An apology and a trophy

I’d like to begin with an apology.

Over the past few months, work, family and the hectic environment that is São Paulo have kept me away from a true passion of mine: writing. Even watching football on television has been difficult, never mind going to the stadium, therefore finding the time to sit down at my desk and produce something fit for public consumption has been near impossible.

I am aware that none of you have been crying yourselves to sleep at night since my last article, but I am also aware that a number of you enjoy my work and are always eager to read more. To those kind people, sorry for the absence.

Though my present circumstances remain the same – work is still time-consuming and no-one seems keen on paying me to write about sport (offers are always welcome, by the way…) – I have decided to get back on the horse and resurrect ILFM.

Long features and detailed tactical analyses are out, for the time being, and in their place will be briefer and more frequent blog posts. Ideally I would like these to be daily, providing I can find a little time each day in which to write. Subjects will no doubt vary, language may also vary in order to please my lusophone followers (existe isso?).

The 2013 Confederations Cup came to a close last night and Brazil is champion once more. Yesterday’s was the first trophy the Seleção have won since I came to this country.

I have heard from fellow immigrants of a particular kind of schadenfreude that most ex-pats have felt at least once when Brazil lose. It’s understandable, the Seleção is huge business in Brazil, thus the idea of them being superior to all other nations is shoved down everyone’s throats by the media on an hourly basis. So it can be quite satisfying to see them fail miserably now and again.

For me though, ever since I arrived in Brazil I’ve only seen the Seleção disappoint. So last night was special for me on a personal note, though you’d have to be made of stone not to enjoy Brazil’s demolition of world champions Spain. Or, you’d have to be Spanish.

Although with all the goal-scoring, titan-clashing (Italy-Brazil, Brazil-Uruguay, Spain-Italy and Brazil-Spain in the space of two weeks? Yes please!) and lack of other football going on, it was easy to forget that the Confederations Cup is only really semi-competitive. Brazil defeating the world champions does not make them an excellent team, nor does Spain’s loss spell the end of a golden era. There are conclusions to be drawn from the last two weeks, but not terribly many.

Last night’s match, for example, was all about Brazil. Spain looked tired, having played 120 minutes in the cruel cearense heat on Thursday, while Brazil were fresh and more motivated than ever. From the first whistle Felipão’s men pressed Spain to within an inch of their lives and continued in that vein all evening. Special praise must be reserved for the superb tight marking jobs executed by Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo on Xavi and Iniesta, respectively. Spain were forced to retreat and play aimless long balls, while Brazil were able to play neat, attacking football.

The 3-0 scoreline was kind to Spain and unfair to Brazil, who in the end deserved four or five.

What has become clear from this Confederations Cup is how Brazil will approach most of their matches: high tempo and intense pressing in the first half; compact defending and quick counterattacks in the second half. From Japan through to Spain, each of Brazil’s performances followed this pattern.

It makes perfect sense. For the past twenty years Brazil has produced quick forwards and physical midfielders, thus their most potent weapon has become the counterattack. However Brazil cannot win a World Cup on home soil solely by playing on the break. They will be facing teams who will be content to position themselves deep in their own half, not leaving any space for the Brazil to exploit. Felipão’s strategy is simple: overload the opponent early and take the lead, then as they are obliged to play for an equaliser, Brazil can pick them off on the break.

The Confederations Cup has shown us that this Brazil side are capable of winning. Felipão has a great team at his disposal, but not yet an excellent one to match the likes of Spain, Germany or Argentina. That is their objective between now and next June.

2 thoughts on “An apology and a trophy”

  1. Are you kidding me? Italy who also played 120mins in the gruelling Cearense heat managed to produce a 2.2 result with none other than Uruguay in a match that once again lead to penalties. For them the Cearense heat was NO excuse for them not to push hard in what was only a third place match. I just love how people are so far up Spain´s arse that they´ll make ANY excuse to justify a glaringly poor performance. Passing the ball back and forth to one another for 20 minutes does not make for an excellent team. Xavi and Iniesta are the only ´excellent´ things about the team. Brazil unmasked that football destorying tikitaka rubbish for what it was.. absolutely nothing special. Without it, look at what happens to an ´excellent´ team, they are efficiently thrashed by only a `great` one.

    1. Hi Mike,
      First of all, the Italy team that played Uruguay in the third-place play-off was very different from the one that faced Spain. I believe only four or five players were able to play both matches.

      I certainly did not say that Spain did not play poorly, clearly they did. In part that was down to Brazil’s excellent performance, in part due to Spain’s tiredness, in part due to the hostile atmosphere in the Maracanã, but also they just didn’t play well.

      It happens. In the last Confederations Cup, Spain were deservedly beaten by the USA, before going on to win the World Cup. After winning that World Cup in 2010, they were also battered by Argentina and Portugal in friendlies, in both games they conceded four goals. Barcelona, who have been at the top of European football for a while now, were destroyed by Bayern this year, twice.

      That doesn’t take away from their quality as a team. This ‘tikitaka rubbish’ won Spain the World Cup and two consecutive European Championships, or do you think that the rest of world football is so terrible that having Iniesta and Xavi was enough to win all of these trophies?

      I know that a lot of people enjoyed seeing Spain being beaten so soundly, but this result does not make them any less excellent than they were two weeks ago.

      Thanks for the comment.

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