Dunga refuses to be swayed from cautious path for Chile challenge
Monday 28 June 2010
Pele is not someone with a lot of poetry in his soul; he reserved that for his boots and it is probably time for Brazil to forget the one memorable phrase he ever uttered. Dunga is not going to indulge himself in
O Jogo Bonito.
He was six when Brazil won the 1970 tournament and he was just beginning his career as a professional footballer when Tele Santana's superlative team were fatally undermined by Paolo Rossi in Barcelona. Their holding midfielders, such as they were, proved unable to cope and that was a position Dunga would play. Some say he learnt the lesson. When he captained Brazil to the 1994 World Cup, there was not a trace of the beautiful game and the 700 Brazilian journalists who swarm around the Selecao's training centre near Johannesburg are wasting their breath if they expect a conversion at this stage of the World Cup.
Four years ago, in Germany, Brazil held open house with Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos expected to hang around until two in the morning so their interviews could be carried live on Brazilian television. Many thought it added to the already overwhelming strain that these footballers are expected to bear and it was noticeable that when Maicon finally broke through North Korea's stubborn defence at Ellis Park in the opening group match, he burst into tears.
Perhaps everything the purist detests about Dunga's Brazil was on display in Durban as what should have been one of the epic contests of this World Cup dissolved into a bitter goalless draw. It was Brazil's first in 24 games and their first in a World Cup since 1978 when a side coached by Claudio Coutinho, who emphasised physical fitness over artistry and dropped Rivelino because he was supposedly overweight, stumbled through their group in Mar del Plata. Dunga was, however, without the admittedly stuttering Kaka after his ludicrous dismissal against Ivory Coast, while Elano's shins, protected by pads bearing the names of his two daughters, were still recovering from the impact of Cheik Tiote's tackle.
In Durban, Dunga omitted Robinho's fluid skills for the earthier talents of Nilmar, who may keep his place against Chile tonight if for no other reason that he scored a hat-trick against them in qualification 10 months ago.
And it was in qualification, rather than this World Cup, where Chile most impressed. The tournament has been seen as a personal quest for their manager, Marcelo Bielsa, who has never forgiven himself for failing to take his native Argentina beyond the group stages in 2002: "The scar will never fade," he said.
He may have given Chile their first World Cup victory since 1962, when they were beaten in the semi-finals by a Brazilian side pivoted around the brilliance of Garrincha and Vava, but his demeanour after their defeat by Spain in the Loftus Versfeld suggested they had thrown away an opportunity to top the group and avoid a team against whom his adopted nation have a serious inferiorty complex. In 65 enounters between the two sides, Chile have won seven times and the last of those was a decade ago. "To celebrate qualification superimposed on defeat creates ambivalance," was his studied attitude after the final whistle in Pretoria – from a man who could have been a lawyer had football not come calling.
Even without the weight of history bearing down on his team, the performance against Spain, who knew they had to win to survive, was chaotic. Whoever Dunga choses to partner Luis Fabiano in attack will face a Chilean back four stripped of its two regular centre-halves, Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce, and midfielder Marco Estrada, whose early dismissal in Pretoria deprived his team of the platform from which they could mount a serious comeback.
Nevertheless, Bielsa, who was known as "The Madman" in Argentina for his obsessive attention to detail – such as striding out to measure the pitch before kick-off – will not abandon the attacking principles that saw Chile score more times in qualification than Brazil, any more than Dunga will toss away his philosophy. "In today's football caution is virtue and daring is not well thought of," he said. But in Johannesburg tonight the odds are still on the triumph of caution.
Brazil v Chile
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