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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flashback: Uruguay 2-Brazil 1, July 16, 1950. Pele on Brazil’s 1950 loss to Uruguay.

No one captures the pathos of Brazil’s 1950 World Cup defeat to Uruguay, 2-1, in the final match, better than Pele in his autobiography. The King touchingly recounts his father’s tears and need for seclusion immediately following Brazil's shock defeat. Pele goes on to describe his superstitious guilt that had he and his father been at the Maracana stadium, things would have been different, and Brazil would have scored the goals they needed to equalize and ultimately emerge victorious. Here, Pele magically puts his finger on the thought of a child…that it was my fault, that if I had been there, at the moment that mattered most, when I wasn’t able to be there, the whole game would have been different.

Nine years old at the time, Pele followed the game by radio with a group of 15 of his father’s friends who had gathered at his house in anticipation of a Brazil victory:

“Brazil scored first, through Friaca, and everyone went crazy. The house filled with shouting and everyone was jumping up and down. Firecrackers exploded all over Bauru. Shortly afterwards Uruguay equalized, but we remained confident. Then, with about ten minutes to go, Uruguay scored again. I can remember going into the house as the game ended and seeing my father and all his friends absolutely silent. I went to him and asked him what happened. “Brazil lost,” he replied, like a zombie. “Brazil lost.”

The young Pele tries to console his father but his mother advised him to leave him “in peace.” Meanwhile, the large button radios through which the family listened to the game have been turned off and replaced instead by a deathly silence:

“Just thinking about that afternoon, and remembering the sadness that was everywhere, even today gives me goose-flesh. I told Dondinho (my father) not to be sad. But my mum took me away and said "Leave your father alone. Leave him in peace." There was silence everywhere. The noise of cheers, and firecrackers and radios turned up to full volume had disappeared into a void of silence. World Cups are so important for Brazil and no one thought we would lose. And especially not in such humiliating circumstances to Uruguay, who together with Argentina are our arch-rivals. People couldn't bear the disappointment. Bauru felt like a ghost town.

It was also the first time I saw my father cry. Many of my father's friends couldn't stop themselves either. It was shocking to me, since I had been brought up thinking that men didn't show their emotions like that. One day, "I'll win you the World Cup," I promised my dad, to try to make him feel better. A few days later, when he had recovered, he told me that some people at the Maracana had actually died from shock.

Later on that day of the final I went to my father's room, where there was a picture of Jesus on the wall, and I started wailing. "Why has this happened? Why has it happened to us? We had the better team—how come we lost? Why, Jesus, why are we being punished? I continued crying, overcome, as I continued my conversation with the picture of Christ. “You know, if I were there I would not have let Brazil lose the Cup. If I’d been there Brazil would have won, or if my Dad had been playing, Brazil would have got that goal we needed...

There was no answer. I was a boy who loved football and the defeat affected me deeply.” (47-48)

It took days for Dondinho, Pele’s father, to recover. Meanwhile, Pele promised his father that he would win the World Cup to compensate for his sadness and suffering at Brazil's shock loss to Uruguay. Little did the young Pele know then that he win not only one World Cup for Brazil and his father, but three.

Source: Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele), Duarte, Orlando and Bellos, Alex. Pele: The Autobiography. Trans. Daniel Hahn. London: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brazil's training camp in Spain continues Mano's philosophy of "renovation"

Brazil coach Mano Menezes's choice of a Europe based, young squad for a training camp in Spain from September 2 through September 8, 2010 underscores his commitment to seeking out new talent for the the 2011 Copa America, 2012 London Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. Unable to organize a high level friendly, the CBF opted instead for the Selecao to train together intensely for 6 days.

Despite summoning new talent for the second straight occasion as coach, Mano reiterated his interest in bringing back many of the players who played in the 2010 World Cup at a subsequent date:

“It would be tiring to take players from Brazil in the middle of the Brasileirao. I always said that we would have a moment in which we would call-up more players that were in the last World Cup. I think this will happen more in the next year. In this initial period, we will have more new players.”

