Beauty is in winning for Dunga’s Brazil

Brazil's Maicon celebrates after scoring against North Korea.

Brazil's Maicon celebrates after scoring against North Korea.  

Brazil are ready to win the World Cup, but there may now be better exponents of the “jogo bonita” than the five-time world champions.

Playing the game beautifully — as expressed by the 1970 World Cup-winning team when Pele, Jairzinho and Rivelinho among others dazzled in Mexico — is not the first priority for Carlos Dunga.

So it came as little surprise that he was pleased enough with an ultimately effective performance against North Korea in a 2-1 victory on Tuesday to get their World Cup underway in South Africa.

“It doesn’t matter whether someone likes you or not. What counts is what happens on the field,” the 46-year-old coach said on the eve of the game.

“It’s all about efficiency,” he said afterward, admitting that it had not been an easy night against the North Koreans.

“You have to insist, be persistent, work on the ball. It’s not easy to play a team that closes up well.” After a sluggish first-half display, goals by Maicon and Elano came as a relief before a late goal by Ji Yun Nam took some of the gloss off the Brazilian victory.

Dunga has overcome the first hurdle, but the win on a freezing night at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg against the rank outsiders, who proved to be industrious and compact opponents, will have done nothing to temper the criticism back home.

The Brazilian media have the knives sharpened for the man who captained the 1994 World Cup winners, and they may yet get the chance to put them to use if the team does not improve against Ivory Coast in five days’ time and Portugal in the final group game.

Under Dunga, the Brazil of the past no longer exists. Training sessions have become well-drilled affairs, often behind closed doors, almost unthinkable for a team that always held relaxed, open sessions where players freely talked to the Brazilian media and fans.

The Dunga-era has come as a particular shock for TV stations such as Globo, which was used to enjoying easy access to the team dressing room. The coach has now decreed that no player can give an interview without his permission.

Striker Robinho reportedly made the mistake this week of speaking to Globo and was made to apologise to his teammates at a specially convened meeting.

Relations between the team and the media are now fraught, and — almost traditional for Brazilian football — the coach has received a battering from some former stars, though Pele has been supportive.

“I wouldn’t say it is a bunker mentality because some teams are even more closed, but for Brazil it’s a bunker,” said one Brazilian journalist who has followed the team at World Cups.

Dunga doesn’t care too much for all the talk of “jogo bonito.” He points out that since he took over after the 2006 World Cup, when Brazil were eliminated by France, his team have scored more than 100 goals so they must be doing something creative.

It’s just not the samba soccer to which the world is accustomed — and too pragmatic for many Brazilians in the football-mad country.

Despite or perhaps because of the few superstars in the squad, Dunga believes he has a side that can win a sixth World Cup title for the Selecao, providing they adhere to his way of working.

Dunga has won both tournaments and vindication before during his tenure. His team was widely criticised for the way they performed at the 2007 Copa America, before outplaying Argentina 3-0 in the final.

At the 2009 Confederations Cup, they rallied from two goals down to defeat the United States 3-2 in the final. Dunga’s Brazil proved effective in South American World Cup qualifying, finishing top with the most goals scored and fewest conceded.

Few coaches can match Dunga’s record. By the end of the year he had reached 50 matches with 34 wins and only five defeats. Yet, in Brazil, winning isn’t everything.

Tostao, one of the outstanding players of the 1970 World Cup winners, lamented last year: “The Brazilian football, which is admired all around the world for its touch, for exchanging passes and dominating the game, no longer exists.”

Socrates, who captained the classy 1982 World Cup team, has called today’s Brazilian game “an affront to our culture.” Dunga’s squad, however, reflects his belief that only hard work and discipline will bring results.

Of the household names, Kaka is still there to bring his artistry to attacking midfield, but the Real Madrid player has had injuries and was not at his best against the North Koreans.

Robinho has the technical wizardry but is often a wayward figure, though he did set up Elano’s goal with a marvellous, defence-splitting pass.

Defeating North Korea won’t silence the critics, but Dunga suggests it is all par for the course for a Brazil coach, and he has no intention on dwelling on what the so-called experts say.

“Everyone has their preferences,” he said, “and my preference is to win.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 11:07:02 PM |

Next Story