Monday, June 22, 2009

Brazil - youth, power, and a distaste for the passing game

Sunday was the 39th anniversary of a previous Brazil victory over Italy by a three-goal margin. One of the main architects of that 4-1 win in the final of the 1970 World Cup was Pele, who last week was criticising the current Brazil side.

He gave an interview during which he was drawing tactical diagrams, explaining that in comparison with his day, the team's central midfield play is "bureaucratic." It is an observation that many purists would agree with - for what it's worth, the present writer among them.

Dunga's Brazil don't care - and, while they are racking up wins as convincing as Sunday's against Italy, why on earth should they?
Whether or not they go on to win the Confederations Cup, the most important thing is that Brazil have put their cards on the table and shown that in a year's time, in the real thing, they will be right there among the favourites to lift the first World Cup on African soil.

Dunga's Brazil, with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo in centre midfield, are not and will never be Pele's, with Clodoaldo and Gerson. The change reflects a switch in philosophy of Brazilian football which is a reaction to two things. Firstly, the rise in northern European football in the 60s and 70s, and especially the pressure that the Holland side of 1974 put on the ball. Second, the failure of Brazil's wonderfully gifted 1982 team.

The thinking is as follows - the physical development of the game has made it much harder for teams to play an expansive passing style through the middle of the field. Instead, matches are won and lost at two key moments - set pieces and transitions (those moments when possession changes hands from one side to the other).

A glance at Brazil's recent performances will show how much attention they pay to these two situations.

They have been scoring lots of goals from free kicks and corners. Brazil count on players who can whip the ball in at pace, lots of tall players to attack the ball and an impressive variety of options. My favourite was the free kick from which they were awarded the last-minute penalty which won the game against Egypt.

They had already scored from a corner to the near post, where Egypt were having defensive problems. So that was the expected target area, but instead Daniel Alves chipped to the far, where Lucio got in a volley that was handled on the line. But more than intelligent and effective set pieces, the hallmark of the current Brazil side is its devastating counter-attack. They are probably the only team in the world who, when the opposition have a corner, can legitimately see this as a goalscoring opportunity for themselves.

Coaches all over the globe will be thinking of ways to protect their team against these weapons, studying the trajectory of the free kicks and trying to work out how to stop the counter-attack at source. Before next year, then, Dunga will have to come up with some variations. In the evolution of the team, he has already made one interesting switch.

Last year Brazil were having real problems at home. The away results were good - the opposition were pushing up and playing into their counter-attack. In front of their own fans, though, it was a different story. Being held 0-0 at home by Bolivia was one of the most surprising results in the history of South American football. Their previous home match was a goalless draw with Argentina. The next one was a 0-0 draw with Colombia.

In none of these matches Brazil looked like scoring. The solution was to free Maicon to crash forward from right back with his terrifying physical power and considerable technical ability. This was done by dropping an attacking midfielder (effectively Ronaldinho) and bringing in Elano on the right of midfield, to cover Maicon, double up down the flank or cut inside as required.

In the last couple of matches, this role has been filled by the livewire Ramires, giving Brazil another rapid option to launch the counter-attack. But this comes at a price. It pulls the midfield over to the right, and leaves the left back unprotected - a problem exacerbated by the fact that neither Kleber nor Andre Santos look entirely convincing in the position.

On Thursday we will see if South Africa can exploit this gap. In the semi-final Brazil will get a taste of their own medicine. The Bafana Bafana are coached by a Brazilian and, on the evidence of Saturday's match against Spain, Joel Santana has them looking a bit like a current Brazilian team.

Spain are a side of nimble ball players who look to pass their way through the opposition - the very style Brazil have abandoned. For a while South Africa had some success against them, packing central midfield with three markers and seeking to spring forward down the flanks, where roving full-backs were linking up with the wide, creative midfielders - just as Dunga's Brazil did when they beat Argentina, another old fashioned passing side, in the final of the 2007 Copa America.