The squad for the training camp in Europe features the following players:

Goalkeepers: Diego (Almeria), Gomes (Tottenham)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Rafael (Manchester United), Thiago Silva (Milan), David Luiz (Benfica), Henrique (Racing Santander), Alex (Chelsea), Andre Santos (Fenerbahçe), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Sandro (Tottenham), Ramires (Chelsea), Hernanes (Lazio), Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk), Lucas (Liverpool), Philippe Coutinho (Inter), Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim)

Forwards: Alexandre Pato (Milan), Andre (Dynamo Kiev), Hulk (Porto), Robinho (Manchester City)

Amongst the more interesting inclusions are the young Phillipe Coutinho of Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur's recent signing, Sandro.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maradona: "Tell Fidel that I Love Him"

"Meeting him was like touching the sky with my hands. What he has done for me is indescribable. Along with God, he is the reason I am alive."

--Diego Maradona on Fidel Castro

Any reflection on entertaining football would be incomplete without a mention of Diego Maradona, the greatest footballer of all time. Maradona captained the Argentine team to World Cup glory in 1986, where he scored the greatest world cup goal of all time in the quarterfinal match against England by dribbling past six English players before beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton. More recently, Maradona coached the Argentine team at the 2010 World Cup and provided the world proof of his inspirational comeback from cocaine addiction and alcoholism.

Less well known is the story of Maradona's friendship with Fidel Castro and the latter's influence on inspiring the Argentine's rehabilitation from drug addiction. Maradona spent months in rehabilitation in Cuba in 2000 at the invitation of Castro, a dedicated Maradona fan. Just recently, barely two weeks after the South Africa 2010 World Cup, Maradona sent a message of love to Fidel Castro and promised to travel to Cuba sometime in August. "Tell Fidel that I love him," Maradona said, according to Cubadebate.cu, the state-run Cuban media site. In a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Maradona noted that Fidel was "very much alive," and "very lucid, very well, contrary to what the Americans want, which is to see him dead." The great Argentine striker wears a tattoo of Fidel Castro on his left leg alongside a tattoo of Che Guevera, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, on his right arm. Largely out of the spotlight since he was fired as coach of the Argentine national team, Maradona has recently been spending time with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in order to obtain advice about the future of his career.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Neymar's Choice to Stay at Santos Inspires Hope for the Beautiful Game

Santos forward Neymar’s decision to snub Chelsea in favor of staying at his Brazilian club Santos signals that something new is afoot in world football. European clubs have traditionally had their choice of South American football players because of higher salaries and increased international publicity. But in this case, Santos successfully contested Chelsea's bid by raising Neymar’s compensation through a combination of increased salary and merchandising deals estimated at $1.2 million, annually. Neymar’s decision was considered a victory for Brazilian soccer because it allows him to develop his technical skills in a familiar environment that rewards player creativity, freedom and guile. The decision is also likely to encourage other Brazilian players to ply their craft in Brazil instead of venturing to Europe before their abilities have been more completely realized. Pele, Mario Zagallo and Brazil coach Mano Menezes all advised Neymar to stay at Santos, almost uniformly claiming that Neymar does not have the muscular physique required to flourish in Europe at the tender age of 18, amongst other reasons. Staying at Santos also allows Neymar to continue playing alongside the attacking midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso in what many feel could become a partnership that will be replicated and feared in international football.

Speaking of the week's dramatic negotiations between Chelsea and Santos, Santos president Luis Alvaro remarked: "We've built a different possibility. We no longer accept the idea that we're an underdeveloped nation always at the mercy of the powerful European clubs." Neymar’s choice is likely to allow him to develop his dribbling and creative style of play as well as provide Brazil coach Mano Menezes with a powerful Santos platform to feed directly into the Selecao. More importantly, the Neymar-Chelsea-Santos drama reveals the power of South American football to resist the pressures of European capital to appropriate promising technical ability into drab but effective goal scoring machines. In recent years, European clubs have stifled the creative development of many promising South American players such as Robinho, Adriano and Juan Roman Riquelme, so Neymar's independent decision to remain in Brazil marks a small but important victory for attacking, creative and spectacular football.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flashback: Romario

"From who-knows-what part of the stratosphere, the tiger appears, mauls and vanishes. The goalkeeper, trapped in his cage, doesn't even have time to blink. Romario fires off one goal after another: half-volley, bicycle, on the fly, banana shot, back heel, toe poke, side tap.

