Wednesday, 20 August 2014

New faces provide reason to be cheerful even in the wake of Brazil's managerial farce

Some clever bloke with a hip, east-London beard once said that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. You don’t imagine that the corrupt old boys of Brazil’s football federation have much time for Marxist thinking. And yet, somehow, no group or individual in the game appears so committed to embodying that snappy, throw-away maxim.

These days, they don’t even wait for the pain to sink in before following it up with light relief. Just witness their choice in Brazil coach. Dunga was hounded out of the job after the disappointment of the 2010 World Cup, accused of being a tactical Luddite by a press corps for whom he could barely conceal his distaste.


But here we are, four years and two coaches later, back at square one. A bright new dawn was needed after the horror of The 7-1, yet Brazil have instead drifted back into the recent – and unsuccessful – past. Farcical barely even covers it.

Still, at least there was some good news in Dunga’s first squad selection. For a start, there was no Felipe Melo. Indeed, the former Internacional coach should be gently commended for drafting in five players who have impressed in the Campeonato Brasileiro in recent months – and who were overlooked by his predecessor.

Read the rest of this piece here.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Replacing Ronaldinho no easy task for Atlético-MG

He left as he arrived: with misdirection and mystery. Whispers of discontent. A request to play at the testimonial of Deco in Portugal. A missed flight. A few days off the radar. For Ronaldinho, it was ever thus. After two years of magic and madness with Atlético Mineiro, the medicine show is now set to roll on – possibly to the MLS, possibly pretty much anywhere where there are parties and girls and fans who know his name.


Not that Atlético can have failed to leave an imprint on his heart. From the moment the Galo were revealed as his destination after some all-too-public football club speed dating in 2012, this was always going to be a match made in heaven. The club indulged Ronaldinho's occasional dalliances and he repaid them with healthy dollops of his genius, as well as an international profile they had hitherto lacked. In 2013, the Belo Horizonte club won the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history.

Now, though, they must rebuild. For WhoScored, I take a look at the players who will need to step up for Atlético in the second half of 2014.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Five players in Brazil YOUR club should sign

With prices rising ever higher in Europe, more and more sides will be looking further afield as they seek to boost their squads this summer.

Contrary to received wisdom, Brazil is no longer one of the great training grounds of the beautiful game. Coaching, even in the upper echelons of Brazil's league system, often leaves a great deal to be desired, while funding and long-term planning have increasingly become alien concepts.


This, of course, is a discussion for another time, but it is noticeable that the talent does not flow as thick and fast as it once did. But there are bright spots, even they owe more to sheer weight of numbers than anything else.

For MirrorFootball, I have chosen five players based in Brazil that could make an impact in the Premier League. Find out who they are here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

No order, no progress: Dunga reappointment shows Brazil have failed to learn from mistakes

The Brazilian national flag is unique in including, in text, two ideals the country purports to uphold. One is order, the other progress.

A whistle-stop tour through the history books – colonisation, slavery, corruption – reveals that, at various points in this country's short, fraught history, one or other of the two has not always been perfectly preserved.


Sport, of course, has a funny way of echoing or mirroring society at large, and so Brazil's football history has been peppered with its fair share of ignominy in between the dizzying highs. At times there has been order; at others progress; but rarely have the two gone hand-in-hand.

Read this piece on the return of Dunga to the Brazil national team on the Yahoo! Eurosport site.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Luiz Felipe Scolari must go, but Brazil's issues run deeper

If the World Cup final is the game no one wants to lose, the third-place play-off is normally the game no one wants to play.

On this occasion, though, one of the coaches might just have been glad of the opportunity. Having seen his Brazil side eviscerated by Germany earlier in the week, Luiz Felipe Scolari was likely eyeing a consolatory victory over the Netherlands on Saturday night.


Like being handed a Twix after a tornado, it would not have provided too much comfort to most. Brazil fans were left stunned by the Mineiraço, the days since blurring together in a state of disbelief. But for Scolari, the old war horse, it was a chance to shift the landscape, even if just a touch.

He had spent the days since the Germany game speaking of a mental “blackout” on the pitch – a six-minute spell during which he “could have done nothing” to prevent the Seleção conceding four times. While he explicitly assumed responsibility for the loss, there was a hint of buck-passing here: if not onto the players then at least onto some higher power who had seen fit to curse his side in this manner. Such ideas hold some sway in superstitious, God-fearing Brazil.

Read the rest of my final Yahoo! Eurosport blog from Rio de Janeiro here.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Five players Brazil should have selected for the World Cup

They say that while success has many fathers, failure is always an orphan. That, though, is categorically not the case for this Brazilian World Cup campaign, at least in the eyes of the local media, who have spent the days since the earth-shattering defeat to Germany pointing the finger at anyone with even a passing connection to the squad.


The first victim of the guillotine, of course, is likely to be coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Tactically, he got it all wrong against Germany. Instead of following his scouts' advice and bolstering his midfield, he elected for the nippy, playground flair of Bernard on the flank. The 21-year-old never looked like he was making an impression, while Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho were outnumbered and overwhelmed in the centre of the park.

But perhaps Scolari's biggest errors came in his squad selection. Both he and Neymar have insisted in recent days that anyone would have picked the same 23, but that does not ring true. One look at the squad reveals players (Henrique, Maxwell, Jô) who could and should have been left out in favour of other, more dynamic options.

Read the rest of this piece on the ESPN FC site.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Who should stay and who should go from the current squad as Brazil look to the future?

Brazilians might just about be recovering their breath after the shock and awe of Tuesday night's Mineiraço, but the inquest is just getting started. The Seleção's worst ever World Cup defeat has sparked understandable soul-searching in Brazil, with fans and journalists alike trying to make sense of the savage 7-1 loss to Germany.


Much of the ire thus far has been directed at coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who, despite remaining tight-lipped over his future in the wake of the game, will surely vacate the building after this most galling of failures. "Go to hell, Felipão," read one front page on Wednesday. It captured the nation's mood.

But while debates over the structural changes that must be made to get Brazilian football back on track will rage for months and years, there is a more pressing question at hand: Which members of the current squad deserve to be preserved for next year's Copa América – and thinking further ahead, the 2018 World Cup?

Read my player-by-player assessment on the ESPN FC Brazil blog.
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