May 1, 1998 Brazil 0 Argentina 1 [May 2, 1998] Zagallo, a populist? Or really just a naked king? [May 2, 1998] WC98 = 66-74 for Brazil? ========================== Subject: BrazilxArgentina (from a brazilian perspective: Thanks, Argies ! ) Date: Fri, 01 May 1998 00:50:22 -0600 From: email@example.com (Augusto) Thanks, Argentina ! At this time more than a hundred million Brazilian "coaches" are out hunting for explanations and shooting at guilt targets. What if in that particular match of Wednesday night had Brazil won or even pleased its supporters ? A bit more confident they would be, no question. But, what should we Brazilians expect from such a game ? The ninety-nine thousand people partying at Maracana stadium certainly deserved some fun or a result to allow themselves a break from daily life. They and most Brazilian fans throughout the country were sure under the natural emotional spell. Even some pressmen were, since many just can't help it. For all of them, the longing for some "art-soccer" by our stars against a traditional rival. Well, they asked for and had the stars they cried for, and apparently will never understand quite what happened Wednesday night. That's how it goes with football passion : immediacy plus emotion. But if we are to search for truth, then we must make an effort to hold back those two parameters and make room for a third: reason. Then we may have a chance of putting things in perspective. Fact seems to be, reality was out there before the match. The main effect of any outcome from the game would be on psychological level, as we can now easy tell: Passarella's team enjoys a strong charge of confidence and support towards France 98, while Zagallo's loses just about any public confidence that was left. If properly administrated, the Argentinean team may benefit from the increased confidence as an important tool for their ambitioned third title. The argentineans are not a team out of this world, but were undeniably superior against Brazil. Actually they did resemble a bit the brazilian approach of WC94, with a strong defensive midfield presence. It's a team which appears to have learned from errors during qualifiers. Players seemed seriously compelled to honor their shirt, symbolized by the fury-look of Simeone, who plays for Argentina the Dunga-kind-of leadership Brazil missed on Wednesday. Limitations are still there of course, especially the need for some calibration at shooting, as Batistuta and Lopez seemed too anxious. Except for the solitaire score they did not take advantage of opportunities build up by their mates. And, yes, Argentineans should not overestimate Wednesday's win, regardless of the deserved excitement of its fans. On Brazil's side, given the overall record of non-inspiring performances in all these past four years, the defeat was the best thing that could happen to Zagallo's team. It wipes out the effect of the deceiving win result recently against Germany. It works as a healing warning, thus bringing up a precious chance for last-hour serious and deep revaluation of the way Brazil is moving towards WC98. Despite denials and minimizations of any sort, it's honestly speaking a matter of emergency, and sadly it's unlikely that it will be properly dealt with. At this point, it would take tremendous courage from the Brazilian officials and staff to do something about the kind of planning at work (?), it would implicate very dangerous risks to fuss with the structure now so close to the Cup. Plus it would require tremendous capacity of understanding on Zagallo's side to acknowledge what really is the state of things going on. Recently appointed Zico could now have his historical chance to show what exactly he is there for. But it will not be easy for him either, such a "hot potato" to hold. Anyway, there still is chance, and whatever is done will have to be done in few weeks, of (hopefully) true field practices to say the least. By seeing the Brazilian side in the light of previous games, and not only the loss against Argentina, it becomes easy to run diagnostics. Brazil has enough players of top level to aspire for another title, but Wednesday's game showed very clearly that it will not happen unless the individual potentials are given some collective binding. That, is the task of a coach, or whoever takes over the team outside or inside the field. Blind emotion-taken fans and many pressmen, especially here in Rio, seem uncapable of perceiving such simple concept. They keep blaming this or that player, and then, what the hell, might as well blame the coach, because of this or that player. A calculistic Romario, in smart demagoguery, approved the audience's reproving at Maracana, chanting "ole" at every argentinean pass. And quickly sentenced: "the ball would never reach me". Naiver, though safer in the job, Ronaldo declared that "there are no excuses, we played way bad". In truth, the ball almost never got to the brazilian frontmen, as the midfield seemed totally unacquainted to attempt any sort of creative work. But that is no news, the same key keeps being pressed at every other match. But besides this chronic problem, there is a cousin one : as now commentator Pele' well points