Sunday, 10 July 2011

Tristeza Não Tem Fim; Struggling Seleção Scrape Draw Against Paraguay

Tristeza não tem fim.
Felicidade sim.
Tristeza não tem fim.
Two games without a win.*

Brazil 2-2 Paraguay
First things first; Paraguay were never going to be easy opponents for the seleção. Brazil's neighbours are South America's resident awkward customers, frequently posing problems for the putative giants of the continent. Solid in defence, and with a number of potent attacking threats, La Albirroja entered the Copa América confident of building upon their promising displays in South Africa last summer. A stalemate in their tournament opener against Ecuador, however, placed added pressure on Gerardo Martino's men ahead of their clash with Brazil.

Desespero geral; Neymar and Pato struggled to make an impact against Paraguay.

They needn't have worried. The seleção turned in another disappointing performance, and needed a late strike from Fred to rescue a point. As I (and many others) predicted, Mano Menezes left Robinho out of his starting eleven, preferring another midfielder in a withdrawn role on the right. Contrary to expectations, however, it was Jádson - rather than Elano - who got the nod in Córdoba. That decision, although provoking the ire of many Brazil fans, was vindicated late in the first half; the Shakhtar Donetsk man opened the scoring with a low shot from distance.

Until that point, Brazil had flattered to deceive. A minor reshuffle in the centre of the park (Lucas Leiva operated to the left of Ramires, rather than on the right) made little difference to the fluency of the side, and Neymar produced the kind of insipid performance that will provide his myriad suitors with plenty of food for thought. The presence of Jádson alongside Ganso, however, did (on occasion) lend Brazil more of an attacking threat. The two combined neatly early on to create an excellent chance for Alexandre Pato, only for the Milan striker to be denied by Justo Villar. Unfortunately, that promising axis was to be broken at half time; Elano replaced Jádson, who was running a disciplinary tightrope after picking up a yellow card.

Defensively, Brazil looked more shaky than usual. They were given a warning in the opening minutes of the match, when a poorly executed offside trap gifted a golden opportunity to Roque Santa Cruz. The experienced forward didn't hit the target on that occasion, but made amends after the interval, turning home coolly after Brazil's backline had been dragged out of position. Paraguay added a second not long after; Daniel Alves (who struggled throughout the match) dallied on the ball inside his own area, allowing Marcelo Estigarribia and Santa Cruz to tee up Nelson Haedo Valdez. The substitute saw his shot blocked by Lúcio, only for the ball to ricochet off his body and into the corner of the net. Some guys have all the luck.

Right said Fred; the Fluminense striker celebrates his late strike.

With his side needing a goal, Menezes restructured his attack; Lucas Moura came on for Ramires (meaning Elano dropped yet deeper), and Neymar was withdrawn for Fred, a more orthodox striker. Those changes, allied with a growing sense of desperation, seemed to spur Brazil on. With just two minutes left on the clock, Fred seized upon Ganso's hopeful flick and arrowed a volley into the bottom corner of Villar's net. The opportunistic nature of the goal hinted at what Brazil have been missing in their two Copa América games thus far; a genuine presence in the penalty area. Fred may not be everybody's cup of tea, but his physicality and positional sense could make him an invaluable option in the coming games.

So what next for the seleção? It seems fairly clear that the upcoming clash with Ecuador is a make or break moment for Menezes; victory (and progress to the knockout stages) could draw a line under this week's shortcomings, whilst anything less would surely make the 49-year-old's position all but untenable. Tactically, Mano must decide whether to stick to his guns, maintaining Pato as a nominal reference in attack, or bite the bullet and select a more traditional (read; Fred-shaped) focal point. With the pressure mounting, Menezes may be forced, like many of his recent predecessors, to abandon o jogo bonito in favour of a more pragmatic approach. More's the pity.

*Lyrics; 75% Vinicius de Moraes, 25% SKP.

(Photo credits; (1) Danilo Verpa, (2) Marcelo Sayão.)