Romario was born poor in a favela called Jacarezinho, but even as a child he practiced writing his name to prepare for the many autographs he would sign in his life. He clambered up the ladder to fame without paying the toll of obligatory lies: this very poor man always enjoyed the luxury of doing whatever he wished, a bar-hopping lover of the night who said what he thought without thinking about what he was going to say.

Now he has a collection of Mercedes Benzs and two-hundred-and-fifty pairs of shoes, but his best friends are still that bunch of unpresentable hustlers who, in his childhood, taught him how to make the kill."

--Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and intellectual, on the legendary Brazilian striker, Romario, winner of the World Cup and Golden Ball Award in 1994. In 1994, Romario also won the FIFA World Player of the Year Award.

Eduardo Galeano. "Romario." Soccer in Sun and Shadow. London: Verso, 2009. 193. Print.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Goodbye Kaka?

The obvious question raised by Brazil's stunning performance against the USA on August 10 concerns the place of Kaka in the national team. Kaka plays the attacking, creative midfielder role recently taken up by the 20 year old, Paulo Henrique Ganso. Ganso has a long way to go to earn a permanent place in the 10 number shirt at the center of the Brazilian midfield, but on the other hand, Kaka has never really found his footing in Brazil's gold and blue. For Brazil, his principal claim to fame was orchestrating their comeback against the USA from a 2-0 deficit in South Africa 2009 at the Confederations Cup and earning the Golden Ball Award for the tournament's best player. And then there's the extraordinary statistic that, with the exception of the July 2, 2010 match against the Netherlands, Brazil have never lost when he and Robinho have played together for the national team.

To be fair, Kaka has displayed occasional moments of brilliance for Brazil. In 2005, he scored one of his trademark, curling strikes on goal from outside the box in Brazil's 4-1 Confederations Cup final match victory against Argentina. A year later, once again against Argentina, Kaka picked up the ball in his own half, and outran Lionel Messi for the rest of the pitch to score Brazil's third goal. But at the World Cup, Kaka has not failed to disappoint fans either in 2006 or 2010. For sure, he scored against a left footed rocket into the top corner of the net against Croatia in their opening game. And he set up Ronaldo for his 15th World Cup goal against Ghana with a magnificent through ball that allowed the Brazilian striker to break the offside trap, side-step the keeper and tuck the ball into the back of the net. But in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Kaka failed to take control of the Brazilian midfield in the vein of Alessandro Rivaldo's work in 1998 and 2002 or, Socrates in 1982 and 1986.

Kaka's 2010 World Cup performance may have much to do with groin and knee injuries sustained most fully in the 2009-2010 season at Real Madrid. Dr. Marc Martens, the physician who performed his August 5 arthroscropic knee surgery, claimed Kaka could have jeopardized his career by playing in the 2010 World Cup, Kaka has denied his doctor's claims, stating that he exaggerated the gravity of his injuries. Regardless, Kaka has pledged to regain his form as the best player in the world. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca, he commented: "I will be the best in the world again. Today it's difficult to say this, but I think I'm going to be successful with Real Madrid," he said. "I had the operation to be No. 1 again."

One thing we know, for sure, about Kaka is that he is fighter. In 2000, at the age of 18, he suffered a spinal injury as a result of faulty jump off a diving board into a swimming pool. Faced with the possibility of paralysis in both his legs, he made a miraculous recovery within a year and established himself as a young sensation for Sao Paolo in the ensuing two years before moving to Milan and ultimately winning the Balloon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year Awards in 2007.

Can Kaka regain his place at the heart of the Brazilian midfield? Does Mano envision a future for him alongside Ganso, with perhaps only one defensive midfielder instead of two? Will Ganso demonstrate the ability to compete at the international level? Only time will tell. For now, though, all football fans should pray for Kaka's recovery and take heart from the related story of Ronaldo's inspirational return from career threatening knee injuries, only to subsequently lead the Brazilian football team to victory at the 2002 World Cup by scoring 8 goals.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brazil Player Reviews for the August 10 USA friendly

Neymar: The most impressive Brazilian of the evening. Mesmerized the U.S. defense with dazzling step-over moves and pace. Varied his position throughout the evening, starting on the left, then popping up on the right and ultimately in the center to score the first goal.

