Is a China crisis looming for Dunga?
The 18-man squad for Beijing is crammed with talent but all is not well with the Brazil camp.
Two over-age players have pulled out. Kaká won’t be there. He claimed his club wouldn’t release him. AC Milan say the player didn’t want to go. Earlier this week, Real Madrid announced Robinho was suffering from a ‘groin strain’ and yanked him from the squad. Robinho’s replacement is Cruzeiro’s defensive midfielder, Ramires – a good player but an odd choice as it leaves Brazil with just three out-and-out forwards. Neither Diego’s Werder Bremen nor Rafinha’s Schalke 04 want their player in the tournament and may take legal action to stop them playing. An out of shape Ronaldinho Gaúcho is apparently in there at the insistence of Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira. Gaúcho hasn’t played a competitive match since March and has not appeared for Brazil in 2008. As a result he’s packed on the pounds and is along way off match fitness. And to top it all, coach Dunga is under fire and knows that anything less than a gold medal will be seen as failure.
Dunga is already hugely unpopular with many Brazilians for what they see as a betrayal of the county’s flamboyant approach to the game. In reality, Dunga has merely continued the legacy left by previous coach Carlos Alberto Parreira except this time, Brazil are losing games against sides that they should be wiping the floor with.
With the senior team in the doldrums, Dunga has a chance to redeem himself with the Under 23s. But the coach will be more than aware of the fate suffered by Vanderlei Luxemburgo back in the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. Like Dunga, Luxemburgo had been in charge for around two years and was coming in for some severe criticism. Brazil lost 2-1 to a nine-man Cameroon in the quarter-finals. The Africans went on to win the tournament. Luxemburgo was shown the door.
Despite the background problems, there is some room for optimism. Potentially, Brazil has a good squad and there is no shortage of quality. With the likes of Alexandre Pato, Thiago Neves, Thiago Silva, Anderson, Hernanes, and Jô, Dunga has plenty of options.
What worries the doubters is that the squad has had very little playing time together. Dunga has just two weeks to get all of his players match fit and decide on his starting line-up. Many argue that if the coach has not been able to do anything constructive with the Brazil’s senior squad in his two years in charge; what can he possibly do in 14 days with the Under-23s?
But while the tournament may not be won by a collective effort, the belief that Brazil could win the gold through an individual’s brilliance remains strong.
The critics will get an early opportunity to assess Brazil’s chances when Dunga’s men take on a Singapore Select team on 28th July. Brazil will then play another friendly vs Vietnam on the 1st August in Hanoi before they kick off the competition against Belgium six days later.
The importance that Brazilians attach to winning the Olympic gold cannot be underestimated. While Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro is nearing the halfway point, several teams will now have to make do without key players for the best part of a month. Fluminense and São Paulo are the hardest hit losing two each. But there’s been hardly a word of protest from the clubs or fans – though this will change if Brazil fail in China.
Should Brazil come away empty-handed, the players will shoulder a degree of responsibility, but the brunt of the abuse will be aimed at Dunga.
Since taking over in July 2006, the 44 year-old has done himself no favours with some erratic squad selection (he once called up Carlinhos who was a reserve leftback at Santos at the time). Tactically, Dunga has been over cautious and too concerned with stifling the opposition – an anathema to many Brazilians.
To his credit, Dunga did win the Copa America in 2007. But with the senior team’s recent poor results, that has largely been forgotten.
One of the major charges against Dunga is that he still doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing. The teams he puts out lack cohesion. After two years at the helm, the coach hasn’t decided on a regular starting eleven. When Brazil go a goal down, confidence evaporates.
With the Olympics, Dunga is on a hiding to nothing as he not only has to win the competition with an ever diminishing squad but he has to win it well. Almost certainly, he now wishes that he had taken the option to hand over the reins to a caretaker instead of walking the tightrope himself.
Dunga also has to deal with the bane that dogs every Brazil coach i.e. the ingrained belief held by a large number of his fellow countrymen and women that regardless of the quality of the opposition “Brazil can only beat itself” (Brasil só perde para ele mesmo).
Brazil’s senior squad are currently 5th in the South America qualifying group. Their next piece of World Cup action sees them away to Chile on the 6th September. Four days later, Brazil take on Bolivia at home. Dunga could be in for a hot reception in Rio de Janeiro’s estádio Engenhão; that is of course if he’s still in charge.
Brazil’s Olimpic squad
Goalkeepers: Diego Alves (Almeria), Renan (Internacional)
Wingbacks: Ilsinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Rafinha (Schalke 04), Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Centrebacks: Alex Silva (São Paulo), Breno (Bayern Munich), Thiago Silva (Fluminense)
Midfielders: Anderson (Manchester United), Diego (Werder Bremen), Hernanes (São Paulo), Lucas (Liverpool), Ronaldinho Gaúcho (AC Milan), Thiago Neves (Fluminense), Ramires (Cruzeiro)
Forwards: Alexandre Pato (Milan), Jô (Manchester City), Rafael Sóbis (Real Betis)
The squad includes two over 23 year-olds; Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Thiago Silva.
Brazil’s first game is against Belgium on 7th August. They then take on New Zealand on the 10th and host nation China on the 13th. Brazil are in Group C, and are based in the city of Shenyang. The tournament runs from 8th to 24th August.
See the Goal.com version of the post here