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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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brazil Cruise To 4-0 Victory Over Japan: 5 Quick Thoughts

Brazil romped to a 4-0 victory over Japan today in an international friendly in Wroclaw, Poland thanks to goals by Paulinho, a Neymar brace and Kaka. The win represented the Selecao’s sixth consecutive victory and additionally featured an abundance of high percentage goal-scoring opportunities from Brazil with Neymar, Paulinho, Kaka, Hulk and Lucas Moura all narrowly missing the target. Some quick thoughts:

  • This was one of the most impressive Brazil performances in Mano Menezes's tenure as coach. While Japan did have a handful of quality chances on goal, Brazil ran the midfield and dictated the tempo of the game. The team plays with pace, fluidity, artistry and a relentless desire to go for goal. Today, Brazil played against a technically gifted team and netted four goals while creating several high quality goal-scoring opportunities as well. Most impressive was the way in which the midfield quartet composed of Paulinho, Ramires, Kaka and Oscar joined the attack in full force, giving Neymar and Hulk ample support in the movement toward and attack on goal. 
  • Kaka’s return has revitalized the team, and taken some of the pressure off Neymar and Oscar in ways that allow the younger players to express themselves more fully. Meanwhile, in the games against Iraq and Japan, Kaka reminded us of his killer instinct in front of goal as well as his vision, positional awareness, acceleration, physical presence and immaculate fitness. He still has the confidence to take on defenders one on one and to shoot from either the left or right foot like a pure striker.
  • Brazil are bursting with talent in almost every position. For the Japan friendly, the first choice fullbacks of Dani Alves and Marcelo were injured, but the team scarcely lost an inch in attacking wide play through Adriano and Leandro Castan. Similarly, Vasco da Gama centreback Dede represents an exciting alternative to David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Meanwhile, Brazil’s midfield boasts an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Lucas Moura, Ronaldinho, Hernanes, Alex Sandro, Thiago Neves and Fernandinho waiting in the wings to join Oscar and company. 
  • Brazil have scored 20 goals in their last 4 games, admittedly against lesser opponents such as China, Argentina, Iraq and Japan. On the other hand, Spain recently beat China only 1-0 thanks to a goal in the 82nd minute, and Japan beat France last Friday 1-0. 
  • Neymar has now scored 16 goals in 25 appearances for the national team. 
The true measure of Brazil’s progress will come only against more skilled, experienced opponents such as England at Wembley Stadium on February 6, 2013. Before that, Brazil play Colombia on November 14 in New Jersey. Menezes clearly has a lot of options on the table but the squad is generally becoming more consistent, and much of this has a lot to do with Oscar’s ability to wear the number 10 jersey and anchor the transition from midfield to attack. With Menezes’s job more or less secure until the 2013 Confederations Cup, one wonders whether the former Corinthians coach will have the courage to recall Ronaldinho to the lineup as well, particularly if the Atletico Mineiro attacking midfielder continues to impress with his goals, assists and leadership.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ronaldinho Bursts Into Tears, Again

Ronaldinho burst into tears after scoring his first goal for Atletico Mineiro in the team’s 6-0 victory against Figueirense on Saturday. Ronaldinho floated the ball wide from the left flank into the far top corner of the net and then proceeded to kneel and burst into tears as he was mobbed by his teammates. As he got up, the tearful Ronaldinho looked to and pointed at the sky in an apparent reference to the divine. Dinho proceeded to score a hat-trick in a result that kept Atletico Mineiro in second place in Brazil’s Serie A behind Fluminense and ahead of Gremio.

Ronaldinho’s stepfather passed away on Friday of a heart attack. The Brazilian attacking midfielder has generally been in a tearful mood of late due to his mother's struggle with cancer. On September 24, Ronaldinho collapsed into tears after Atletico Mineiro’s goalless draw against Gremio when the fans held up an image of his mother, Miguelina, and a sign with the words “Faith in God.” Usually known for his ebullient smile, Ronaldinho has been in stunning form this season with Atletico Mineiro, so much so that Brazil coach Mano Menezes has suggested he may be recalled to the Brazilian national team.