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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, June 28, 2011

Brazil to Play Ultra-Attacking Formation at Copa America

Brazil's coach Mano Menezes has confirmed that Brazil will play a 4-2-1-3 formation against Venezuela with Paulo Henrique Ganso behind Neymar, Robinho and Alexandre Pato. For purists of Brazilian football, this is a dream, ultra-attacking formation that essentially fields four attackers in front of two defensive midfielders in the form or Lucas and Ramires. The question raised by this formation is how much room Mano will give the full-backs Andre Santos and Dani Alves to roam forward and contribute to the attack. Mano's formation represents one of the most offensive Brazilian line-ups since the World Cup championship team of 2002, where Ronaldo spearheaded the attack behind Rivaldo and Ronaldinho in Luiz Felipe Scolari's famous 3 Rs combination. In 2002, Ronaldinho acted as the playmaker with complete license to come forward, knowing that his back was covered by Gilberto Silva and Kleberson, two of the best defensive midfielders in the world. In the 2011 Copa America, the main Brazil player to watch will be Ganso and his ability to dictate the tempo of the game. As a creative playmaker, Ganso is slated to inherit the role played by the great Socrates in 1982 and 1986. Brazil have sorely lacked a creative midfielder since Socrates, even though Kaka assumed that role but failed to dominate the position in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. But if Ganso can stop and start games the way he has for Santos, Brazil could well emerge as a serious contender in Argentina at the 2011 Copa America, particularly if he has the courage to go forward and pose a threat on goal as well. The other player to watch is obviously Neymar, but we should expect him to be well complemented by Scudetto champions Robinho and Alexandre Pato of AC Milan.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Neymar and Ganso on Santos Copa Libertadores Victory

Paulo Henrique Ganso

"This title puts this generation in the history books. We are making history with another title, with a groups of young winners, young fighters who honor Santos's jersey."

Neymar

"It's the happiest day of my life, I made history. We deserved this title, it's time to celebrate. It's time to go after my third South American title [Copa America]. We still have a few months to go before we get there, but it's going to be interesting.”

Leo (Defender)

"They (Penarol) were a worthy opponent, but they don't know how to lose.”

Edu Dracena (Captain)

"It's an important title for the club and for all the players. We've been trying to win this third title for a long time and now we've made history."

Muricy Ramalho (Santos coach)

"I've been going after this for a long time. It wasn't easy, but it's finally my turn.”

Pele (Celebrated former Santos player)

"We have to thank these young guys for giving us this title.”


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Santos Defeats Penarol 2-1 in Copa Libertadores Final; Neymar and Pele in tears

Santos defeated Penarol 2-1 in Sao Paulo to win the Copa Libertadores championship for the first time since 1963 in a match that indelibly marked the arrival of Neymar and Ganso as major players in world football. Santos pressed the attack in the first half, with Elano, in particular, threatening the Penarol goal with his trademark curling free kicks. But it was Neymar and Ganso who stole the show in the first half with Ganso finding Neymar in an almost telepathic partnership that conjured up shades of Bebeto and Romario from the mid-1990s.

Neymar fittingly found the back of the net to open the scoring in the 47th minute after Ganso flicked a pass to Arouca, who subsequently found the spiky haired teenager lurking in his favorite position on the left flank near the mouth of the goal. Neymar dispatched the ball past the keeper's right with clinical precision to give Santos a precious lead after the home team had attacked in waves, largely on the basis of the creative vision of Ganso and Elano, playing behind Neymar and Ze Eduardo.

In the 69th minute, Danilo virtually put the match away after collecting a pass from Ganso while surging up the right flank. In a move that recalled Paulo Falcao's famous goal against Italy in the 1982 World Cup, the right back Danilo cut inside, took the ball on his left foot, and sent a lawnmower of a shot into the far left corner of the net. Durval netted an own goal in the 80th minute to make it 2-1, but the home team held on for a well deserved victory.

Neymar broke into tears after the final whistle and noted, soon after, "It's the happiest day of my life. I made history. We deserved this title, it's time to celebrate." Similarly, Santos's most famous player, Pele, celebrated with tears of joy after seeing his club team hoist the Copa Libertadores title for the first time in 48 years. The match broke into a brawl after the final whistle, but no players were seriously injured.

The 2011 Copa Libertadores final heralded an important shift in the geopolitics of world soccer because Neymar and Ganso have now made their mark on the footballing world by plying their trade in Brazil as opposed to Europe. Santos's victory sets new standards for excellence in Brazilian football and formally heralds the birth of a new generation of Brazilian players that are eager to take over the mantle of the Selecao from the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Kaka. Now the question on everyone's mind is whether Neymar, Ganso and Elano can fire Brazil to victory at the Copa America given stiff competition from Argentina, the home team.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brazil land in Campanas, Argentina in preparation for Copa America 2011

The Brazilian national football team left for Campanas, their training base for the July 2011 Copa America tournament, yesterday. With the exception of Santos players Elano, Neymar and Ganso, the squad left Rio de Janeiro with coach Mano Menezes and his staff. Brazil enter the tournament as defending champions but will encounter stiff opposition from a number of strong South American opponents as they attempt to hoist the title for the third consecutive time. Mano Menezes identified Paraguay as its most difficult opponent in the group stage but is wary of the threat posed by Ecuador and Venezuela as well, and particularly Venezuela, given that they constitute their first opponent. Mano has also noted that Argentina is currently the tournament favorite given the evolution of their squad over the last few years.