out, Ronaldo and Romario remain as statues in the inside zone, without a single attempt by moving out from the congested area to open up spaces for others to advance from behind. And as Falcao, also a commentator now, has wisely remarked, a team begins winning the game by winning the midfield battle for ball possession. Then it has the choice for activating its attacking resources. Not a matter of lining up attackers, but a matter of attacking with many. Clearly, the Brazilians seemed ineffective to take the ball from the argentineans. And whenever they had possession, they just did not know what to do with it. It is more than just lack of conviction, it's just "not knowing", "waiting for someone else to do something". Another big sin by the Brazilian players was not being able to do approximation: whoever got the ball seemed always relegated to his own possibilities. So, the difference from the other friendly against Germany was that the Argentineans did a better job watching for any eventual counter-attack run by Ronaldo. Yes, Brazil is relying on counter-attacks, and not as effectively as in 94. It is much unfair and cruel, if not dishonest, to jump at conclusions about individual performances based on this match. Everyone did bad, very bad. And when this happens, we can't blame individuals, even though there are indeed individual issues to be dealt with. A word about midfield Rai' must be said : he did not do well, and maybe he really does not belong in the group, but it is a crime to crucify him for 45 minutes of an all-team disaster in his only and probably last opportunity in the four years of preparation for WC98. For Brazil, I dare to say that all that has (or hasn't) been done in four years has not made any difference at all. Now there will remain a few weeks as compensation for the time lost. "Zero km", after all. "Brazil has the best players of the world but a highly predictable tactical scheme", said Daniel Passarella, after the game. Very kind of him to say that, as I still strive to spot any sort of tactical scheme in the BR-team. To sum it up, it was interestingly noted how very few brazilian players would sing along their national anthem. The argentineans seemed to know better the meaning of their own anthem, despite the shameful disrespect shown by the local crowd. As if to make up for it, the brazilians at Maracana payed clear recognition to the better game of the visitors' who in the end enjoyed a massive support among cries of "-Dumb Zagallo", "-Rai', ask to leave". Hopefully for us Brazilians, someone in the national team may be aware of reality and will make clever use of the Argentinean win, the opportunity which paradoxically stems of it as gift. In Chinese, crisis has a double meaning: danger and opportunity, which may serve as encouragement. ======================================================= Subject: Zagallo,a populist?Or really just a naked king?(Brazilian perspective) Date: Sat, 02 May 1998 10:00:24 -0600 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Augusto) (This is a repost, apparently lost by some unreliable server. The text is more than month old but interestingly I believe it is still not obsolete. ) ----------------------------------- I beg to Brazilian sports reporters : Please, with all due respect and professional tract, do ask Mr. Mario Zagallo the questions that will make it possible for the current national team coach to take a stand regarding the delicate issue about which Carlos Alberto Parreira quite clear and honestly spoke in 1994. Parreira, as we witnessed, proclaimed in 94 that playing beautifully and winning the world cup were to his judgement incompatible things, at least in the circumstances of that time. Parreira made it clear to have given up the first choice. Even against the will of so many and raided by criticisms, he remained coherent and loyal to his beliefs until the final's penalty decision against Italy. We may blame him for stubbornness, for overcautiousness or anything, but not for dishonesty or not being coherent. Even after the world victory, asked about his critics, Parreira was elegant not to choose any revenge-like statement and limited himself to quote a Sinatra-sung "I did it my way ..." Now, as a new world cup approaches, we Brazilians do not know what the stand of the current coach is after all regarding the ideologies which have built up around soccer and the national team. Zagallo replaced Parreira promising to reconduct the national team to a more creative style after what he himself considered as necessary defensive approach for 94. This made the day for the romantics who radically favor offensivism and deplore the so-called "results soccer". A few isolated games, of no official importance, seemed to confirm the new announced intentions. But then came official competitions such as Copa America and the olympics and both brought not only defeat but also the absence of beautiful play. Brazil neither won nor pleased. In 97 Copa America, with important countries sending B-teams, Zagallo finally enjoyed an official win. But, for that he had to recur explicitly to the WC94 style. Or are we to believe that what we saw in Bolivia was the true