Brazil critics missing the point
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- Knit-picking galore has highlighted commentary about the way Dunga's Brazil plays the game. Boring. Lacking flair. Lacking in attack. Not a typical Brazil team, all common criticisms among the cynical masses.
And it's not just narrow-minded World Cup soccer fans or fidgety journalists taking shots. The list of names that are critical is vast, featuring names of soccer prominence.
Pele has been critical, saying the team rarely dominates, while lacking the spirit to maintain ball possession.
Former Dutch star Johan Cruyff criticized Dunga's squad selection and makeup, saying he wouldn't pay to watch them. Apparently Cruyff doesn't like winning.
Der Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer, never shy from giving a good quote, hit out at Brazil for lacking offensive prowess.
Even former Brazilian star Socrates has said the way Dunga's team plays is an affront to their national culture. Once again, isn't Brazilian soccer culture about winning?
Style is in the eye of the beholder. And believe you me, this team is stylish as any in the tournament and a pleasure to watch. Is this team different than years past? Yes, absolutely, but this is a positive change.
As a player, Dunga was hardnosed and bounced around to nine different professional teams. The name on the back of the jersey means nothing to him.
Name recognition or brand power, for the lack of a better term, is irrelevant. Hence why Ronaldhino is nowhere to be seen in South America. A gifted offensive talent, no question, a player as such never fit Dunga's team concept.
This Brazil team doesn't need that kind of player, and still looks as good as any. Dunga instilled selflessness into the team and it's been contagious. Even Robinho, who has been labeled a head case in many soccer circles, has fully bought in. And accordingly, Dunga's Brazil is a favourite to lift the World Cup.
This Brazil team won last year's Confederations Cup, showing a lot of resolve in the process. It's called character. And they were tops in CONMEBOL qualifying in convincing manner, which is even more impressive considering four of the eight World Cup quarterfinalists come from South America.
Back to the point, Brazil is hardly unwatchable. They are quite the opposite actually.
I see a clinical team, built from the back and designed to break down opposition in all vital positions of the field.
Poised and powerful wingbacks are severely under-rated in the modern game. Few are better than Maicon and the emerging Michel Bastos. Both get up with the field with ease and are capable of quality distribution from dangerous positions.
The best player in their side plays the most important position. Team captain Lucio is as dominant a centre-back as they come. The pace of the game is completely dictated by him. When he pushes forward and takes chances, so does the team. When issues need be settled and the game slowed down to reorganize, it's Lucio that does so.
In front of him, Dunga's tactics are very much in line with those effective in 2010. A defensive unit, composed of four defenders fronted by two defensive midfielders has become commonplace. You see variations of it in club soccer as well. Manchester United, for example, is at it's best when deploying Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in the centre of the park to dominate ball possession, while letting the four attacking players in front of them run free and cause havoc.
Brazil certainly has a stout four in the back, and has that ball winning, no nonsense centre midfield, featuring the veteran savvy of Gilberto Silva and the youthful exuberance of Dani Alves. No matter who replaces the injured Elano or the suspended Ramires, the parts are interchangeable, set out to stamp out the game.
And the players upfront -- Fabiano, Robinho, and Kaka -- all have the ability to turn on the style and are game changers.
Any criticism of these players or the structure is simply shortsighted. The intricate ball work, intelligent runs, and command on the game this team possesses stands above their competitors.
And I would suggest Brazil's master class hasn't been turned on as of yet. No team has poised a challenge. Finishing lacked against North Korea, but quality did not. They dispatched of the Ivory Coast with ease. They toyed with Portugal in a nothing game. And a 3-0 scoreline against Chile flattered their opponent.
It's true we haven't seen a 5-0 goal-fest. But that's not what this team is all about. It's about composure and big picture. And Dunga is far from panicking.
Dunga was a defensive player and always will be a defensive-minded coach. That doesn't mean boring. He's put together a side in his mold. And as unlikeable a personality he may be to many, he's a winner.
The criticism doesn't bother Dunga -- he is just focused on winning. But in the fickle soccer world and a country accustomed to winning, even that may not be enough to rid the critics.