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.