Assuming that Brazil beat South Africa and Spain get past the USA, that could also be the blueprint for the final of this year's Confederation Cup.

UK users can watch all of the Confederations Cup games live on the BBC Sport website, while television coverage is on BBC Three as well as the red button.

Comments on this week's piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

Q) I noticed my club Liverpool were linked with a move for a Uruguayan midfield player, Nicolás Lodeiro, who is playing with Nacional. Just wondered if you could tell me any more about him? I saw reports suggesting that Barcelona were also monitoring his progress, would you say that Liverpool/Barcelona were a level he was capable of reaching? I also saw some rather fanciful comparisons with Leo Messi, but is that simply lazy stereotyping? Any information would be appreciated.
Neil Jones

A) He's my favourite thing this year. Little left-footed attacking midfielder - but less of a dribbler than Messi, more of a passer. Makes the game flow so well because he usually knows what he's going to do before he receives the ball. Made a big impression at the start of the year in he South American Under-20 Championships, then went straight into the Nacional side and is their top scorer as they've reached the Libertadores semis for the first time since they last won the thing in 1988. I think he's starting to look a bit tired, which is no wonder.
I have very high hopes of him, but would hope that he doesn't move right away to a club where he won't be getting a regular game.

Q) Sao Paulo's star player Hernanes has been doing pretty well by all accounts in Brazil and many commentators over there have said he is ready for a big European move. Do you think AC Milan supposed interest make him automatically 'Kaka's successor', or do you think he's a different player altogether?
Speedy Gonzalez

A) I rate him very highly and think the time has come for him to move. He's not Kaka at all - rather than someone who runs at the opposing defence with the pace, power and directness of Kaka, he's someone who should be used a bit further back. He is versatile, but stands out for his ability to pass the ball well off either foot. For reasons mentioned in the article above, nowadays Brazil can be cruel on this type of player - they would rather fill central midfield with athletes and markers - and confusion about his role has been a factor in a slump of form recently.
For last week's key quarter-final match in the Libertadores Sao Paulo left him on the bench in favour of a bully boy marker who was sent off in the first half. It is one of the most depressing selections I've ever seen and it got what it deserved.
Rather than Milan, I'd prefer to see Hernanes in Spain - as soon

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* 1. At 11:45am on 22 Jun 2009, WAFC_til_i_cop_it wrote:

As a Wigan fan, and under the guidance of our new manager Roberto Martinez, it is likely that we will be seeing the more creative midfielder based around passing and technical accumen, at the DW Stadium this coming season.

One worry I have is that we will be drowned out by this kind of playing style. Packing the midfield with tough tackling midfielders and strong battlers is common place in the Premier League and is why although it is higher quality, it is not as exciting to see as La Liga. We may struggle to cope against this style of midfield and it could be a case of Spain v Brazil in the PL - although on a much less ilustrious scale.

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* 2. At 11:46am on 22 Jun 2009, IanWalford wrote:

Completely off-topic Tim, but what do you reckon of Javier Pastore - the attacking midfielder currently leading Huracan's Argentinian title charge??

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* 3. At 12:02pm on 22 Jun 2009, iammoxiaohua wrote:

it is likely that we will be seeing the more creative midfielder based around passing and technical accumen

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* 4. At 12:04pm on 22 Jun 2009, death2smurfs wrote:

Watching Brazil in the Confederations Cup, I thought they were much better team in the second and final group game with Ramires in the side than they were in the first with Elano.

I wasn't overly impressed with the 4-3 victory over Egypt, it was a lesson in how to not keep the ball in midfield, it seemed disjointed to me and it was more frustrating having seen Spain's first group game where the movement through the middle was much more fluid.

However the games against the USA and Italy the performance was much more impressive in no doubt due to the introduction of Maicon, I think highly of Daniel Alves but Maicon deserves to keep the right back slot.

Tim, you've mentioned previously that Fabio Aurelio could be a possible candidate for the left back slot and he's got great technique but I worry about his mobility, no doubt got quality going forward but he isn't very rapid.

