and performances under coach Mano Menezes have been far from
earth-shattering, yet Tuesday's 2-1 win over Bosnia showed that
the team have undergone a profound transformation under his
The question remains as to whether the phlegmatic coach has
enough time and the right players to complete the job of turning
Brazil from a rough, counter-attacking outfit into a team
capable of winning the 2014 World Cup in the style expected of
Menezes took over the five-times world champions following
the 2010 World Cup, just as they realised that they had been
going down the wrong path for two decades.
Once famous for their flowing, passing game, Brazil made a
dramatic U-turn in the 1980s, when they began adopting a no-risk
style based on physical prowess, widespread use of so-called
tactical fouls and the idea of not letting the opposition play.
They did win the World Cup in 1994 and 2002 and reached the
final in 1998 but none of those teams played with the flair or
imagination of their predecessors.
Teeth-clenching, rough-tackling destroyers populated the
midfield at most Brazilian clubs and the national side while
speed-merchant full-backs and clinical strikers provided the
Physical prowess became fundamental as the Northern European
style was deemed the way forward.
Then Barcelona and Spain came along, winning everything by
playing exactly the sort of short-passing game which had been
deemed obsolete in Brazil. It was the rudest of awakenings in
the South American country.
Spain's 2010 World Cup win coincided with arguably the most
joyless team Brazil have ever fielded, and, despite all the talk
of efficiency from coach Dunga, they went out in the
Menezes, who led Gremio and Corinthians, two of Brazil's
biggest clubs, out of the second division during his club
career, was given the job of knocking everything down and
There have been plenty of setbacks, notably defeats against
Argentina, France and Germany, combined with a quarter-final
exit against Paraguay in last year's Copa America, and Brazil
have slumped to a modest seventh in the FIFA world rankings.
Yet, against Bosnia on Tuesday, it was clear that Menezes is
making progress in restoring Brazil's old identity. They
dominated possession, took their game to feisty, defensive
opponents and never resorted to tactical fouls in midfield.
Unfortunately, the final pass too often let them down with
former AC Milan and Barcelona player Ronaldinho, given the
playmaker role in midfield, often the guilty party.
Menezes said Brazil needed to be more patient in the
build-up, prompting his only reference to Barcelona in the
evening - surprising given the influence the Catalan club have
had on Brazil.
"I always tell the players that it is not always possible to
produce a pass which puts somebody in front of goal, and it's
not necessary," he said.
"In fact, it's very difficult to do this. But if it's not
possible, then it's absolutely fundamental that we don't lose
"Everybody praises Barcelona and their great merit is that,
when it is not possible to find the killer pass, they don't try;
instead they keep possession and wait for an opening.
"If you try and make a killer pass every time, this
increases the number of mistakes and allows the opposition the
chance to counter-attack."
Menezes now has to find the right players to carry out what
is effectively a counter-revolution in Brazilian football.
Ronaldinho, off the pace against Bosnia, is already one of
the big talking points, especially as he will be 34 when the
World Cup is played in Brazil.
Mohican-haired forward Neymar, 20, is the big hope for 2014
although, over-protected in the Brazilian championship, he
struggles against rough-tackling European sides and referees
less inclined to give free-kicks for the slightest of touches.
"He struggled to adapt to the game, to understand how to
play against opponents with those characteristics," said
Ultimately, it could all hinge on elegant, left-footed Paulo
Henrique Ganso, whose touch, vision and eye for the pass have
make him the sort of thinking midfield playmaker which Brazil
has struggled to produce.
He clearly transformed the game after replacing Ronaldinho
in the second half and Neymar benefited hugely from his
However, at 22, he has already been over-hyped and plagued
by injuries and still plays in the less demanding environment of
Brazilian domestic football.
"He is winning back confidence, the confidence that we
always had that he could be one of the great midfield creators
that Brazilian football has produced in the last few years,"
Placing Brazil's 2014 World Cup hopes on his shoulders,
however, may be too much of a burden.
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