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: (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

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

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 
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: (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: (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

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

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

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.