I would love to see Ronaldinho become the star of the team in Milan next season, I thought when he joined the club last year that his second season would be his most important. If he shows good form I'd like to think he would get recalled again by Dunga, but I wonder with Robinho playing whether he is needed in the starting 11 especially when Robinho has been playing in the area of the pitch you may expect Ronaldinho to slot in. While Robinho is a fabulously gifted footballer but he's perhaps not as spectacular as Ronaldinho can be.

Having said all that there is something that has been playing on my mind for a very long time in relation to Ronaldinho, did 2006 break Ronaldinho mentally? His reputation was astronomical, he was invaluable to club and country, the pressure and expectation upon him in the lead up to the summer of '06 couldn't have been any greater, he was built up to be super human, his ability almost fictional and I'm not sure when the last time a player was placed under those extraordinary circumstances. Mentally could he carry the burden and is it why his form hasn't been the same since pre-World Cup 2006?

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* 5. At 12:19pm on 22 Jun 2009, mohtechnix wrote:

Good article Tim.. I have been waiting for your blog since I started work at's always an opprotuniy to take the usual break intervals from work.

As much as I will like to think that the current Brazillian team depend largely on counter attack, they have also scored few goals from open play like Maicon's goal against USA which was from one touch passing. Pele's criticism has become regular and I have decided to take his remarks with a pinch of a salt since he said USA's Freddy Adu will be the next pele. Ramires and Maicon have recently put in a good shift leaving D.Alves and Elano on the bench. Brazil have always been regarded as favourite in every tournament they have participated in and they are real favourites for the WC 2010 but do you think they have enough personality on the bench that can come in and make a difference when things are not going their way or if a key player picks up injury (Fabiano) Nilmar or Pato are not world beater which leaves a place for the great De Lima.. Do you think Dunga might call on Ronaldinho and De Lima for the Wc 2010 if they get back to form?

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* 6. At 12:30pm on 22 Jun 2009, ppl752 wrote:

Another team, although a club side, that can see the opposition's corner as a legitimate goal scoring opportunity is Arsenal. My memory fails, but I think it was either Harry Redknapp or Steve Bruce who adviced their team to try and not win corner kicks against Arsenal, because the potential counter attacks were deemed too dangerous.

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* 7. At 12:55pm on 22 Jun 2009, Colorado_Matt wrote:

5 - I'm assuming your referring to Ronaldo when you say De Lima. I think there is every chance he will be involved in the WC 2010 providing he is fit. Class is permanent afterall.

I do think your being harsh on both Nilmar and Pato though. Pato is still very young and I feel there is far too much weight on his shoulders to lead the Milan and Brazil forward line which is not doing him any good at all. Nilmar meanwhile may not have the media circus following him like Ronadlo but his form this year has been excellent and equally as good as Ronaldo's, if not better. (Search for his goal against Corinthians earlier this season). I just don't think Nilmar has been given a decent chance in the Brazil side. The guy has blistering pace, deadly inside the box and is an asset to the Selecao.


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* 8. At 1:12pm on 22 Jun 2009, SugarDunkerton wrote:

I don't think Elano should be anywhere near a Brazil starting position... I don't think he even looks fit enough the majority of the time, heavy legs and weary when he gets the ball.

I think it may be unconventional and may not work but when you have 2 players with the ability and athleticism of Alves and Maicon whats wrong with playing them both??

They both attack exceptionally well and have defensive qualities.. these are pre-requisites of wingers, wing backs and full backs these days.. they would be able to switch and cover each others position more effectively than the usual winger and back partnership

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* 9. At 1:14pm on 22 Jun 2009, KingArthuronice wrote:

The Confederation's Cup has provided more questions than answers.
Brazil were frankly 'fortunate' to get the win over Egypt in match one,
Egypt then beat a poor looking Italy only to get humped by USA who had been the clowns of the group. So while yes, you can argue Brazil have three wins from three...but against what exactly? The club football mantra of 'grinding out wins' has transferred to the International stage and in that respect my symapthies lie with Pele.

