The USA played Brazil yesterday in an “International Friendly,” a game between two national teams with no competitive prize or tournament qualification on the line. They serve as chances for coaches to look at players and combinations as they get ready for the big tournaments that will measure their success.
Brazil were looking for a palate cleanser after their “disastrous” showing in South Africa. In Brazil a disaster is when they do not win the World Cup. They’d placed their faith in Dunga, the flat-topped, hard-nosed defensive midfielder who played for the seleçao 91 times and won the world cup in 1994. Noted for his no-nonsense playing style, he promptly crafted a team in his image with proven, solid professionals who won games reliably but without the special flair of jogo bonito that so many craved. When he successfully navigated qualification to South Africa, he was respected. When Brazil went out to Holland, he was fired. Now the aim is to give the young guns a chance to liven up the style of play.
This would be a bad time to face them. Like boxing Mike Tyson when he’s in a bad mood. With a roster full of players who didn’t get a chance in South Africa and had something to prove, the US were played off the park by the likes of Pato (“Duck”) and Ganso (“Goose”), not to mention Neymar (“I got this haircut when I lost a bet”).
Our boys weren’t especially bad, just outclassed. This was the ten-thousand hour rule in full effect. We looked very good for the first ten minutes, but when we were not able to finish the early chances, Brazil settled down and went to work, scoring on two attacking moves that exposed our naïveté.
In other languages like Spanish, the national team coach is sometimes called the entrenador (the trainer). Other times he is referred to as the seleccionador (the chooser), because at this level he doesn’t have to worry about getting players in to shape or teaching them how to play. His primary task is to select the group of players that can meld into a good team when they only get to play together a few times a year. Last night, Bob Bradley mainly chose to play the same guys who did so well for him is South Africa. But here in the US, after those twenty guys, there is not a lot left to choose from. Mano Menezes made like a new broom and focused on new players. I think Brazil could probably field three national teams at once and all could advance to the world cup. While this lineup looked dangerously talented, I don’t think it is much better than the one Dunga took to South Africa. Brazil is spoiled for choice and the national team coach there will never have to dig too deep for players. The dangerous edge is that, with all this talent to pick from, nothing less than winning everything is acceptable.