art-soccer ? And we had to "swallow it", to use the very same expression chosen by the coach. Zagallo, like ancient populist leaders as Argentinean Juan Peron and Brazilian Getulio Vargas, seems to transit freely between, say, right and left. He has been almost unconditionally supported by the romantics despite at each opportunity confirming his inclination towards defensivism. Sports press and fans then stay wandering about lineups, about this or that player, whether it should be Rivaldo or Rai for the imaginary "#1" position ( it does seem Brahma beer company masked merchandising ), whether Edmundo deserves or not a place, whether Romario is too old, whether Taffarel sucks or shines. Divagations that always adapt to the every isolated match result in this suspicious "penta preparation". Big picture is easily missed. Only at quite late a time here in the influential Rio de Janeiro, doubts have started to arise about what was already an exposed fracture in the 96 olympics : absence of planning, of practices, of useful friendlies, of proper physical condition, of tactical determination in field, of starters definition, of command, of coherence, of information, of updating, of humbleness. Only the blind or those who by some dark type of reason benefit from Zagallo's presence fail to see the obvious : Zagallo is indeed naked. as he already showed to be in 96, as the king in that famous child tale ( Andersen's). The king, deceived by his taylor, Zagallo by a own personal narcissism fed by those who mix up the different realities of the player he once was and the kind of coach he is. Please demonstrate by any means, if you can, that Zagallo is a legitimate defender of offensive soccer or competent to put such approach into practice. Please, Brazilian reporters, for honesty and respect to the Brazilian fan, sack Zagallo once and for all from the wall he remains seated on and ask him if he will or not make the same choice Parreira did in 94. Then we Brazilians will at least know which path our soccer will attempt to follow in France 98. Please do it so that, as happened in 94, some may agree and others may complain, without the apparent embarrassment that keep our Rio press from speaking out its true opinions. And then let us all cheer our team, conscious of what commitments were made. We are irreversibly stuck with Zagallo, who won't lose his ambitioned job, thus it's time for him to at least take responsibilities. Or should these later fall as blame to an "England's Queen" and apparently naive Zico ? WC98 is not here yet and we Brazilians already have enough current lessons for WC2002, all of which regarding what should NOT happen. ================================== Subject: WC98 = 66-74 for Brazil ? (Brazilian Perspective) Date: Sat, 02 May 1998 12:05:04 -0600 From: email@example.com (Augusto) (Another month old bottle-message lost in the ocean, written long before the loss to Argentina, but still not old enough.) ------------------------- The winds still blow a la 66 and 74 for the Brazilian team on the road to France 98. Some resemblances with those two past world cups still plague Brazil's current efforts and expectations. At this point it appears to be something to live up with, irreversible. As we recall, faulty preparation in 66 and 74 abbreviated the chances for both star-plenty teams, and our prayers for some magic twice succumbed like a castle of sand against roaring european waves. Any eventual win in those two cups could only have come out of some extraordinary sum of improvisation acts, and we later did learn how unlikely such possibility was. It's easy to see clearer after it's done. So now again we are confronted with some typical issues that we wished were long gone for good. The eleven starters aren't quite known, despite coach Zagallo's claims that he already has the definite lineup inside his head. For all we have witnessed in the past years, things may easily change from one friendly match to another. As result, players are kept exposed to the insecureness of being judged by isolated performances. It reminds of the dumb search for a rainbow's pot of gold in 66: trying to spot the exactly best individuals thus leaving too little time for team acquaintedness. And as with 74, the Brazilian strategy seems devoted to individual skills. Not a sign of the space management seen in 82 when Falcao or other would fill up the important outside spots, in the first time a Brazilian team had ever played a cup without a traditional right-wing. Right-wingers remain history but sadly both left and right wing spaces also do remain defunct. All we usually see there is little confident side-defenders ventures while midfielders stubbornness jams in the center congested zone. Sure, there are also resemblances with 94, when offense jobs owed much credit to the individual efforts of Romario and Bebeto while the rest of the team managed to keep a defensive fortress. As if there was no midfield, the ball kept being sent directly from defense to attack. Brazilians had expected from coach Zagallo some rescue of a more creative and effective midfield offense role. In practice instead Zagallo seems to have long given up the idea of proposing a more