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* 10. At 1:26pm on 22 Jun 2009, marcio_oxfan wrote:

Great analysis, as always.
Two quick questions:
1. With his current form and with the Brazil's style of play that you surveyed in your text, do you still see a role for Ronaldinho in the team, both in the qualifyings as well as in the WC itself?
2. Left back has definitely been a real trouble for Brazil. Juca Kfouri, a local sports journalist, came out with a possble second-best solution: switch one of the right backs to the left. What do you think about this?

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* 11. At 1:32pm on 22 Jun 2009, acraven123 wrote:

This debate is always posed as either Brasil have to play 'pure' football or they try and play totally as the Europeans play. This is a nonsense, and I am sure that Dunga is student enough of the great heritage of Brasil to know what he is aiming for.
After the failure of 1950 and the loss to the great Hungarian side in 1954, in 1958 the Brasilian team was prepared by scientists and doctors and trained in Europe. They incorporated European styles of play but did not try to ape or copy them. They retained their skills and approach. It was this that won the World Cup, and the game where they came of age and showed that the hard, physical, scientific approach was no match for them was v. USSR where they won 2-0. Chile was the culmination of that teams maturity even though Pele was injured - the destruction of Uruguay a key point. 1966 they had a difficult time against European styles because they had neither prepared as before and were in a transition period with the older players ready for retirement and the younger ones not ready. For 1970, they prepared again for the European teams, studying their tactics, incorporating what was needed (not much) but retaining their own style. They also had a team that had an old guard at their peak and a young guard that had matured enough to stand on their own. So we had the greatest team ever. No one will match them.

The turn to only a European style of play was a big mistake. They forgot to incorporate and simply followed, whereas previosly they had led. But putting the debate at this level is also nonsense and denigrates the skills and abilities of both Holland (surely more modelled on Brasil) and West Germany. The case of West Germany is important because there is a bigotry here that needs addressing. Beckanbauer, Netzer, Hoeness, Breitner and Muller had their own abilities and expressed them to the fullest extent. They were more than a match for the Dutch in all departments and in Muller they had probably the greatest international goalscorer.
The whole idea that there is a 'European' style of play that involves rigid organization, heavy physical play and that the inevitability is that musclebound teams will rule is garbage. Indeed, as West Germany found out to their cost when the unfancied and disorganized Italians gave them a lesson in 1982.

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* 12. At 1:40pm on 22 Jun 2009, gunner-zp wrote:

Tim, Arsenal are reportedly in for Felipe Melo, what can you tell me about his weaknesses? I know his strengths but would he fit in our team, is he technically good enough and could he be like Gilberto for us?

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* 13. At 1:53pm on 22 Jun 2009, unounos wrote:

Brazil are on of the favourites for the World Cup - really? Brazil are always one of the favourites, whats new?!

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* 14. At 2:00pm on 22 Jun 2009, askido351 wrote:

To be honest the way Brazil play these days, Ronaldinho may not get into the team again. All the forwards tend to work very hard to help in defending( a case in point Ramires). Barcelona play the same way when they're defending every body comes back to help. Arsenal can take a page from this great footballing philosophy instead of always over-emphasizing on talent.

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* 15. At 2:03pm on 22 Jun 2009, WhitleyBayWonTheVase wrote:

#13 - precisely.

However, does anyone seriously see the defence that they have shown in the Confederations Cup standing a hope in hell of stopping Spain? It'd be slaughter.

If the spaniards continue as they are I don't think we should be looking at anything other than who will lose in the final of WC2010. Spain have got to be collosal favourites.

They dropped the shadows of past in Euro 2008 and they look phenomenal at present. It doesn't matter if Kaka, Robinho and co. get it together in South Africa. If they concede 2 or 3 goals every game they're going home sooner than they'll want.

The Netherlands, Germany and England will all be able to point to easy qualification too whilst only Holland have given what look like convincing performances.

