Wow. Who saw that coming? In the first of a two article special, I reflect on Brazil’s stunning Confederations Cup win and what is means for the football. Read on for more. Tomorrow, I’ll give my reflections on what is means for the protest movement sweeping through the country.
What a performance from Brazil. Spain didn’t turn up but Brazil were utterly dominant; fantastic skill and ability as usual but more impressive was the attitude and energy of the players, something that we haven’t seen a great deal of in recent years.
Perhaps one reason why we haven’t seen such commitment and energy from Brazil’s players in previous games they have been playing friendly matches for three years now. As a player, when you’re called up in the middle of the season to play a midweek game with a few days preparation at best, how can you possibly motivate yourself psychologically and physically to give that kind of effort. Also, when domestically based players get called up, they miss their clubs’ matches. The likes of Neymar, Paulinho and Leandro Damiao all missed about ten club matches last season thanks to international commitments. I’m sure they love representing their country but that can’t be much fun abandoning your club so frequently during the season. Playing for the national team becomes a bit of a chore. The fans hate, and rightly so.
So, in that respect I feel a bit sorry for Mano Menezes – perhaps he would have gotten Brazil to play this way with the pressure on, trophy at stake, players motivated by the ongoing protests. His team was actually playing a bit better than Scolari’s team did in some of the friendly matches (at least towards the end of his spell). At the end of the day though I don’t think too many people will really care and overall I don’t have much sympathy for Mano Menezes. The point is, Brazil are back and can deliver when it matters. Should we have ever doubted that?
As much as I was impressed with Brazil and enjoyed their performance, I was left slightly disappointed by Spain. I was so excited before the game and so eager to see how Brazil would cope against the Spanish carrousel? I expected Spain to be too strong in the end I thought Brazil would be shocked and struggle to cope up against a team that had more possession than them. Now there is a question for John Motson – when was the last time Brazil played at home and didn’t have most of the ball?
But, the carrousel never got going. How much of this was down to Brazil being good (thanks to their work rate and solid tactics) and how much due to Spain lack of interest (apparently before the Italy match Del Bosque said that they all just wanted to go home!)? Probably a bit of both. Also, Spain’s lineup was quite different to the one we’ve seen in other games with a lot more direct players than usual (Pedro, Torres and Mata instead of say, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas and Silva). That surely contributed as did the lumpy pitch.
Brazil’s players clearly had a point to prove. The way the players sang the national anthem, spurred on by the crowd, was fantastic! And by taking the energy and momentum from the anthem onto the pitch, they were rewarded with a goal after just two minutes. And with that to build on, they never looked back and dominated throughout. Credit to Big Phil for getting them in that state of mind. I was so impressed with their high intensity, high pressure game. Even Fred was working his socks off. And anybody who watches Fluminense week in week out will know that this is not the most common sight.
So, what can we learn from this for next year’s World Cup and where does this leave Brazil? Massive boost to confidence to the players’ confidence. They have played good football throughout and have ground out results when they needed to (against Uruguay). They have also proved to themselves (and the rest of the world!) that Spain are not invincible. Beating bogey team France 3-0 in a friendly before the tournament started is also be a big boost. And perhaps even more importantly, they have proved their doubters (of about 200 million Brazilians for a start) wrong. Probably nothing worse as a player than having 200 million football fanatics on your back and countless roundtables, TV shows, radio phone-ins, etc slagging you off for a year! Perhaps Big Phil reminded the players of this before the game.
So, probably the only risk is complacency. Spain were well below their best so if Brazil meet them at next year’s world Cup and expect a similar game, they will be in for a surprise. I’m sure this is something that the coaching team are well aware of and will remind the players about. What else? Possibly a lack of strength in depth? They do have Lucas in reserve and he has improved quite a lot as a player over the last year or so. I had my doubts.
The other point of discussion, and certainly no less important, is, what does this win do for the protest movement, if anything? People always pull off the clichés about winning will unite the country. I don’t agree. Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on that.
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