Outside the Maracana stadium on Sunday, routine protests fluttered fresh doubts about the probability of Brazil hosting a safe World Cup next year. Inside, eleven men in yellow shirts created history, cheered on by the frenzied crowd as they lifted the Confederations Cup for the third time in a row, thus putting an abrupt end to the world champions’ unbeaten run.
Coming into this tournament with minimum experience to boast of, Brazil unleashed a scintillating display of football en route to being the deserving champions. Down to the 22nd spot in the FIFA rankings, everyone – even coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – had downplayed Brazil’s chances of defending their title before the tournament began. However, faith and confidence are two things that fueled the Selecao as they marched on the path of glory.
With power, precision and astuteness as critical tools in baffling their opponents, Brazil complemented their strength with lethal pace that stunned and befuddled rival defenders and midfielders and provoked errors time and again. Flicks, crosses, accurate passes, mesmerizing dribbling and immaculate finishing were just enough to make a layman fall in love with the game. As if spectacular teamwork wasn’t enough, Brazil dazzled with ultimate individual brilliance that hammered the last nail into the coffins of their adversaries.
With Neymar’s talent and aptitude spawning premature yet inevitable comparisons with the great Pele who used to don the same jersey number as Neymar, it won’t, perhaps, be an exaggeration to state that this team, at times, reminds you of earlier great Selecao squads. Neymar does look like a promising heir to Ronaldo the Phenomenon with his skill and flair and ease in dribbling defenders and emerging in front of the goal from the most precarious positions. His subtlety and dominating presence on the field reflects traits of Garrincha.
A suitable sidekick to Neymar, Fred evokes memories of Ronaldinho, although not as versatile as the elegant magician, with his knack of finding the back of the net. Oscar seems to carry on the legacy of midfielder Kaka with his assists and occasional goals. The defense appears as impenetrable as ever with Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dani Alves and Marcelo provoking memories of the Cafu-led team that triumphed the 2002 World Cup.
Then again, the Renaissance in Brazilian football that transpired after the 2010 World Cup debacle under Dunga has witnessed the emergence of sheer teamwork as much as individuals. This revolutionized squad has rejuvenated the old style of Samba football where the players enjoy each other’s success and sing and dance on their way to the stadium in stead of having headphones plugged to individual iPods. No wonder these guys generate incredible understanding and partnership on the field.
“I owed that one to Julio Cesar after giving away the penalty against Uruguay. I managed to pay back the debt and help the team.”
An honest confession from David Luiz, who was virtually the hero behind Brazil’s triumph on Sunday with a perfectly timed slide to deny Spain an equalizer a couple of yards away from the goal line, echoes the kind of respect each player has for the team. Brazil relies not on individual brilliance (contrary to popular belief), but on ideal collaboration of genius.
With most players flying to Europe during the domestic season, the elaborate finesse of Samba football may be on the verge of gradual death. But enthusiasm, grit, energy and ruthlessness are what modern football demands, not leisurely flamboyance and ostentatious elan. The new look of the Brazilian squad is justified enough, and one must not complain as long as they keep on winning matches.
Of course there are certain technical and tactical flaws in their game, especially during counterattacks, and top teams like Germany, Spain, Argentina and the Netherlands are expected to come into the month-long World Cup having scrutinized the Brazilian style of play, but one must take into account the massive home advantage of the football crazy South American nation inside the stadiums despite the social unrest on the streets.
Scolari being the experienced campaigner, it is of no doubt that the young turks of Brazil are under the best possible warlord as they aim for salvation by winning the Cup as the host nation. The resurgence of the Men in Yellow has been dramatically rapid and significantly spectacular under the veteran tactician who had been called on to revitalize Brazilian football after its shocking dip into the unfamiliar realm of failure.
The man has done his job. It’s now up to his students to justify his teachings. With the reinvigorated Selecao firmly set on their course of redemption, it’s perhaps high time to take this team seriously.