Brazil v Spain in the final? Maybe. Holland v Spain? More likely.

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* 16. At 2:25pm on 22 Jun 2009, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:

10 - no, I can't see any point in switching either maicon or daniel alves to the left. I don't think brazil are looking for a right footed player in that position - the idea is tokeep the pitch wide for the counter.
But there's nothing stopping them playing together, daniel alves on the right of midfield, the role he filled when he came on as a sub early in the copa america final.

ronaldinho back in - a tricky one. dunga says that he's very much in his plans, but.... he was picking a line of kaka, robinho and ronaldinho behind the striker and it never really worked - there was a sense that the 3 of them got in each other's way - the team has worked better with the current blend.

and yes, i do think the 2006 failure is a trauma in ronaldinho's mind. a similar thing happened, though on a smaller scale, after he flopped in the 2000 olympics.

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* 17. At 2:32pm on 22 Jun 2009, Nichollodeon wrote:

Great Blog as always Tim
Just wandering if there is any chance that we will see Adriano or Ronaldo back in a Brazil shirt for the 2010 WC.

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* 18. At 2:42pm on 22 Jun 2009, hackerjack wrote:

ronaldinho back in - a tricky one. dunga says that he's very much in his plans, but.... he was picking a line of kaka, robinho and ronaldinho behind the striker and it never really worked - there was a sense that the 3 of them got in each other's way - the team has worked better with the current blend.


I agree, though I can't help feeling that come next summer it would be a mistake for Brazil to not play Ronadinho, if that means potentially sacraficing Robinho to the Bench then that's the move I would look to make.

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* 19. At 2:45pm on 22 Jun 2009, U11148453 wrote:


Brazil's defense is fine, first game against Egypt was an exception.
Their defence was poor in the first game of Copa America.
Their defence has been one of the tightest in qualifiers.

As far as Spain beating Brazil, dream on. Spain's bandwagon is hot, but

Brazil is a level above Spain. Much like Argies in Copa America, Spain will find this out. Brazil scored 3 against a "poor" Italian side. How many Spain scored against this poor side? 0 in 120 minutes.

Brazil are faster and more physical. Xavi, Inieasta, and Fab won't have luxury of time.

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* 20. At 2:46pm on 22 Jun 2009, mohtechnix wrote:

#12.. I don't see Felioe Melo coming to Arsenal.. If he will be leaving Fiorentina then it will be Inter Milan.......

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* 21. At 2:56pm on 22 Jun 2009, Cozmo012 wrote:

15 - Holland do look strong but dont they always in group stages? in euro 2008 noone could stop talking about them but they got destroyed by Russia in the knockouts

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* 22. At 3:27pm on 22 Jun 2009, bofderby wrote:

I do not think that Brazil has completely abandoned its intricate "through the middle passes." I would like to think the Brazil free-flow play of quick little one-twos is still alive -- albeit coming from different angles rather than just straight though the middle. I feel the goal by Maicon against the USA (while coming from the right side)was as beautiful a futbol play as I have seen in a long while. It was a pretty bit of futbol passing and movement. Would you not agree?

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* 23. At 3:32pm on 22 Jun 2009, Matikilile wrote:

Hey Tim, Love your blog, people from South Africa can really learn from on how to make happenings debatable.

Well Brazil is looking good.. Spain even Better

Unfortunatly any team on any given day can win any given match ! Right ??

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* 24. At 3:42pm on 22 Jun 2009, consoles

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* 25. At 3:58pm on 22 Jun 2009, bhastings316 wrote:

Surely Brazil have always played with 2 defensive tackling midfielders to allow their full backs to bomb on and attack?

In 94 it was Dunga and Mauro Silva allowing Jorginho and Branco/Leonardo to get forward. In 98 Cesar Sampaio partnered Dunga in the middle allowing Cafu and Roberto Carlos to free license to get forward.