  1. Valdez's shot hit Lucio and not Julio Cesar. The team needs a presence in the penalty box so I think Mano should pick Fred over Pato or play both and drop Neymar or one of the midfieldersValdez's shot hit Lucio and not Julio Cesar. The team needs a presence in the penalty box so I think Mano should pick Fred over Pato or play both and drop Neymar or one of the midfielders

  2. So it did, mistake duly corrected! I would also go for Fred against Ecuador; Brazil's attack simply hasn't imposed itself in the two matches so far.

  3. This is the tension that Argentina also feels - when you face a team with a packed box and defensive game plan, how can one survive without a big target forward to punt balls to?

    I was hoping that Ganso would provide an alternative - quick and intricate midfield play, but he seems to have nagging injury/fitness issues, plus neither Ramires nor Lucas seem to know how to operate with an interwevaer like Ganso, as opposed to a classic dribble and shooter like Lampard or Gerrard.

    Fred is probably the best answer for now, begrudgingly so.....

  4. O próximo passo para o Mano é desistir de fazer o time ficar postado em uma posição. Ele deixou a equipe muito estática com o Neymar guardado na ponta esquerda - sempre abrindo mais, ao invés de fechar por dentro, assim como a Joia faz no Santos. Além disso, o Ramires não pode jogar na Seleção. Ele é fraco, não cerca e muito menos desarma, o que sobrecarrega o Lucas Leiva. O Jadson também não é jogador para a Seleção, mesmo tendo atuando mal contra a Venezuela, o Robinho é muito mais útil a seleção, até porque, o que o Jadson erra passes é uma barbaridade...
    You said you speak portuguese, i hope you can understand this!

  5. Elliott - completely agree. Neither Lucas nor Ramires is a bad player, but the side needs someone to construct from deep. One of them (Lucas for me) plus a regista (Hernanes?) would be far better. All eyes on Fredgol now!

    Anonymous - entendi sim! Concordo completamente sobre o Ramires... sabe correr, mas erra muitos passes. Gostaria de ver um volante mais inteligente no lugar dele... uma pena que o Mano não respeita tanto o futebol do Hernanes, né?!

  6. Apologies for the long comment:
    The thing about Ramires is that, with no real leader on the pitch, exempting Lucio, a defender, his never stop running attitude is a great example the team. His nagging fouls throughout the game also serve to draw ire towards him, and away from our creative players - the opposition players foul him instead of Ganso.

    I think the biggest problem Brazil is having is who Mano left out of the squad. Marcelo, even with attitude problems, is several levels about Andre Santos, who looked week against speed defensively, and was nonexistant while attacking. Brazil is almost playing with 10 players while he is on the pitch. Hernanes would've added so much to our midfield, he's one of the only Brazilians out there right now that can create from deep. Exactly what we need against teams who sit back and defend.
    The biggest mistake in my opinion, was the exclusion of Hulk. He could do the job that we are being forced to rely on Fred for, and also provide a threat from either wing - something neither Robinho, nor Ganso, has been able to do.
    All three should've been starters in the selecao.

    I'd be interested in having Ganso play deeper, in a basic 4-4-2. Julio Cesar and back 4 as normal, Lucas Leiva as a holder, Ganso playing deep, Neymar and Robinho as advanced wingers, with Pato as a second striker and Fred leading the line.

    Sigh, makes me wish for Dunga. I'd rather a solid counterattacking game plan that enabled us to compete with everybody in the world, rather then Mano's approach, which is vaguely reminiscent to that of 2006 - stick 4 creative players on the pitch and hope they come up with something.

  7. Thanks for the comment, BlueLondoner.

    I agree with you; the squad selection itself has caused problems for Mano so far. Hernanes would add something far different to, for instance, Elias.

    As for André Santos... I'm actually a big fan of his, but he has been rather poor in the tournament so far. Having Marcelo in there would be a big help, I agree.

    The same applies to Hulk. Like you say, he could play in both central and wide attacking roles, and has the kind of direct approach (receive, sprint, smash a shot from 30 yards) that could be critical in tight games.

    But with those guys not in the squad, it looks like Menezes is just going to have to muddle on...

  8. Quando ele estava no Corinthians, eu pensei que ele era maravilhoso, mas ele não tem jogado bem para a Selecao. Certamente Adriano merece começar um jogo?