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.