Tuesday 25 September 2018

John Giles: Brazilian decline is far worse than I ever imagined

Paris St Germain’s Brazilian defender David Luiz Photo: Reuters
Paris St Germain’s Brazilian defender David Luiz Photo: Reuters

There was one aspect of Manchester City's very lucky 2-2 draw with PSG in midweek which sent my mind wandering back to the '70s and the great Brazilian players who lit up the game.

It has been the case for some time now that Brazil does not produce ridiculously skilful and exciting footballers who graced our game for so long.

But it struck me forcibly watching Fernandinho and David Luiz that the decline is much worse than I could have ever imagined.

Players like Neymar, Oscar and Coutinho can still trace their roots back to Garrincha, Jairzinho, Pele and Rivelinho but the lads I was watching in Paris are straight from the Dunga handbook.

Carlos Dunga, who has Italian and German ancestry, brought that part of his DNA to bear on Brazilian football when he took over as manager of the national team, claiming that a more European approach was needed if they wanted to return to the top.

I always thought that this would be a temporary thing and that Brazilian passion for The Beautiful Game would soon overcome Dunga's more pragmatic approach.

What I never thought was that Dunga's ethos would take over but the evidence I see in front of me tells me that the element of their nature which made the football they played free and instinctive has been replaced by bad coaching.

David Luiz looks like a Brazilian footballer every so often when he beats a few players but really, no manager in his right mind wants a centre-back doing what he does. He's supposed to be a defender and even Pele's Brazil had defenders.

Ideally, you want players in Fernandinho's position or further forward doing the tricks, beating players and hopefully, scoring goals.

But Fernandinho is a shadow of what Brazil was once produced. For most of the game, there was a huge space in central midfield with no blue shirt to play in it.

David Silva did his best but he was alone, the only creative spark in a team which cost an enormous amount of money to assemble and maintain.

I can only assume that Fernandinho and the dozens of fairly ordinary Brazilian players earning a living in Europe are the result of coaching, the same coaching which sucked the life out of the game in Europe until Barcelona and Spain changed the goalposts.

I'm sure kids still play street football in Brazil. Football is no less a path to fame and fortune as it was in Pelé's day.

Yet Brazil is producing these identikit athletes who can run back and forth all day and tackle but don't ask them to beat a man or play a clever pass.

The irony here is that Brazil are behind the curve. Two players, Xavi and Iniesta, spawned a revolution in Spain which helped fuel a decade of success for club and country and set the fashion for everyone else.

Nobody could deny Xavi and Inesta's great talent and when they teamed up with Lionel Messi at Barcelona, the message they carried could not be denied. Football played the right way by good payers with the right attitude will take a team all the way to the top.

Germany climbed on board and set about changing their entire development structure and even in England where the cult of coach began, there is now an acknowledgement that small, skilful players must be encouraged and protected.

I would point out that Dunga is back in charge of a Brazilian team which fell apart in 2014 in front of their own fans and that doesn't fill me full of hope that on the ground in Rio, they are letting kids play as they were meant to.

As I said, a few still make it to the top and Neymar is clearly the best of them at the moment.

But take a look at the teamsheet from the 1970 World Cup final and I would find no place for him. He would have struggled to get into the squad.

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