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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, February 28, 2012

Brazil Scrape To 2-1 Victory Over Bosnia

Brazil scraped to a 2-1 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina thanks to goals by Marcelo and an own goal inspired by a powerful Hulk cross. Mano opted for his trademark 4-3-3 formation with Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo starting behind midfielders Sandro, Fernandinho and Hernanes. Ronaldinho, Neymar and Leandro Damiao constituted the Brazilian attack with Ronaldinho playing in a deep attacking position. AC Milan’s Thiago Silva donned the captain’s armband as Brazil took the field amidst a crowd full of Bosnian supporters who made their voice heard throughout the match. Ronaldinho wore the famed Brazil number 10 jersey.

The match started auspiciously for the South Americans in the fourth minute when Dani Alves spotted Marcelo bursting through from the left flank toward goal and threaded a pass to the Real Madrid left back through a posse of players. Marcelo made no mistake and buried the ball past the keeper’s left to open the scoring. Marcelo’s goal should have been the cue for Brazil to open the floodgates and take control of the match, but Bosnia and Herzegovina refused to lie down lightly. In the 13th minute, Vedad Ibisevic equalized for Bosnia following a giveaway by David Luiz and horrendous goalkeeping from Julio Cesar, who allowed the ball to bounce off and over his body into the net without making an effort to stop the ball with his hands or feet.

In the 20th minute, Brazil almost took the lead when an inspired Fernandinho pass found Leandro Damiao, whose shot was blocked by goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The rebound fell to Lazio midfielder Hernanes but was snatched away by superb defending from the captain Emir Spahic. The remainder of the first half featured lively play from Bosnia and Herzegovina as Brazil failed to find their feet in midfield and create the killer playmaking passes that could split the Bosnian defense. Ronaldinho, in particular, had a disappointing evening marked by mislaid passes and lack of midfield creativity. Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic caused problems for the Brazilian defense but the two teams nevertheless went into half-time tied at 1-1.

Brazil improved significantly in the second half following the substitution of Ronaldinho with Ganso but continued to struggle in the latter third of the field. Hernanes failed to convert a header resulting from a Marcelo cross and Neymar had a shot denied by Begovic. In the 90th minute, however, Brazil’s persistence paid off when Marcelo fed Hulk a ball on the left flank. The Porto striker delivered a powerful cross into the area which was deflected into the Bosnian goal by Sasa Papac.

Overall, this was yet another disappointing performance from the Selecao given how the team is bursting with talent. Mano seems to have decided on three skilled midfielders who play deeper in midfield in the form of some combination of Fernandinho, Sandro, Hernanes and Elias. Brazil’s midfield failed to create enough quality scoring opportunities, however, and the strikers, correspondingly, appeared unable to create the spaces that would lead to high percentage scoring opportunities. Given Ronaldinho’s poor performance, the obvious question is whether Kaka can revitalize the Brazilian midfield. Meanwhile, up front, Mano will have to reflect on whether Robinho can provide a more credible scoring threat amidst an attacking line-up that appears to lack the experience to break down highly physical defending such as that delivered by Bosnia and Herzegovina in today’s friendly in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Nevertheless, this is Brazil’s sixth consecutive victory and follows upon victories against Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Gabon and Egypt.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Correction to AFP Article: "No Kaka For Brazil Friendly Against Bosnia."

AFP is reporting that Kaka played in the Brazil friendlies against Gabon and Egypt as follows:

Kaka did play in the final two games of 2011 for the auriverde -- wins over Gabon and Egypt -- but while coach Mano Menezes insists he respects the player's abilities, he said: "I'm not going to give an explanation for every player not selected."

This is simply untrue. Kaka did not play in the friendlies for Gabon and Egypt. Kaka was selected for the Egypt and Gabon friendlies, but was withdrawn by Jose Mourinho due to injury.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brazil Based Players Travel To Switzerland For Bosnia Friendly

Brazil based players Neymar, Ganso, Leandro Damiao and Rafael begun travelling to Switzerland for the February 28 friendly against Bosnia while Ronaldinho, Mano Menezes, team doctor Jose Luis Runco and the rest of the technical staff departed separately. Dede and Lucas Moura travel on Sunday night and will accompany the Europe-based players, as well as the rest of their Brazil-based compatriots, on Monday. The team is expected to train together on February 27 at the AFG Arena Stadium. Brazil face Bosnia in St. Gallen, Switzerland in their first friendly of 2012 on Tuesday, February 28.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mano Menezes Selects Ronaldinho, Neymar, Ganso and Hulk For Brazil Squad Against Bosnia

Brazil national football coach Mano Menezes announced an intriguing line-up for the February 28 friendly against Bosnia by selecting Ronaldinho, Ganso, Neymar, Hulk and Leandro Damiao and omitting Kaka, Robinho, Pato, Lucio and Maicon. Given Mano’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation in recent friendlies, Ganso, Ronaldinho and Fernandinho could well start behind Neymar, Leandro Damiao and Hulk in a radically offensive formation marked by four attackers (Ronaldinho, Neymar, Leandro Damiao and Hulk). Mano is likely to put Leandro Damiao’s capabilities as a center forward to the test and play Hulk in his natural position at Porto as a right sided attacker, leaving Neymar on the left. Mano explained his decision to omit Kaka from the squad by noting, with respect to the Real Madrid playmaker’s recent performances, “Perhaps I didn’t see something from him that I wanted to see.” In the case of Ronaldinho, in contrast, Mano remarked that he envisioned the Flamengo star midfielder as “part of a project” and that he had chosen not to “read too much” into the player’s largely drab performances for Flamengo of late. Highlights of Mano’s squad selection include the following:

  • The continued central partnership of AC Milan’s Thiago Silva and Chelsea’s David Luiz.
  • Left back Marcelo, who will surge up the left flank as well as cut diagonally inside and head toward goal.
  • Skilled midfielders who can play in deep positions such as Fernandinho, Hernanes and Sandro that can complement the attacking positioning of Ganso.
  • The inclusion of Sao Paulo starlet Lucas Moura as another attacking midfield option, particularly as a possible second half substitution for Ganso, Hulk or Ronaldinho.
  • The surprise inclusion of Jonas, despite his two goals in the Egypt friendly. Jonas lacks the technical ability of Hulk and Ronaldinho, but evidently found the positioning and composure to find the back of the net in a Brazil friendly, which is more than can be said of most Brazil strikers in recent international matches.
The squad for the Bosnia friendly builds logically on the work Mano has done in the past 18 months as coach of the Brazilian national team. Fans should expect a highly offensive starting line-up against Bosnia that tests the mettle of Hulk and Damiao, in particular, in relation to competition from Lucas Moura and Jonas for starting spots in the Selecao.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Diego Alves (Valencia), Rafael (Santos)

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves, Adriano (both Barcelona), Alex Sandro (Porto), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), David Luiz (Chelsea), Luisao (Benfica), Dede (Vasco da Gama)

Midfielders: Danilo (Porto), Elias (Sporting), Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Hernanes (Lazio), Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Lucas (Sao Paulo), Ronaldinho (Flamengo)

Attackers: Neymar (Santos), Leandro Damiao (Internacional), Jonas (Valencia), Hulk (Porto)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Flamengo Hires Joel Santana As Coach To Replace Luxemburgo

Joel Santana has assumed the position of coach of Flamengo for the fifth time in his career after Flamengo fired Vanderlei Luxemburgo late last week. Luxemburgo was fired after he became embroiled in a battle of words with Flamengo’s star midfielder, Ronaldinho, related to the latter’s alleged discipline problems and love of the nightlife. The 63 year old Santana was widely expected to take over as coach of Flamengo after he resigned as coach of the Brazilian club Bahia last Thursday, on precisely the day Luxemburgo was fired.

Santana was announced and introduced to Flamengo on Monday. He returns to Flamengo with the objective of reintroducing harmony between the players and the position of coach. In a press conference, Santana pledged to give Ronaldinho the freedom and respect befitting a player of his caliber, adding that Dinho could play anywhere he wanted on the field:
"Ronaldinho is the team's star, idol and he'll settle games for us. He's talented and knows how to play, the quality of this kid is impressive. When you buy a rare piece you have to put it in the best place in the house. He'll play where he feels best. If he wants to be on the left we'll put him there, if he prefers the right, he'll go to that sector. Is he in the middle? Then he'll play in the middle."
Santana delivered his remarks just days after Ronaldinho scored a thrilling injury time goal against Bolivian team Real Potosi to clinch Flamengo’s qualification for the group stages of the Copa Libertadores with an aggregate 3-2 victory. According to Flamengo director Paulo Coutinho, Santana has already set his sights on winning the Copa Libertadores with Flamengo and is considering multiple reinforcements to the existing team.

Santana most recently coached Flamengo from 2007 to 2008 before coaching hosts South Africa for the 2010 World Cup and then assuming a position at Bahia. Brazil 1982 Word Cup star Paulo Falcao takes over the helm at Bahia from Santana in his first coaching stint since being fired from Internacional in July.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mano Menezes Criticizes Flamengo's Firing of Luxemburgo In Wake of Duel With Ronaldinho

Brazil soccer coach Mano Menezes criticized Flamengo’s decision to fire coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo this Thursday, less than a day after Flamengo qualified for the group stages of the Copa Libertadores by beating Real Potosi 2-0. Menezes pointed to a disturbing trend in domestic Brazilian football to fire managers for a string of poor results without allowing them the ability to develop deeper and more enduring relationships with players, club management and fans. The Selecao coach cited his stint at Gremio from 2005 to 2007 and Corinthians from 2008 to 2010 and Muricy Ramalho’s tenure at Santos as exceptions to the rule of the merry-go-round in Brazilian football. Former Flamengo coach Joel Santana is the favorite to take over Luxemburgo’s position. Santana coached Flamengo from 2007 to 2008 before coaching hosts South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Santana has been coaching Brazilian club Bahia since September but reportedly resigned on Thursday, around the time of Flamengo's decision regarding Luxemburgo. Speaking of the decision to part ways with Luxemburgo, Flamengo President Patricia Amorin remarked: "We listened to the opinions of the players, the fans and saw this was the right moment to make changes. We spoke with Luxemburgo and we understood how difficult the atmosphere was. The conclusion from that meeting was to dismiss the coach."

Luxemburgo is widely believed to have been forced out of Flamengo because of his deteriorating relationship with Ronaldinho, whom he accused of entertaining a female companion at a Flamengo training camp in Londrina, against club rules. Ronaldinho responded to Luxemburgo’s accusations by saying he would stay with Flamengo only if Luxemburgo left the club. Luxemburgo was fired less than a day after Flamengo secured a dramatic victory over Real Potosi due to goals by Leo Moura and Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho took the free kick that led to the first goal by Leo Moura and scored Flamengo’s second goal in injury time by dribbling past a defender and slotting the ball through the keeper's legs. Flamengo defeated Real Potosi 3-2 in aggregate to qualify for the group stage of the Copa Libertadores.