Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?
Ten wins in a row and unbeaten for eighteen games. The run includes 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Italy, 4-0 wins in Uruguay and Venezuela, 3-0 in Chile and, of course, Saturday’s 3-1 demolition of Argentina, the first time Brazil’s arch-rivals have lost at home for 16 years. Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of Dunga’s Brazil and and a sixth world title.
There’s only one small problem: everyone was saying the same about Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team four years ago after they won the Confederations Cup with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final. Like Dunga’s team, they were Copa America champions at the time and their so-called Magic Quarter of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano looked unstoppable.
Instead, Brazil relaxed. They took the Confederations Cup too seriously, forgetting that the Argentine side they had beaten was a second-string line-up. Their pre-World Cup training camp in the small Swiss village of Weggis had a carnival atmosphere. Five thousand paying spectators packed a specially constructed arena to watch every single training session. A subdued World Cup campaign ended with a 1-0 defeat to France in the quarter-finals.
This time, the Brazilian confederation has vowed not to repeat the mistakes. Dunga, who shuns celebrity status for both himself and his players, is probably the last coach in the world who would accept such a set-up. But there are other things which could go wrong.
Brazil are heavily dependant on striker Luis Fabiano and goalkeeper Julio Cesar and a loss of form for either player would seriously weaken them.
Luis Fabiano has scored five goals at the Confederations Cup and nine in the World Cup qualifiers despite playing in only nine of their 15 games. They have looked fairly toothless when he has been absent .Julio Cesar has been in inspired form and has often made the difference.
Luck also comes into it and Brazil have been getting all the breaks recently. Their match away to Ecuador in March last June was an extraordinarily one-sided affair in which the hosts should have been several goals to the good by halftime. Instead, Brazil somehow sneaked a 1-1 draw.
Brazil again found themselves under the cosh in Uruguay, yet managed to go in 2-0 ahead at halftime thanks to some more heroics from Julio Cesar and a blunder from his opposite number Sebastian Viera. It was a similar story on Saturday when Argentina did all the attacking but Brazil led 2-0 at halftime. And we must not forget the farcical penalty which gave them a 4-3 win over Egypt at the Confederations Cup.
Brazil’s World Cup opponents are less likely to play into their hands than their South American neighbours.
Dunga has turned Brazil into a counter-attacking outfit who are at their most comfortable away from home against teams who come out and take the initiative.
Argentina, who have descended into chaos under the leadership of Diego Maradona, played straight into Dunga’s hands as they poured forward in Rosario and left gaping holes at the back.
World Cup opponents are likely to be play more like Colombia and Bolivia, who both held on for goalless draws in Rio de Janeiro as they exposed Brazil’s lack of ideas when faced with packed defences.
PHOTO: Brazil players salute their supporters at the end of the World Cup qualifying win over Argentina in Rosario, September 5, 2009 REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian