About Me

My photo
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, September 11, 2012

Brazil Squad For September 19 Friendly Against Argentina

Mano Menezes opted for Brazil-based players for the September 19 friendly against Argentina. Luis Fabiano is back although Mano felt no reason to recall Ronaldinho. Expect Fabiano, Leandro Damiao and Neymar to partner in attack in front of Lucas Moura and Arouca.

Arouca - Santos
Bernard - Atletico Mineiro
Charlie - Fluminense
Cassio - Corinthians
Dede - Vasco da Gama
Fabio Santos - Corinthians
Fernando - Gremio
Jadson - Sao Paulo
Jefferson - Botafogo
Leandro Damiao - Internacional
Lucas - Sao Paulo
Lucas Marques - Botafogo
Luis Fabiano - Sao Paulo
Marcos Rocha - Atlético Mineiro
Neymar - Santos
Paulinho - Corinthians
Ralf - Corinthians
Réver - Atlético Mineiro
Rhodolfo - Sao Paulo
Thiago Neves - Fluminense
Wellington Nem- Fluminense

Brazil Pummels China 8-0: Five Quick Thoughts

Brazil produced the most spectacular display of attacking football and goal scoring power in its recent memory with an 8-0 victory over China today that put their 4-0 victory against China at the 2002 World Cup to shame. Ramires began the drubbing in the 23rd minute by bursting down the left flank after receiving an assist from Oscar and flicking the ball over the diving keeper. Three minutes later, Neymar scored the first goal of his hat-trick from an Oscar pass but the flood gates really opened only in the second half, with additional goals by Lucas Moura, Hulk, two more by Neymar, a Chinese own goal and an Oscar penalty. The scoreline and performance is sure to momentarily ease the pressure on beleaguered coach Mano Menezes who now faces the task of preparing a squad for stiffer opposition against Argentina on September 19 and October 3 in their annual clasico.

Some quick thoughts:

• Brazil’s midfield clicked in a glorious fashion in this match. Yes, it was against China, who failed to offer a whole lot of resistance, but we saw something tonight Brazil fans haven’t seen in decades: four creative playmakers in the middle of the park. Romulus and Ramires were positioned behind Oscar and Lucas Moura and all four did impressive work in initiating attacks. Today, Romulus and Ramires were anything but holding midfielders in the vein of Gilberto Silva or Carlos Dunga. They were key to the attack and supplied pace down the center as well as delivery to the flanks.

• Oscar has finally arrived, and tonight, he arrived with style showing that the number 10 jersey belongs to him and no one else for the time being. He assisted on three goals, scored from the penalty spot and showed his ability to read Neymar’s runs and unconventional style of play. Oscar assisted on two of Neymar’s goals, roamed all over the pitch and showed the courage to shoot at will, from long range included.

• Lucas Moura added pace and creativity to the Brazilian attack alongside Oscar and demonstrated, again, his willingness to go one on one against defenders. Dribbling ability such as Moura's will be key to Brazil’s performance with this squad and style of play because, with the exception of Hulk, the attackers are not built like Ronaldo, Adriano or even Ronaldinho. Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura compete with sheer skill and ball trickery as opposed to a strong physical presence in the box.

• Dede delivered a fine performance alongside David Luiz as Menezes juggles his lineup and competition heats up for a place in the Brazilian central midfield. Dede’s physical presence renders him an attacking threat from set pieces as well, one of which he almost converted tonight via a header from a Dani Alves free kick.

• The key to Brazil’s victory today was their pace through the midfield, and once again, the credit goes to Romulus, Ramires, Oscar and Lucas. Yes, Neymar and Hulk put the ball in the back of the net as needed but Brazil, today, attacked down the center, through the heart of the midfield. Brazil did use the flanks, on occasion, but Dani Alves and Marcelo had a relatively quiet game and posed little in the way of a sustained attacking threat.

Overall, this was a goal scoring feast from a Brazil team that, despite its illustrious history of footballing success, is not known for lopsided victories, partly out of sheer respect for the game and their opponents. Menezes’s team can now face Argentina on September 19 with their heads held high and will hope to avenge this summer’s 4-3 loss in a June U.S. based friendly.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

3 Quick Thoughts On Brazil v. South Africa 2012

After Brazil’s disappointing 1-0 performance against South Africa, many pundits argue that the disappointing performance increases the pressure on Mano Menezes’s tenure as coach of the Selecao. While the drab Selecao performance certainly does little to consolidate Menezes’s position, it conversely does little to weaken it because the team struggled but ultimately came away with a victory. The match goes down as Brazil’s second victory after the Olympics and the 8th consecutive game (Argentina, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand, Honduras, South Korea, Mexico, Sweden, South Africa) in which they have scored at least one goal, including the U-23 Olympic team. The South Africa friendly highlighted the importance of Hulk to the squad, even though, as in previous games, the fundamental problem with the team concerns the midfield and its inability to break down dogged defenses from teams such as Mexico and South Africa.

A few quick thoughts:

• The Oscar-Lucas Moura pairing in this match did not work. Menezes may be trying to replicate Brazil 1982, but the reality is that Oscar and Lucas are not of the caliber of Socrates and Eder. Oscar and Lucas created few high percentage shots on goal and failed to impose themselves on the midfield. Only Ronaldinho can command the midfield at present, though at some point, a fit, motivated, in form Paulo Henrique Ganso may well be able to do the same. Granted, this was the first time that Oscar and Lucas started together, and it may be that the understanding between the two players needs to gel.

• Dede’s place in the starting lineup at the expense of Thiago Silva marks an important step in the evolution of the Selecao. Dede had an unremarkable game overall, but nevertheless showed that he deserves serious consideration for a place in the Brazilian back-line. Thiago Silva may well be an international legend in the making, but he disappointed at the Olympics and is as responsible for Mexico’s early goal in the Olympic final as Rafael. Dede could be an important piece of the puzzle if Thiago or David Luiz get injured or lose form.

• Overall, Brazil need to start performing better, quickly. Menezes has experimented enough with the side already and his selections are not translating into impressive results on the field, even though they often make sense on paper. Mano is well known for scouting the opposition but has correspondingly failed to deliver a Brazil team that can grind out impressive victories. Luis Felipe Scolari, in contrast, was less of an opponent scout because of his conviction that Brazil matches were never about Brazil’s opponents, or the weather, or the date of the fixture: if Brazil play their game, Scolari would say, they can beat anyone. Mano needs to learn a lesson from Scolari here and start focusing more on Brazil and less on their opponents.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Zenit Signs Incredible Hulk For £39.5 Million

Porto and Brazil striker Hulk has joined Zenit St. Petersburg in a last minute transfer deal reportedly worth £39.5 million or €50 million. Hulk was instrumental in leading Porto to three Portuguese championship titles in 2009, 2011, and 2012 in addition to the 2011 Europa League title. The burly Brazilian scored an incredible 54 goals in 103 league matches for Porto since joining the club in 2008. At Porto, Hulk played as a right winger where he would cut diagonally inward and unleash long range strikes on goal from his favored left foot. Zenit were able to sign Hulk so late in the season because the Russian transfer window remains open for another week.

Zenit, who also signed Benefica midfielder Axel Witsel, said Hulk would wear the number 29 shirt. Speaking of the signings of Hulk and Witsel, Zenit spokesman Dmitry Tsimmerman remarked:

"We were trying to sign them before the Sept. 3 deadline for the Champions League so they can play for us in that competition as well as the Russian league.”

Zenit contends with AC Milan, Anderlecht and Malaga in Group C of the Champions League. Hulk has recently started playing for Brazil and can claim 13 caps and 3 international goals. He is known for his pace, dribbling ability, physical strength and an exemplary attitude toward training that has seen him incur few injuries over the last three years. Hulk is currently on international duty for Brazil in Sao Paulo for upcoming friendlies against South Africa and China. Hulk was one of the three overage Brazilians at the 2012 London Olympics and scored in injury time against Mexico in the final.