Ganso: Rose to the challenge of the number 10 jersey by finding his team mates whenever they had the ball and finding them, in turn, when he had possession. Not quite Zidane just yet, but we can expect his confidence and authority to increase with more games for Brazil. A clear challenger to Kaka's place in the squad.

Robinho: Played an amazing game by complementing his Santos teammates Neymar and Ganso as needed. Took full advantage of Mano's directive to switch positions with other players as needed. Like a truly great player, came back deep into midfield and made runs down the left, right and center.

Pato: A great goal, and another goal that was disallowed, but a disappointing performance overall. Needs to figure out whether he should play like Fabiano and lurk around the box, or like (Brazilian) Ronaldo and come back into midfield to get more possession.

Ramires: Great speed and dribbling skills. Set up the second goal.

Lucas: Excellent defensive work in midfield that stopped the Americans from getting possession in the Brazilian first third of the field. Distributed the ball effectively as well.

Andre Santos: One of Brazil's best players of the evening. Consistently threatened down the left flank and combined superbly with Ganso, Neymar and Robinho.

David Luiz: Excellent defensive work in the center of the back four. Stopped many U.S. attacks before they started.

Thiago Silva: Nondescript in this game, but solid overall. Combined well with David Luiz to neutralize the U.S. offense.

Dani Alves:
Ran his heart out, and looked for players both in the middle of the park and down the right flank. Possibly a little jet lagged from a Real Madrid club trip to Beijing, but deserves serious consideration as a permanent replacement for the aging Maicon. Mislaid a couple of passes but compensated for one or two mistakes with his work ethic and unselfish attitude.

Neymar, Ganso, Robinho and Pato Lead the New Brazil to Victory

Brazil produced a scintillating display of one touch passing and attacking football in a 2-0 victory over team USA. In his first game as coach of the Brazilian national football team, Mano Menezes opted to give the uncapped Ganso the famed number 10 jersey while assigning the hallowed number 11 and 7 shirts to wingers Neymar and Robinho respectively, with number 9 going to AC Milan striker Alexander Pato. Mano chose a 4-2-3-1 formation with Andre Santos, David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves in defense, followed by Ramires and Lucas as defensive midfielders, Neymar, Ganso and Robinho as the attacking midfield trio and Pato in the role of the lone target striker.

Football aficionados and casual fans alike saw a young Brazilian team find each other, maintain possession of the ball and create dangerous scoring opportunities from every inch of the field. Gone was Dunga's strategy of keeping eight men behind the ball and bursting forward with lightning speed on the counter-attack. Similarly, Mario Zagallo and Luiz Felipe Scolari's formulaic strategy of attacking down the flanks with players such as Roberto Carlos and Cafu, and a predominantly defensive midfield, rapidly became history.The Brazilian team went back to their roots in one touch passing, maintaining possession and creating opportunities to score wherever they presented itself.

Neymar and Robinho exchanged places on the left and right flanks throughout the game and similarly, Ganso followed the attack on both flanks and through the center. Ganso approached his wingers whenever they needed help and shadowed left back Andre Santos as he came forward and contributed to the Brazilian attack. The 18 year old Neymar, however, was the real star of the game, tearing down the left flank and then coming into the center, finding Andre Santo's cross from the left corner and burying the ball in the bottom left corner of the net with his head to score the first goal in the 29th minute. The second goal featured Ganso going forward, deep into the heart of the U.S. midfield, calmly passing to Ramires who in turn found Alexander Pato. Pato rounded the keeper and tucked the ball into the back of the net in the 46th minute with a degree of poise that recalled his compatriot Ronaldo's composure in side-stepping keepers as a starlet in Europe. Robinho played a phenomenal game in the captain's arm-band, appearing on the left to support Neymar and Ganso in various moments and facilitating the attack on the right side of the pitch with Ramires, Lucas and Dani Alves as well.

Brazil's possession and passing were simply magnificent. Minutes flew by in the second half when Bob Bradley's team obtained possession only in the event of a Brazilian give-away or an inadvertent foul that lead to a rare U.S. set piece. Admittedly, Brazil could have made more of their scoring opportunities but critics should keep in mind it was the first game both for the coach and many of the players, away from home, in a stadium packed with 77,223 fans. In the second half, Mano brought on substitutes Hernanes, Carlos Eduardo, Jucilei, Andre and Diego Tardelli but the fluidity and pace of the game hardly changed a blink.

