STUTTGART - Brazil's preparations for
hosting the 2014 World Cup have been dogged by doubts over
whether stadiums and airports will be ready in time, and their
team is making equally slow progress.
After Brazil's unhappy quarter-final exit at the 2010 World
Cup, new coach Mano Menezes, with the backing of the Brazilian
public and the football federation, set about knocking
everything down and starting again.
The plan was to move away from the physical,
counter-attacking, win-at-all costs approach of his predecessor
Dunga, back towards the inventive, attacking football associated
with the yellow-shirted sides of the past.
Young prospects such as Neymar and elegant playmaker Paulo
Henrique Ganso were drafted in while the likes of Felipe Melo,
Gilberto Silva and Luiz Fabiano were shown the door.
But as Menezes admitted after his team lost 3-2 to Germany
on Wednesday, knocking it down had been the easy part...
creating something new was far more challenging.
"It's a long road to travel and good intentions are not
enough," he told Brazilian reporters after Germany recorded a
first win over the South Americans in 18 years.
"We would like to be better. In football, there are no
miracles, we have to get past these stages. We played with three
forwards and an attacking midfielder and we were still not as
positive as we wanted to be."
"Marking and destroying are easier, the creative part is
more difficult, and here we are struggling," he said. "It's
proving very difficult for us to create attacking moves."
With the defeat following on the heels of last month's
disappointing Copa America performance, where Brazil lost on
penalties to Paraguay in the quarter-finals and managed only one
win at the tournament, pressure is mounting.
The Brazilian federation felt compelled to publicly back its
coach afterwards and insisted everything was going to plan.
"I prefer the reality, even if it is tough, to illusion of
results without consistency which could bring even greater
losses in the future," CBF president Ricardo Teixeira said on
the confederation's website.
"The work continues with the full confidence of the CBF."
The laid-back and thoughtful Menezes, whose team have
produced six wins, fours draws and three defeats in 13 outings,
has an unenviable task.
With the next World Cup on home soil, Brazilians expect
their team to win at a canter, give the rest of the world a
footballing lesson and claim a sixth world title.
Some even still talk about 1950, when Brazil also hosted the
tournament and lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the decisive match, and
how this was a chance to set the record straight 64 years later.
But on Wednesday, Brazil looked far from world beaters and
Menezes admitted that the Germans, who fielded a team with an
average age of less than 24, were an example of how it should be
"Our opponents always knew where each other were, they
always had a defensive midfielder in the right place, they made
everything difficult, we are far from reaching this degree of
automation," he said.
His big worry was that Brazil were depending on moments of
individual inspiration rather than building attacks as a team.
For all this, Menezes, who made his name by leading two of
Brazil's top clubs, Gremio and Corinthians, out of the second
division, believed he was on the right track.
"We are looking to find the right players and we have found
a good number of them, capable of being players who can develop
during this period and who can be transformed into those players
we want to consider the team strong," he said.
"We can't compare them to established players, but they have
the potential for this, they have the quality and personality to
play in the Brazilian team.
"We still have plenty of time."
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