Gilberto Silva has been a mainstay of the midfield since 2002 in a defensive role alongside Kleberson in the 2002 world cup final. I don't see any difference in their current midfield setup to those of the past.

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* 26. At 4:03pm on 22 Jun 2009, ballontheground wrote:

Hi Tim,

I very much enjoyed your analysis of Brazil's current side and their apparent shift of style of play. I just think you push your argument a bit too far when saying that they have a "distaste for the pasing game". I reckon the Brazilian players would not back up this interpretation, and there is actually plenty of evidence in their last games that they do "switch on" the passing game mode - and losses concentration - when victory seems guaranteed. Yes, counter-attacks have become the main goal scoring method of the Brazilian team under Dunga, but this by no means implies a distaste for the so-called passing game. Very nice post nonetheless.

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* 27. At 4:16pm on 22 Jun 2009, Worst firm in the world wrote:


Greatly enjoy your insightful tactical analysis of South American sides. Hopefully the BEEBs TV editors give you a spot on the panel during next years World Cup games featuring teams from Latin America. I'd much prefer to hear your informed take on proceedings than - say - Alan Shearer's.

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* 28. At 4:17pm on 22 Jun 2009, OlegKrasnov wrote:

Hello, Tim! Could not find your contact details so decided to contact you by means of blog comments. I am PR-Director of Thank you for linking to our original FTBL rating system. We would really appreciate if you, being the football professional, could tell us your opinion of our rating system. If you wouldn't mind, please drop me a line to Kind regards.

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* 29. At 4:57pm on 22 Jun 2009, IanWalford wrote:

#25 - when you say "Surely Brazil have always played with 2 defensive tackling midfielders to allow their full backs to bomb on and attack?" and then quote 1994 onwards, that's kind of the point Tim was making.

In 1994, Brazil had gone 24 years without winning the World Cup despite having so many wonderful players - they then introduced a system with two defensive midfielders and carried the trophy off with a pretty uninspiring team. It's a model they've used since then.

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* 30. At 5:08pm on 22 Jun 2009, Man From Milan wrote:

Yes, Brazil-Spain looks like a possible WC final, but England has a decent chance of spoiling their party. Can't see anyone else, normally you'd add Argentina and Italy to the list, but Argentina is wasting its talent with Maradona as manager, and as for Italy, we saw last night what a pitiful state they are in.

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* 31. At 5:18pm on 22 Jun 2009, littlejklc wrote:

I would say Brazil will be the big favorite next year. Their football nowadays is not as lovely watching as in the 70s and 80s. A kind of like what Chelsea playing with more talent, faster players. That is my opinion.
Spain is good as well now but I doubt if they can keep up that standard next year. Teams know if they defense deeply, they just like Barcelona which have no plan B. Although during their 35 winning run, they didn't need one, there will be someone that can break it.
For England, I really don't think they should think about winning it at all. It is almost zero chance. If they can get to last 4, it is already very huge.

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* 32. At 5:21pm on 22 Jun 2009, stuartwholden wrote:

while I will admit Brazil have looked impressive it has been against a very weak group. Italy were about as pathetic as I have ever seen them. Do you honestly think that at the highest of levels a world cup semi and final that Gilberto Silva and felipe melo are good enough to do anything other than defend. They looked just okay defensively and there passing was appalling. Brazil have class in the forwards and a solid defence but the midfield is awful. It remains to be seen what spain will make of them.

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* 33. At 5:21pm on 22 Jun 2009, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:

29 - thanks for clearing up 25's point so well - there was indeed football in the world before usa 94, and i used to love the brazil of clodoaldo and gerson, toninho cerezo and falcao.
but that's one of the great things about the game - it can be interpreted in so many different ways. i have my own feel for the game, you can have yours - it's not a right or wrong question.

and 26 - it wasn't me who accused brazil of a 'distaste for the passing game' - i don't write the headlines. My point - and i think we agree on this - is that it's not their idea of how to arrive at the opposing goal, so it's not what they are set up to do. Not necessarily 'distaste' - more a tactical preference.