Bob Bradley and the U.S. soccer federation, meanwhile, encountered the familiar problem of getting a U.S. striker involved in a high percentage scoring play, let alone scoring a goal. Brazil neutralized a strong U.S. midfield and came close to scoring a third goal on at least 3-4 occasions. Mano and the CBF are off to a promising start while Sunil Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation, conversely, have much thinking to do about the upcoming path for the U.S. national team.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Player Profile: Paulo Henrique Ganso

One of the key players to watch in the August 10 Brazil v. USA friendly will be Paulo Henrique Ganso. The Santos attacking midfielder has been hailed by virtually all commentators in Brazil as key to the next generation of Brazilian football. In recent months, Ganso's most ardent fan has been none other than Socrates, who understands the 20 year old "Henrique" as possessing the creativity that Dunga's midfielders lacked. "He is already the best player in Brazil," Socrates remarked in a June 13, 2010 interview in The Guardian. Ganso is widely regarded as a potential heir to Kaka's place in the Brazilian midfield, particularly given the latter's spate of recent injuries and disappointing overall form in the Brazilian shirt. Standing 6 feet 1/2 inches tall, the lanky Santos star has distinguished himself by his ability to control the midfield as well as score spectacular goals from long distance. Coach Mano Menezes may elect to play Ganso behind Robinho and Neymar on the wings, with Pato as the lone, pure central striker.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Brazil v. USA friendly: A Preview

The U.S. soccer team will pose a tough test for Brazil at the New Meadowlands stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on August 10. With a squad featuring more than half of the players from the USA World Cup team in South Africa, the U.S. will be poised to play a defensively strong game that pressures the Brazilians in midfield. Central midfielder Jermaine Jones has been withdrawn from the squad in order to enable him to prepare for his upcoming European season with Schalke and replaced with striker Jozy Altidore. Jones was expected to start in the central midfield and may instead by replaced by Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber, the latter of whom played well in team USA's matches against Algeria and Slovenia in South Africa.

Familiar U.S. faces Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Carlos Bocanegra will lead the team, but they will miss Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu, both of whom are fighting for their places in their club teams in Europe. Bob Bradley and Sunil Gulati know full well that it's more important for Dempsey and Onyewu to gain more playing time in Europe than play an international friendly.

Brazil will encounter a defensively strong midfield, playing at home, with serious attacking threats represented by Altidore, Bradley and Donovan. Their own squad features a marked lack of international experience and it will be interesting to see if their midfield displays any coherence and attacking power. Brazil's midfield options include Hernanes, Jucilei, Lucas, Ramires, Sandro, Carlos Eduardo, Ederson, Paulo Henrique Ganso, all of whom have little experience playing with one another as a unit.

That said, it would be foolish to underestimate Brazil coach Mano's vision and abilities given his record at Gremio and Corinthians, and the intelligence of his academic investment in studying the game. Even though their midfield is difficult to imagine given the crop of fresh faces, the Selecao has some serious firepower up front in the form of Robinho, Andre, Neymar and Pato. It will be interesting to see if Mano opts to play three of these strikers together, as he has suggested on at least a couple of occasions.

Expect a stern battle in midfield with the U.S. growing in confidence as the match wears on, particularly if they can avoid giving away an early goal.

Prediction: Brazil 2-USA 0

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Which Mano Menezes Will Show Up as Coach of the Selecao?

What kind of coach will Mano Menezes (Mano) become at the helm of the Brazilian national football team? For starters, Mano is a fan of precisely the 4-2-3-1 formation that Brazil used in South Africa. He is well known for his ability to restore teams such as Gremio and Corinthians to glory after suffering humiliating relegations to their respective second divisions. And, like his predecessors, Carlos Dunga and Luiz Felipe Scolari, Mano has historically professed a certain pragmatism to football, with an emphasis on winning, even if this means sitting on the lead and hogging ball possession at the expense of going forward to score more goals. Mano's teams have tended to play with two defensive midfielders and score on the counter-attack in much the same fashion as Brazil under the Dunga era from 2006 to 2010.

But in a recent interview, Mano promised to turn his back on a footballing philosophy of pragmatism as the head of the national team.

"We are going to rescue our style. Brazil has it's own way of playing," he noted in an August 3, 2010 interview with Sport TV.

