Running the good cop-bad cop on the fractious Brazilian sports press technical director Carlos Parreira amped up the positive, offering the textured spin that his Samba Boys were "evolving" after slipping and sliding their way to a 2-1 loss against a stronger England team.
Hedging his bets, manager "Big Phil" Scolari noted that putting together a definitive side primed to win the World Cup tournament on home turf-- without even needing to qualify-- is a trial and error process that might not be 100% complete by the time the Confederations Cup rolls around in June.
The friendly match in the chilly confines of Wembley featured plenty of fervour and a fistful of non-friendly consequences resulting from the outmoded business culture of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) that grows top talent for export while bankrupting the future of league football at home.
Some football pundits looked at individual performance and the spat between Ronaldinho and Neymar over who should take the free kick as a factor in the loss. In fact, however,it represents a manager failure by Scolari who needs to build a team of players who follow his orders. But the big takeaway from Wembley is that England won as a team and Brazil lost as a bunch of mercenaries lacking a field general, stars who play abroad who talk about the idea of Brazilian futebol. but don't know how to play it.
In a digital world where nations flirt with the bread and circuses model of social organizatioon football has become incontrovertibly-- some in the intelligence and law inforcement communitities might say inconveniently-- linked with the entertainment and gaming sectors of the global economy.
As the relationship crystalizes, Brazil, by exporting its best football crop like a banana republic, is devaluing the Samba Boys brand and the Brazilian contribution to The Beautiful Game in the process.
Legend attributes Pele's Samba Boy temmate Didi with linking the meme "the beautiful game" with Brazilian futebol in lusophone culture around 1962, when he was a standout on squad that won the World Cup in Chile.
Then Pele used the meme in his 1977 autobiography, My Life And The The Beautiful Game, penned when Brazil was still living under military rule and restrictions made it impossible for most citizens to leave the country. Futebol was the tolerated vehicle to project cultural freedom.
By that time, however. Pele was already looking back on the prime of a career that gave him and futebol name recognition on five continents.
While still holding brand equity in the minds of millions of fans the idea of the magical, spontaneous style of play that made Brazil's beautiful game really beautiful was last seen in its glory back in 1970 when the Samba Boys won the World Cup in Mexico City.
Brazil's fluid team play defeated an Italian side unable to reconcile the old catenachhio defensive style with attacking football.
With a little help from Franz Beckenbauer, Gunther Netzer and Uli Hoeness the samba in the beautiful game got muscled off the pitch by the power game perfected by legendary German manager Helmut Schoen.
With total fussball at center stage Brazil would not win a World Cup for twenty four years. And that victory, played to a 0-0 draw in regulation time in the huge Los Angeles Coliseum and won by Brazil in a shootout, marked the emergence of the new homogenized global style that Brazil finds it difficult to build teams for today.
To face this challenge, Brazil's sports minister Aldo Rebelo has said repeatedly that his nation's football leadership needs to become more democratic. Nowhere is that evidenced more than in nation's vast-- and sometimes lawless-- rural interior where an ex-director of Athletico Goianense, a former first division side that was relegated to the B League, was put in prison by the district attorney for allegedly ordering the mob-style rubout of a prominent sports journalist. The team operates under the aegis of FIFA and the CBF and maintains a player transfer relationship with prominent Moscow side CSKA, formerly trained by Brazilian legend Zico.
To build a strong team, Brazil can look at England, with a strong captain, a strong midfield and a strong sense of what British football is all about. Chronic injuries make Kaka, Ganso and Pato midfield questionmarks. While he is solid captain material David Luiz did more holding on the Wembley pitch than one sees in a National Football League game. And while Julio Cesar made good saves in the melees he lacks the athleticism of Uruguay's taller, faster Fernando Muslera that will be the difference maker in Confederations Cup and World Cup competition.
Brazil faces Italy in another friendly in Geneva on March 21st. And with Berlusconi bringing his favorite power finisher back to Serie A the game promises to be Balotelli Time. Will Scolari, Parreira and the Samba Boys be the professors, or this students?
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