Football: Brazil move into the computer era

The world's favourite team have chosen a radical modernist as coach. Tim Vickery reports from Rio de Janeiro
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"I COME with the certainty that I'll be victorious," was the typically brash opening from the new Brazil coach, Vanderley Luxemburgo this week. A mediocre left-back in his playing days, Luxemburgo was given his professional debut in 1972 by Mario Zagallo. Now, in a change of style, the young gun replaces the old warrior in one of the most pressure-filled jobs in sport.

In his tracksuit and baseball cap, Zagallo often gave the impression, as one Brazilian magazine put it, of "an escapee from an OAPs' home". Luxemburgo strikes a very different figure. A youthful 46, he is rarely seen out of an immaculately cut suit. Zagallo and his gang were widely seen as behind the times, more at home playing cards than accessing computers. Luxemburgo belongs to a new generation of lap-top coaches, happy in the age of information. Despite his limited international experience (two short spells coaching in Saudi Arabia) he has a broader vision of the game than Zagallo. While Zagallo always struggled to remember the name of any foreign player, Luxemburgo returned from the World Cup enchanted with the football of Holland. Whether he can equip the Brazil team with the same flexibility and tactical intelligence will be one of the most fascinating questions of the coming months.

Switching coaches is easy, but there are many problems in the Brazilian game which are harder to change. Luxemburgo has to build a new team in an environment where club commitments will restrict both his choice of players and his time with them. And his team will carry the burden of all those who pull on the yellow shirt - they must win with style.

It is a challenge that Luxemburgo has risen to at club level. His Palmeiras team played some attractive football in winning two Brazilian titles (1993-94). His current Corinthians side (with whom he will stay until the end of the year) are topping this year's league table in glorious style. His commitment to an attacking way of playing makes him a popular choice. Armando Nogueira, one of Brazil's most respected sports columnists, described him as "the most Brazilian of Brazilian coaches."

Born in Rio de Janeiro, where he spent most of his playing career, Luxemburgo's coaching successes have come in Sao Paulo. Brazil's two most important cities are constantly bickering, and Luxemburgo's popularity in both was a big factor in his appointment. The expected choice had been Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani, a talented midfielder from the 1974 World Cup squad, who had much success coaching Paraguay. But memories are short in Brazil, and Carpeggiani's domestic triumphs are a long time ago. "I would assess his contribution to Brazilian football as zero," Nogueira said on Sunday.

Luxemburgo has long been certain that, sooner or later, the Brazil job would be his. Whether his temperament is up to the task is another question. His dynamism and intelligence come with a strong streak of vanity and a short fuse. The Brazil post, with its complicated politics, sponsor pressure and burden of expectation will test his patience to the full. There is no comparison with club management - attendances at league games can be pitifully small - but when Brazil take the field a nation of 150 million demand victory.

The message on Luxemburgo's answerphone asks: "Who's bothering me?" Answer - many more since Tuesday's announcement.

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