BBC Home
Explore the BBC
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Saturday, 2 June 2007, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
It's just not like watching Brazil
By Jonathan Stevenson
BBC Sport at Wembley Stadium

I have a question for Dunga: Will the real Brazil please stand up?

At Wembley on Friday, in front of nearly 90,000 expectant fans and a global audience, the most famous football nation on earth gave yet another performance which belies their status as the guardians of the beautiful game.

It was a tired performance from Ronaldinho at Wembley
Ronaldinho and co failed to shine at Wembley
This Brazilian side, it seems, merely flatters to deceive.

They tease you, they hint at the genius within with the occasional audacious flick or trick, but, ultimately, they leave you feeling like you still need more to be satisfied.

Rather than spending 90 minutes purring over sizzling Samba style in front of you, you feel instead a little bit cheated that, somehow, it just doesn't feel like watching Brazil.

Well, maybe Brazil B, but this certainly wasn't their A game. Not the one that 183 million Brazilians will demand at next month's Copa America, anyway.

This is not a new thing. Remember the World Cup last summer? Remember the leaden-footed lumbering of the once puma-like Ronaldo? Remember the ineffectual drifting of the once decisive Ronaldinho?

Just what has happened to the thrill-a-minute, edge-of-your-seat, super sexy football with which they used to dominate the game?

Perhaps Brazilian footballers are suffering from that curse of the modern game, that dirty word that no-one likes to use but always refers to at the end of the season: tiredness.

Take their most famous player, for instance. Exactly a year ago, Ronaldinho appeared to be on the brink of ultimate greatness.

The buck-toothed maestro with the permanent smile already had one World Cup winners medal in his locker and had just led Barcelona to their second successive La Liga crown and the Champions League trophy to boot.

In one interview, Brazil legend Tostao said that Ronaldinho was so good that in his homeland there were suggestions that if he led his country to another world title he would have to be put in the same bracket as the incomparable Pele.

High praise indeed, coming from Pele's strike partner at the 1970 World Cup finals.

But Ronaldinho simply could not find that spark. He looked laboured and exhausted after a hectic season at Barca and could do nothing as Brazil bowed out at the quarter-final stage.

Without a proper rest, Ronaldinho has had to carry both the enormous weight of expectation at the Camp Nou this year and also the burden of being chief goal-getter with Samuel Eto'o out injured for five months.

Ronaldinho has shouldered this burden manfully, but it has left him over-worked and worn out - and the cheeky grin the world fell in love with has slowly disappeared too.

As seemingly the whole of football queued up to tell the world Cristiano Ronaldo was the new 'best player in the world', barely anyone even mentioned Barca's number 10 anymore.

No surprise really that both he and AC Milan's Kaka have refused to play in this summer's Copa America, saying that they need a proper rest instead.

So tiredness could be one reason. But maybe the way Brazil played at Wembley is also a vision of the future under new coach Dunga.

If managers often try and mould teams in their own image, then the boys in blue and gold are not a million miles away from a carbon copy of their gaffer on this showing.

After all, Dunga was the very antithesis of everything legend tells us a Brazilian footballer should be.

A rock in front of the back four, Dunga did not participate in any of the fancy stuff. He simply used his exceptional reading of the game to break up attacks and played risk-free passes so his team did not lose possession.

He was a percentages player, as Alan Hansen might say, and he was a very, very good one.

The child-like thrill that usually accompanies watching Brazil is no longer there

At Wembley, there was a lot to admire about Brazil that appears to have come straight out of their coach's coaching manual.

The back four looked solid, Gilberto played the Dunga role with his customary skill and they rarely gave the ball away, with barely a pass longer than 20 yards all evening.

Well structured? Yes. Tactically sound? Yes. Tough to break down? Yes. Exotic, mesmerising and spell-binding? No.

Even the full-backs seemed content to largely focus on their defensive responsibilities.

The attack-happy duo Roberto Carlos and Cafu must shudder at the very sight of it. But maybe Dunga is just using the players he has at his disposal to their greatest effect.

In the golden days, there would be five or six players on the Brazil teamsheet that would make you tingle with excitement.

The weary Ronaldinho and Kaka apart, this team just does not have quite the same X-Factor.

Just look at where they play: Naldo at Werder Bremen, Mineiro at Hertha Berlin, Vagner Love at CSKA Moscow and Afonso Alves at Heereveen.

These are all good players who deserve a chance to play for their country after fine seasons, but they hardly set the pulse racing when they pick the ball up.

Maybe the education of Brazilian footballers these days is being stunted by the sheer speed with which they are exported to Europe when the big bucks come calling.

Whatever the reason, the child-like thrill that usually accompanies watching Brazil is no longer there.

If this is a glimpse into the future of the Brazilian national team, it's not just their adoring public back home that misses out.

The very sport itself will be poorer for it.

England return delights Beckham
02 Jun 07 |  Internationals
McClaren salutes Beckham display
01 Jun 07 |  Internationals
England 1-1 Brazil
01 Jun 07 |  Internationals
England v Brazil photos
01 Jun 07 |  Football
Rate the players
01 Jun 07 |  Internationals
BBC pundits on England v Brazil
01 Jun 07 |  Internationals
Comment: Gerrard eclipses Beckham
01 Jun 07 |  Football


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Other Sport...

Video and Audio | Scores & Fixtures | Have Your Say | TV/Radio Schedule

Fun and Games | Question of Sport | Photo Galleries

Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us