Brazil turns on and starts the chase, but Dorival Junior takes time

Brazil turns on and starts the chase, but Dorival Junior takes time
Brazil turns on and starts the chase, but Dorival Junior takes time

Every time Brazil is eliminated from a tournament (and they are being eliminated from tournaments more than ever now), the natural impulse is to categorize it as a crisis.

This is the weight of past success. You don’t win five men’s World Cups (out of 12 between 1958 and 2002) without paying some kind of existence fee – and you’re not going to be able to win them. In Brazil’s case, anything that involves even the national team comes with psychodrama. Sometimes, in the quiet moments of the match, when Brazil isn’t yet winning 8-0, you can almost hear the blood vessels pulsating.

There is an external element to this. People around the world expect Brazil to be good, just as people who observe a pattern tend to expect it to continue. Past performance is no guide to future performance, the naysayers tell us, but we don’t really listen.

For the most part, though, the high standards are self-imposed. Their midfielder Andreas Pereira made headlines this week by saying that Uruguay, last night’s opponents, would love to have a Brazilian team (a way for Marcelo Bielsa’s team to speak for him, sir), but that was another line from a press conference that was all about that. more. national spirit.

“We have a lot of respect for Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina,” Pereira said when asked about the possible winners of this year’s Copa America. “But we are the Brazilian team. Brazil will always be the favorite.”

Two days later, Brazil lost on penalties to Uruguay after a goalless quarter-final match that they never looked like winning.

Brazilian players defend themselves last night in Las Vegas (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It happens. Uruguay are a very good team – better than Brazil at the moment – ​​and there is no shame in losing. In many cases, it will simply be a moment to move on and move on. But the kind of inherent superiority complex that emerged in Pereira’s comments inevitably makes the whole affair more revealing.

Brazil was fourth best of the 16 teams in the tournament, something its coach Dorival Junior understood. Perhaps Pereira deeply accepts it, too. But there is something — arrogance, perhaps, or a simple impulse to say what people want to hear — that usually obscures a rational assessment when it fails.

Sometimes, a crisis talk is completely justified. God knows how many dark moments the Brazilian team has known in recent decades. The challenge is to separate the real ones from those who are only driven by ego and impatience, by that inner cry of “We are Brazilians, damn it!”

Dorival, who only launched in January, has been laying the groundwork for this moment for weeks. He repeatedly talks about “going through the motions” and sounds like a counselor at an addiction clinic. That’s exactly what he is, anyway: the people of Brazil — or at least a large part of them — are used to the fact that things should be better than they are. And the fact that they aren’t means someone should be fired.

Case in point: the headline of a column by well-known pundit Mauro César Pereira, published on the website of UOL, Brazil’s largest online content company, just hours after the latest commotion in Las Vegas last night. “The decadent Seleção needs a foreign coach,” it read.

Should the Seleção, as the Brazilian national team is known in its homeland, be better? This is a big question. Brazil, a country of more than 200 million people and roughly the same size as the continental United States, produces a wealth of good soccer players. Most of the members of the Copa America squad play at the highest level in European club soccer. Vinicius Junior is in the conversation for the best player in the world.

However, none of these facts are directly related to the task of creating a successful national team. You need patience, ideas, coordination. You have to work. And you need time to do the job.

Dorival Junior and Marquinhos out of Copa America (Robin Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Bielsa has been Uruguay’s president since May last year. Colombia appointed Néstor Lorenzo in June 2022. Lionel Scaloni is approaching his sixth anniversary with Argentina. The Uruguay game was Dorival’s eighth term in office.

Brazil have only lost one of those games inside 90 minutes. Sure, they were upset and angry at that tournament, but they are better than when Dorival took over a year later under successive interim appointments. The team spirit is healthier than it has been for a long time and with so much youth in the squad, there is room for improvement.

“We are working with love and patience,” Dorival said after the Uruguay defeat. “We all want this team to get back to where it was before. The results were not what we wanted, I accept that and take responsibility, but I have no doubt that this team will grow from here.”

Dorival, 62, has worked in Brazilian football, coaching 20 clubs (some of them multiple times) over 22 years, long enough to know that the knives will be out for him in the coming days. Questions about his formation, his substitutions and the fact that Brazil lacked a visible attack. “A bureaucratic shock,” is how Folha de São Paulo newspaper columnist Juca Kfuri described it earlier this week, and there will be more to narrow down the searches.

Sergio Roche denies Douglas Luiz in the shootout (Frederick J Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazilian federation leaders, however, should stick with their man, and not just because this team is guilty of being in the early stages of its development. After all, they wasted half of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar waiting for Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti to stare wistfully out of the fogged-up window while enjoying a romantic meal with his long-term partner.

No, they should stick with Dorival because he is a good coach and exactly the kind of character they need. Calm and measured. More importantly, he is not prone to the illusion – still very widespread – that Brazil has some kind of divine right to trample over any team in its path, even teams as good as Colombia and Uruguay.

“The world has grown up and understands football better,” Dorival said before the 4-1 win over Paraguay in the second of three group games here. “We are facing difficult opponents. All the great teams in the world go through the same thing. It is more difficult than before to get results.”

(Top photo: Robin Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

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