daring offense and is seriously worried about preserving a defensive capacity similar to that of 94. But problems and potential other problems sum up to make that a hard task and so far the Brazilian defensive capacity has fallen way below that of Parreira's team. Let's have a look. Incapable of building a renewed, younger defensive setup, in an apparent issue of coaching command, Zagallo ended up recurring to veteran captain Dunga to bind together the pieces torn out in the 96 wreck. So, in practice, Dunga has become the real coach for the Brazilian defense, one with a voice strong enough to demand tactical discipline and correct positioning, something Zagallo obviously was not able to achieve alone. Dunga gave the team back a true leader and captain, the opposite of what Bebeto was in 96. This coupled with a less advanced positioning could compensate for his older an arguably slower shape. But even so Dunga's important role faces potential obstacles, since his hard-style finds resistance from likes of, for example, Cafu' and Ronaldo. The hands-together stuff doesn't look as convincing or effective as in 94 in the light of often witnessed arguments between players. The Brazilian defense starts with a well experienced keeper, hero of the 94 penalty decision, but lately of lousy performance with his team, Atletico-MG. At least Taffarel has overall not disappointed when playing for the national team. In the middle of Brazilian defense, an also veteran Aldair has risen concern about his technical shape after a series of mistakes since the 96 olympics. His lately colleague Junior Baiano while apparently better accomplished technically is a true time-bomb ready to explode out of an unpredictable and ill mind behavior. Even Flamengo's supporters have lost patience with him. On the right side, Cafu' is always more physical energy then a good marker or effective crosser. On the left, Roberto Carlos is a powerful offensive weapon with a gifted kick but still also a candidate for red cards given his habitual rear-tackling. If Dunga may be the same leader of 94, Cesar Sampaio appears to be an effective replacement for Mauro Silva. Between these two and the duo Ronaldo-Romario lies the unsolvable problem : how to preserve defensiveness power without the midfield offensive sacrifice seen in 94 ? Denilson is a rare young talent but the way he's been lately burdened and positioned by Zagallo leaves little left for his full attacking potential. In such way he may well experience the same kind of dilemma of Zinho in 94. And as Rivaldo (as happened earlier with himself plus Giovanni, Djalminha and others) keeps falling under unreasonable expectations built up around an imaginary role, we may well see Leonardo showing up with his known dual capacity for defending and attacking even though only average at either. In practice, in the heat of the cup, he might end up as just one more to defend. Not to mention the chance for a third defensive midfielder, Ze' Elias or Flavio Conceicao. Dunga is the defense's boss, but midfield still lacks some creative authority, therefore offense stays relegated to hoped extra inspiration by Ronaldo and who knows Romario or Bebeto or Edmundo, plus a hoped kick or cross by Roberto Carlos and some dreamlike productive run by Cafu'. And unless Romario shows off in the friendly against Argentina, we will also have Edmundo's ill brain to worry about. And certainly the substitutes bench will be one of unrest one way or another. The press from Sao Paulo has prompted an explicit lobby demanding that Santos' forward Muller be listed, given his excellent record this year. But Rio's press remains yet more influential to remind that Muller played three world cups and never did great. Plus there seems to be some personal issue between Zagallo and Muller who allegedly made verbal complaints during WC94, which really doesn't help a player outside Rio. This is and has been the Zagallo team. No concern for serious field practice, or rehearsing play-combinations, free and corner kicks whatsoever. Maybe there will be penalty-kick practicing ... The bare two weeks scheduled for practicing before the WC aren't encouraging enough about any desired tactical acquaintedness. It's something that has never been produced in the years past 94, so how to expect it to happen in such short time ? Not even the hired field in France promises to be of any utility, true scandal. Interestingly, the crucial importance of field practice appears neglected by many as if expecting that all solutions come out of individual play in the elusive friendly against Argentina. France 98 will be again a bet (or bluff) on the capacity of the "art/magic-gifted" Brazilian player against "less creative" opponents. Which may come as joy for many who disregard the importance of good coaching and believe blindly that stars can do it all. Typical cartesian myopia, which minds the pieces above the whole. Brazil will certainly surpass the initial round of matches (can't get as bad as 66). The first matches will actually function as a last opportunity for tuning up things within hopefully at least a tuned-up lineup. Maybe then the wind blows some last-minute healing answers.