Dogmatic Dunga papers over cracks

Source:Reuters Published: 2014-11-21 5:03:02

Counterattacking Brazil still not convincing

Brazil's head coach Dunga Photo: CFP

Dunga's return as Brazil coach has brought a quick fix after their traumatic World Cup when more profound, long-term changes were needed.

The South Americans made it six wins out of six under the snarling former midfielder when they beat Austria 2-1 on Tuesday.

But their performance left a sense that they have merely papered over the cracks exposed in their embarrassing 7-1 World Cup semifinal rout by Germany in July.

There was something depressingly familiar about the flailing arms and cynical, tactical fouls which left Austria midfielder Veli Kavlak with blood streaming from a cut above his eye and coach Marcel Koller complaining that the referee had left his yellow card at home.

There were no flowing moves in attack, either, as Brazil depended on set pieces or rare moments of individual inspiration from the likes of Neymar and newcomer Roberto Firmino.

Defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo were so devoid of creativity that Brazil struggled to play their way out of defense and, at one point, the Ernst Happel crowd jeered as they passed the ball aimlessly among the back four.

The combination of joyless soccer and impressive results is all too familiar following Dunga's previous spell in charge between 2006 and 2010.

Dunga turned Brazil into a brutally efficient counterattacking machine, winning the 2007 Copa America and storming through the World Cup qualifying competition.

He poured scorn on the memorable 1982 World Cup team and even said that the 1970 World Cup winners were flattered by television because it only showed their best moments.

But it all went down the drain when Brazil came up against a feisty, provocative Netherlands side in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals, where they were unable to react after falling 2-1 behind. It was, in Brazilian eyes, the unforgivable combination of failure and ugly soccer.

Since then, Dunga has had only a brief stint in charge of Internacional, his hometown club from Porto Alegre. He said on Monday that he has spent the rest of the time studying, learning and drinking coffee with Europe's top coaches.

"I am better than I was yesterday. You have to perfect yourself, learn from other people, you have to put everything you learn into practice and not everyone can manage it," he mused.

Yet, there is very little concrete sign of change.

Dunga's discourse is still punctuated by words such as work, order, hierarchy, organization and commitment. Talent features rarely, inspiration almost never.

His team also looks remarkably similar; very comfortable when sitting back and playing on the counterattack, distinctly ill at ease when forced to take the initiative and pressure the opponents.

"The 7-1 was so catastrophic that there should have been a period of mourning," wrote former Brazil forward Tostao in a recent newspaper column. "Brazil should have not played any matches for the next six months.

"It left a big symbolic message, a cry of horror, a desperate plea for help which should not have been responded to with a Dunga-esque quick fix. It ­deserved a period of mourning, a long reflection and discussion ... The opposite happened. They brought in Dunga to try and wipe out the 7-1."

Brazil have so far beaten Austria, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Japan and Turkey in friendlies, scoring four against each of the last two.

But Tostao was unimpressed, warning that, just like the 2010 World Cup, it could all come undone when they face more serious tests and that Dunga's famously volatile temper could be his undoing.

"Those who are dogmatic, and extremely rigid, such as Dunga, lose themselves when, suddenly, they encounter unexpected, different situations, because they only know one solution, one truth," he wrote.

"Dunga's grumpiness is treated by many as something that is [a] funny, interesting, part of the game's folklore. As long as Brazil are winning, everything will be allowed."

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