Group assignments for the initial phase of the Copa America tournament are as follows:

Group A

Argentina
Colombia
Costa Rica
Bolivia

Group B

Brazil
Paraguay
Ecuadaor
Venezuela

Group C

Uruguay
Chile
Peru
Mexico

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Flashback: Dondinho, Pele's father, mentor and friend

In recognition of Father’s Day as celebrated in the U.S., Bringing Back the Beautiful Game presents the following reflection on Pele’s relationship with his father:

One of the remarkable things about Pele’s biography is the clarity with which he articulates the closeness of his relationship to his father, Dondinho, an attacking center forward that played closer to goal than Pele preferred to play. Dondinho was a classic number 9 whereas Pele, as number 10, opted for a deeper role where he could orchestrate attacks as well as come forward. In his autobiography, Pele recounts his father’s support of his childhood ambition to become a professional pilot. Instead of pouring cold water over his son’s excitement, Dondinho nurtures Pele’s ambition and reminds him of all of the skills he would need to acquire to realize that dream as illustrated in the passage below:

“I remember talking about it and being surprised that he thought it was a good enough ambition. I expected him to dismiss the idea, but instead he cleverly reminded me of the skills I would need to acquire to achieve this goal – reading, writing, navigating and the rest. It was one of the first times I recall him treating me like a man, and taking me seriously, and it made a big impression. As well as being a footballer he had a good head on his shoulders – he was always the one to rein in Dona Celeste’s fireworks – and I knew instantly that I should listen to what he was saying. It made school seem more relevant, more useful. Even when skipping school I knew that I’d have to get some sort of education to be able to fly.” (22)

Pele’s boyhood dream of becoming a pilot was cut short by an unfortunate incident when a local plane crashed, killing the pilot. The young Pele went to the hospital to view the autopsy and, upon seeing the pilot's corpse, decided that a career flying planes was not for him. As luck would have it, his father’s nurturing trait extended to football as well, and Dondinho became Pele’s first professional football coach. Dondinho taught Pele how to pass accurately, dribble, use a shoulder feint to leave defenders for dead, and change pace quickly to outmaneuver defenders. And over and beyond the technical aspect of football, Pele notes how spending time with his father was marked by pleasure and the experience of learning about being a man: “And I loved spending time with my father, learning football and how to be a man." (41) The young Pele derived joy and passion from the playful back and forth exchange he had with his father. Moreover, he loved the way his father took his opinions seriously, as if he were a man.

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ronaldo's Retirement: Ronaldinho, Kaka, Beckham, Zico, Romario and Mano Menezes Pay Tribute to "The Phenomenon"

Carlos Alberto Parreira

"It's a feeling of loss -- to know that on Sundays, on the television, we are not going to see Ronaldo anymore."

David Beckham

“I just want to say to my friend Ronaldo what an honour it was playing with him and becoming his good friend... He was not just an amazing person but along with Zidane, one of the most talented and gifted players in football history and I was honoured to have been in the same team as him whilst at Real Madrid...Well done my friend...”

Kaka

“Ronaldo, thank you for everything you did. Thank you for the sport of football, for Brazil, and for the army of many thousands of fans."

“Ronaldo has no successor and he will not have. It’s hard to put a collection of those in any other Brazilian player as Neymar, Fred, Luis Fabiano or who they’re playing in that position. Neymar is a great player, I think he can go far, but Ronaldo is irreplaceable. Ronaldo’s retirement is sad for football. Now he chose another career and he will also be a phenomenon in his chosen field. My wish is to follow his path and write down in history forever.”

Mano Menezes

“We worked together for about 18 very intensive months at Corinthians and his individual class impressed all of us. The results might have been better in his first year, but his enormous desire to always win every game explains his ability to make comeback after comeback. His superb mentality helped him overcome his injury problems.

I firmly remember how he was sitting on the treatment table putting on a bandage in the dressing room only days before he helped us to victory in the Brazilian Cup and the Campeonato Paulista.

From now on, he will be considered as a legend of the game and he will join many others from the past who have filled us with joy with their masterpieces. Fortunately for us, stars come and go in Brazilian football. Those who enter the stage will learn from those who starred before them, like Ronaldo. It's now up to us to repay Ronaldo for everything he has done for us. We'll have to minimize the empty feeling he probably has and he deserves the affection of all Brazilian football fans. Being successful has always been his trademark and we can only hope that he will soon be active in the football world again in some position.”

Ronaldinho

”Ronaldo for me was an idol. I was inspired by him in everything. Thanks to him Brazil was recognized in Europe. I still cannot realize what has happened. It has left me sad."

Romario

"We Brazilians can be sure that we will no longer see on the field one of the greatest players in the history of world soccer."

Zico


"I would like to play with him, because I would always put him in front of the goal."

Zidane's reflections on Ronaldo.

Bringing Back the Beautiful Game's tribute to Ronaldo