a lot better to stand a chance of beating the likes of Chile and Colombia. Of course itâ€™s Brazil and they have the talent to do that. But will Mano Menezes find a way to motivate his players? If he doesnâ€™t he will probably find himself out of a job come July.
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