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* 34. At 5:25pm on 22 Jun 2009, carioca_oli wrote:

Interesting to see Kleberson back in the Brazil side against Italy. I watched him for Flamengo last year and I couldnt beleive how he ever managed to blag a move to Man Utd. Fair play to the lad though.. boy done good!
Anyway, Brazil are looking good for WC 2010, I would like to see Diego and Fabio Aurellio be given a chace to shine. I think Diego is a quality player and underated by many in the game.

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* 35. At 5:34pm on 22 Jun 2009, ballontheground wrote:

Yes, Brazil-Spain looks like a possible WC final, but England has a decent chance of spoiling their party. Can't see anyone else, normally you'd add Argentina and Italy to the list, but Argentina is wasting its talent with Maradona as manager, and as for Italy, we saw last night what a pitiful state they are in.


That is sooo true. Forget about Holland, Germany, Paraguay, Portugal, France e the African teams. Only England has a decent chance of upsetting Brazil and Spain. After all, who can beat England's intricate long ball game - they can come from everywhere! Every team in the WC will fear England's "forward at all cost" style of play (aka "high tempo") - never mind they have never won anything in international football in the last 40 years (!) to back up how mighty they are.
In fact, England with their current set of skillful players - the best defenders, midfielders, and strikers in the EPL, therefore, in the world - is right there to win the WC next year. The smart money is on England!

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* 36. At 5:50pm on 22 Jun 2009, rjaggar wrote:

Brazil are a great side going forward, but they can be attacked at the back.

I would respect them greatly, but I wouldn't fear them if I were England.

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* 37. At 6:54pm on 22 Jun 2009, BelmontTrev wrote:

First off, it surprises me to see that many Brits don't actually know football! It's a shame! To say Spain will trash everybody on their way because they're breaking records it's absurd! Don't get me wrong they're a formidable side. They have great players like Puyol, Casillas, Xavi, Villa and Torres. Let's also remember that Spain got a really easy group (S Africa, N Zealand and Iraq). To see people here writing off many good teams in the world like Germany, Argentina, Italy, Holland and Brazil is absurd....people, we're not even in the World Cup stop making predictions! To write off Brazil like that is never a good idea. How many times have we seen Brazil play mediocre footie and then go on and win tournaments and BIG games? Plenty!! Brazil is the only team in the world able to beat any team regardless of their form. Let's remember....that record eventually will come to an end, whether it is in the confederations cup or in the world cup. "And when they fall they will fall hard"

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* 38. At 7:03pm on 22 Jun 2009, torontored wrote:

I think that you have to assume that Brazil are going to be very competitive in every competition they enter. What is more interesting is their willingness to focus on situations that will take them over the edge and actually win trophies.

I contrast that to Manchester Uniteds failure against Barcelona, where Ferguson, did nothing to counter Barcelonas play, except hope that Rooney and Ronaldo would score more goals, forgetting that you have to have the ball for that to happen.

I expect Capello to show a lot more tactical acumen, in which case, if Englands best players are fit and play to the level they can, then a semi-final could be a minimum expectation.

Brazils defence seems to get little coverage, but watching them yesterday they were all very assured, and didnt look like conceding at any stage. Tim, what do you think the tactical focus in defence is that delivers such strong results?

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* 39. At 7:13pm on 22 Jun 2009, fsamuel wrote:

@37 - so true!

I find it hilarious that people here think that only England could stop Spain! Let's not forget that it IS England who always choke when it comes down to it. No one can predict what will happen next year.

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* 40. At 7:15pm on 22 Jun 2009, lucaskisasa wrote:

good article tim. remember what is important in football is to score goals and a win. Good, beautiful and entertaining football does not neccessarily win matches as once the 'beautiful' 1982 Brazil world cup team can prove. modern football requires team work, physical, power and technical capability. Brazil has these qualities and a will and confidence to win. Thats why in 2010 world cup are strong candidates to win, ad of course the confederations cup.