"We want to recover that tradition of being the protagonists, and stop being bit-part actors looking for the rival mistake. The world now plays more similar to that Brazil and we ourselves have distanced ourselves from it."

That said, it's really anyone's guess as to what kind of coach Menezes becomes as he settles into his role as director of the Selecao.

Consider the case of Luiz Felipe Scolari, for example, in leading the Seleaco to World Cup victory in Yokohama, Japan in the summer of 2002. Like Dunga, Scolari was initially known for his commitment to tough tackling and rough, defensive minded play. An ardent supporter of a strong defense and quick counter-attacks, he championed winning at the expense of beautiful football. As coach of Gremio from 1993-1996, Scolari threatened to bench players for not committing enough fouls, and additionally became famous for encouraging player ball-boys to throw balls onto the field when opponents were about to take a throw-in, or having his players solicit the help of local police against visiting teams in the event of an on field fracas.

In Korea and Japan in the summer of 2002, something remarkable happened to Scolari's rough and defensive style of play. Brazil's starting line-up initially featured Roberto Carlos and Cafu attacking down the left and right flanks respectively, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho as the triumvirate "3 Rs" strikeforce, and another offensive midfielder in the form of Juninho Paulista attacking down the center. Fans were dumbfounded by Scolari's offensive formation, especially since the rigidity of his earlier career had given way to a fluid, samba style of soccer where players would routinely switch positions instead of sticking to a predetermined tactical formation. The result produced moments of magic for the Brazilian national football team at a level unseen since 1982. Fans will recall Edmilson's sublime bicycle kick goal in their 5-2 demolition of Costa Rica, Rivaldo's magical goal in the 67th minute against Belgium, Ronaldinho's sublime free kick against England in the quarterfinal to mark a 2-1 come from behind victory and, most importantly, the great strength of Ronaldo in and around the box, scoring 8 goals in 7 games, shaking off defenders shamelessly and putting the ball where it belongs.

But Scolari had at his disposal an extraordinary crop of players, the quality of which Menezes is unlikely to have unless Robinho, Pato, Neymar, Ganso and company blossom into world class talent that can hold their form over the greater part of a decade. Time will tell, but the interesting thing is that, for all the talk of renovation, rebuilding, rebirth and jogo bonito in Brazil, few people in Brazil are calling Ricardo Teixeira's bluff and noting how the Brazilian Confederation of Football's choice of a coach for the Selecao seems disturbingly similar to Dunga and the early Scolari, at precisely the moment when Brazilian football needs radical change.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mano's Dilemma About the Brazil Number 10 Jersey

One of the intriguing questions raised by Mano Menezes's (Mano) roster for the upcoming Brazil v. USA friendly is the question of who will wear the famed number 10 jersey given Kaka's absence from the squad. In the last 20 years, the Brazilian number 10 jersey has traditionally been worn by a creative midfielder or playmaker who can also score goals. Alessandro Rivaldo wore the number 10 jersey at both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, Ronaldinho did so in 2006 and Kaka wore the Brazilian number 10 shirt in South Africa 2010. Rai, another creative midfielder and younger brother of the legendary player Socrates, wore the number 10 shirt at the 1990 World Cup in the era before it had been designated for a pure striker such as Zico in 1982 and 1986. But the bottom line is, anytime you give the number 10 shirt to a Brazilian player, watch out.

Mano's squad leaves plenty of room for speculation, however, given that his midfield selection contains no players from Dunga's World Cup team with the exception of the 23 year old Ramires. Ramires has hardly earned the right to wear the number 10 shirt but the same could be said about any of the other midfielders, especially since the young sensation Paulo Henrique Ganso has yet to earn his first international cap.

One obvious choice would be to give the number 10 shirt to Robinho, and leave the number 9 shirt--traditionally reserved for a pure striker--to Alexander Pato. Part of this decision will depend on how Mano plans to play Robinho given that it's not yet clear whether Robinho will play the role of the lone striker or an attacking midfielder behind Pato, Andre or Neymar. Another option, for Mano, would be to return the number 10 shirt to a pure striker as a signal that the torch from Dunga has indeed been passed, and that Brazilian football under his direction has anchored its vision in the attacking, creative spirit of the Zico era of the early to mid 1980s.