Belfast Telegraph

Brazil's Copa exit illustrates the plight of Dunga's men

By Miguel Delaney

It was all so typical of their boorish coach, and the increasingly confused state of the Brazilian team. After yesterday's Copa America quarter-final defeat to Paraguay in Chile, Dunga claimed what he was about to say was "not an excuse"… before offering an excuse. "But 15 players had a virus and we had to limit much of our training."

Knowledge of that virus was also limited. Chelsea full-back Filipe Luis claimed he "didn't know anything about that".

One thing seems undeniable: Brazilian football as a whole is sick, and needs a far deeper diagnosis than Dunga is willing to offer.

The 4-3 penalty shoot-out defeat to Paraguay wasn't as humiliating as last summer's 7-1 collapse to Germany, but Brazil are very far from what they should be.

From the start, it was evident that World Cup semi-final has stripped them of their fear factor.

Paraguay fully deserved to go through because they were determined to attack Dunga's side. That attitude has spread around South America.

Brazil's fragile mindset is now more willingly tested by opposition, as happened here when Thiago Silva offered Derlis Gonzalez an equalising penalty through a mindless handball; it also exposes the fact there isn't that much to be afraid of.

Throughout this Copa America, even with Neymar in the team, Brazil's main attacking threats were repeated one-dimensional crosses and set-pieces.

Robinho's opening goal was the only touch Brazil had in the Paraguay box during the entire first half.

There was no craft, no creativity, from the country with the most exhilarating football history of all. This dull team reflects a depressing present and worrying future. Brazil no longer produces creative players by design.

Those who work around its system say the country's football culture has become obsessed with "verticality".

That has meant a production line of running full-backs like Danilo, running midfielders like Ramires and not much else. Players like Neymar now come about only by coincidence. All of that could be seen here in a display in which Brazil effectively ran into a wall.

Like his predecessor Felipe Scolari, Dunga combines arrogant proclamations with a neurotic victim complex, creating a team that struggles to handle setbacks. On the eve of the Paraguay match, he controversially linked the justifiable criticism he has received with Brazil's racial history.

"I think I'm an Afro-descendant because I get beaten so much," Dunga said. He later apologised, in a rare moment of contrition. This should be the moment for hard decisions to be taken. Yet the first response to this defeat was Brazilian federation president Marco del Nero phoning Dunga to offer full support because of his "strength" as a coach.

Dunga himself, meanwhile, maintains this latest failure is nothing to get fussed over. "It was a great lesson but the World Cup qualifiers are still our greatest goal," he said.

On this evidence Brazil's World Cup qualification is far from certain.

Belfast Telegraph


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