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* 41. At 8:30pm on 22 Jun 2009, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:

32 - I would like to think that you're right - that lack of passing ability does get them in problems - in quite a few World Cup qualifiers recently they've come under pressure because the midfield can't pass well enough to keep the ball - saving them time and time again has been keeper Julio Cesar.
Indeed, the main difference between the Egypt match and some of the others (away to Ecuador and Uruguay for example) was that this time Julio Cesar wasn't working miracles.
All of us bring our own appreciation of football to the table - my own preference is for elaboration from the centre of midfield - my favourite players are those such as Guardiola and Toninho Cerezo who were masters of this. So the idea of a style of play that turns its back on this type of player is not to my taste.

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Jonathan Agnew column

We have to be honest and say that a semi-final place in the World Twenty20 would have flattered England.

Of course it was disappointing to bow out in rain-affected circumstances, but they had merely been clinging on by their fingernails - rescued time and again by the bowlers.

Ironically, it was those same bowlers - particularly James Anderson and Stuart Broad - who were culpable against West Indies.

Each of their final overs went for 13 runs as, for once, their pinpoint accuracy deserted them.

I am not blaming them at all, merely pointing out the influence they had earlier in the tournament as they were continually asked to defend inadequate totals.

That is where England's problem lies - just as it does in their 50 overs cricket - RUNS.

They seemed constantly to be one specialist batsman light, no matter who played - and the chopping and changing suggested they did not really know what their best line-up was.

Ravi Bopara batted well - and was particularly effective when he played straight and did not slog - but, after a promising start, Luke Wright's bludgeoning style looked too cumbersome.

Kevin Pietersen, inevitably, was walking to the wicket in the early overs, with the weight of the team on his shoulders.
Owais Shah had a decent tournament despite being curiously demoted against India, and also being a poor fielder, while Paul Collingwood lost his touch, just as he did when he last tried to captain England at the same time.

The problem England have is that there really is not a realistic alternative to Collingwood because Pietersen's relationship with the board is still laced with mistrust.

The jury, it seems, is undecided about Eoin Morgan, who never really had the chance to show us the improvisations that made him such an exciting selection.

James Foster was asked to bat at least one place too high, but his wicketkeeping was a revelation. Two razor-sharp stumpings off Graeme Swann showed the value of a specialist 'keeper standing up to the stumps in Twenty20 and if the Ashes is to be competed on spinners' tracks featuring Swann and Monty Panesar, Foster has done his prospects no harm at all.

The pace bowlers all performed heroically under pressure, and it was great to see the faith in Adil Rashid repaid by the wicket of Pollard yesterday. Rashid has a long way to go before being a reliable leg-spinner in this form of the game, but he has guts and relishes the batsmen taking him on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Liverpool poised to sign Johnson

Liverpool look to have won the race to sign England defender Glen Johnson after agreeing a fee in the region of £17m with Portsmouth.

Reds' boss Rafael Benitez is confident he has beaten off interest from Chelsea in the 24-year-old and expects to make him his first summer signing.

Manchester City had also registered an interest in Johnson, but it is believed Anfield is his preferred destination.

Benitez is now likely to sell Andrea Dossena to help fund the deal.


Johnson, who joined Portsmouth from Chelsea in a £4m deal two years ago, emerged as Benitez's prime target after having an outstanding season at Fratton Park last season.

Benitez is working within financial restrictions in the transfer market this summer, but it is understood Liverpool are still owed money from the deal that took Peter Crouch to Portsmouth last summer.

Spanish defender Alvaro Arbeloa could also be sacrificed to raise cash towards the Johnson deal, with Real Madrid being linked with an £8m move.

He has cemented a place as England's first-choice right-back under coach Fabio Capello and played in the two recent World Cup qualifying victories against Kazakhstan and Andorra.

Johnson signed a new four-year deal at Portsmouth in January, but club officials accepted they could not stand in his way if he was offered the opportunity to move a club playing in the Champions League.