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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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brazil Fires Mano Menezes In Search For New Direction and Methods

Mano Menezes's year and a half tenure as coach of the Brazilian national football team came to a dramatic end on Friday when the former Corinthians coach was fired by the Brazilian Confederation of Football. The timing of the move was highly surprising given that Brazil had recently amassed an impressive sequence of results after losing to Mexico in the final of the 2012 summer Olympics. Between August 15 and November 14, 2012, Menezes led Brazil to 6 consecutive victories and 1 draw in which the team scored 25 goals while conceding only 2. With an average of 3.57 goals per game during this period, Brazil notched up impressive 3-0, 8-0, 6-0 and 4-0 victories against Sweden, China, Iraq and Japan respectively. In his year and a half tenure, Mano claimed 21 victories, 6 draws and 6 losses out of a total of 33 matches.

Andres Sanchez, Director of the Confederation of Brazilian Football, noted that the decision to fire Menezes was motivated by President Jose Marin's desire for a new approach to the national team:
The president believes that the national team needs to go in a different direction and for that he needs a new coach. The president wants new methods and new planning for the national team next year.
Sanchez praised Menezes and underscored how the decision to fire Menezes was not motivated by poor results:
Mano did a good job. He faced difficulties but the work being done was improving. If the problem was the lack of good results he would have been fired earlier. He was winning recently.
Charged with bringing back the beautiful game, Menezes restored the Brazilian national team to a quick passing, attacking approach marked by high lines and a creative midfield featuring the likes of Oscar, Kaka, Paulinho and Ramires. His style differed markedly from the counter-attacking strategy of the Brazilian national team under his predecessor, Carlos Dunga, who fielded 8 men behind the ball in a coiled-spring approach that, while defensive in orientation, could "spring" one of the most effective counter-attacking formations in the modern game. Despite Brazil's difficulties beating big name opponents such as France, Germany and Argentina, many including Tostao hailed Menezes for his recent progress in building a creative Brazilian midfield and for the team's stylish, attacking mode of play.

Moreover, Mano introduced significant evolution into the national squad by selecting players such as Neymar, Oscar, Rafael, Marcelo and Lucas Moura that had previously not featured prominently in the national team. One could argue that it was Mano who brought Oscar to international prominence by giving him the famed number 10 jersey both in the lead up to, and the games that constituted the 2012 Olympics.

Former Brazil World Cup champion Romario celebrated the decision to fire Menezes by remarking:
Finally those incompetent (people) at the CBF did something good for Brazilian soccer. I was sure that it would happen, it was unfortunate it took so long, but he's out! When it comes to Mano, it was already late.In my opinion the coach needs to be Felipao. The national team director, Andres Sanchez, has to go, the ideal one to take his place is Rai.
Romario cites Luis Felipe Scolari as his favored choice to run the Selecao. Muricy Ramalho, who already turned down the job in 2010, and Corinthians coach Tite are also rumored to be top candidates for the job, although other indications suggest the CBF may even be considering former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. Whomever the CBF chooses, the new coach will be operating on a foundation squarely laid by Menezes marked by a squad full of new faces as compared to the 2010 World Cup, with Oscar and Neymar leading the attack.

Ronaldinho and Hernanes represent the likeliest beneficiaries of Menezes's firing and may join Kaka and Oscar in a mouthwatering Brazilian midfield unless the CBF decides to return to a Dunga-type clone in the form of Muricy Ramalho. Coach Luis Felipe Scolari is the frontrunner, however, given his success with the Brazilian national team at the 2002 World Cup. Known for his tactical discipline and insistence that his teams play hard, tough tackling football, Scolari may be exactly the type of drill sergeant Brazil needs to convert their cornucopia of talent into a disciplined footballing machine that can grind out victories while playing the entertaining football that fans want to see at the 2014 World Cup. The new coach is expected to be announced in early January.