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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brazil, de Brasil

Posted by on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 4:55 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO—Today marks my first ever World Cup game in Brasil. The streets are painted, everyone is getting off work early, the country is moving insanely quickly and is totally paralyzed at the same time.

Today's front section of the O Globo newspaper, p. 14 says: "Copa: Metro and trains will have special scheme." Indeed. The city was a total chaos. The article lists all of the normal activities in the city that were suspended or altered for today's game against N. Korea. Banks, Shopping Malls, Trains, Metro, Public Offices, Post Office, and every business in Rio (if not all of Brasil) gave people time off to watch the game. Who knows how much "productivity" Brasil loses in a World Cup year. If they were more USAmerican about their capitalism they would know.

I tried to go to with a friend to a relatively distant neighborhood to see the game (Vila Isabel) and leaving the Centro one and a half hours before the game, it quickly became apparent that neither bus nor metro nor taxi was going to get us there in time. When confronted with the possibility of fighting o povo on the way to a festa da casa and then fighting the traffic on the way home, we decided to stay in Cinelandia in the center of Rio, going to a place called Spagettilandia. Fifteen minutes before the game, the streets were miraculously unclogged. Perhaps we could have made it there for kickoff.

In Spagettilandia, Brasil were less than impressive. Within the first two minutes, when Brasil managed to control the ball in the N. Korean area, it was obvious that Kaka was off the pace, wasting the split second space that opened to feed Robihno, bem animado pelo jogo. Brasil came out in what looked like a 4-3-2-1, with N. Korea in a 5-3-2. This revealed a few things that I hope will be discussed on One is that Dunga's Brasil is a counter-attcking team that doesn't really know what to do with extended possession. Therefore, perhaps the best way to play against them is to let them have the ball and try to beat them at their own game. Secondly, that Brasil needs to keep possession more in order to draw teams out. Thirdly, that when teams play deep against Brasil, it is going to depend on the dribbling skills of Robinho and Luis Fabiano to open spaces.

The Koreans didn't look like too much of a threat and at the beginning of the match were clearly overly eager to cut their teeth on some Brasilian flesh. The coach was pleading for calm when in possession. They defended with discipline and had some surprinsgly good techincal habits. Nothing like Brasil, however. On my blog, I made fun of Kaka for kissing the Jabulani ball, but meu deus, that ball looked like then tamest thing in the world at the feet of the Brasilians. All of the other games, almost without exception, have had dozens of overhit passes, missed crosses, and general confusions due to the flight of the ball. Brasil had none of these troubles (nor did Germany for the most part) and I imagine that Spain will manage to get the ball to do what they want. Is is possible that a "juiced" ball is intended to make the game and players "evolve" to another level of footblallingness?

0-0 at halftime brought a sense of resignation and desperation to Spaguettilandia. Brasil weren't finding a way to get behind the defense. They were trying from long distance, almost hoping that the Korean net-minder would give them a frango ingles ou algeriano. Eventually, they got their wish. In the 55th minute, Maicon got to the by line, the Korean keeper played for the cross and the Inter Milan right back lashed a shot into the net. Might was well have been an own goal, but Maicon did well to exploit the error. Frango sem ouvo (chicken without egg). The goal sounded from the street before it arrived in the restaurant. General relief all around.

The second Brasilian goal was slow in coming, but was as inevitable as it was simply beautiful. Brasil have the capacity to score in two touches from anywhere within 50 yards of goal, and that was all it took for Robinho and Elano to secure the three points. Cutting in from the left, Robinho played an inch-perfect diagonal ball behind the defense to the flying Elano. He calmly stroked it to the back corner and caused all of Brasil to erupt.

Technically, Brasil were superior, this should come as no surprise. Robinho, Kaka, and Luis Fabiano against 5 defenders and a goalie is almost a fair contest. The problem is letting Brasil get these three going at speed against a retreating rear-guard. Playing football against Brasil and losing possession in full attack allows them to bypass midfield play with quick outlets in transition, sending three of the best players in the world on attack at speed. It's a death sentence. When in possession in Brasil's defensive 1/3, the ball simply must go dead. For all their dominance, Brasil had trouble with N. Korea who were able to pull back a lovely goal on 88 minutes that must have made Dunga's hair stand on end just a little bit more.

Brasil, on balance, were not as impressive as Germany, but N. Korea appeared a much better side than Australia. N. Korea plaed a solid, disciplined game and were well in the game for nearly an hour before the keeper blew his angles. It's probable that Brasil would have scored somehow, eventually, but the lack of flexibility in Dunga's tactical scheme (and Kaka's lack of form) will probably keep the parties going until the quarter-final when they will likely cross with Holland. Seria um jogasso.

Chris is a visiting professor in the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense. His research and teaching focus on the urban and social impacts of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. His recent book, Temples of the Earthbound Gods, explores the history, geography and culture of stadiums in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. First World Cup memory was the 1982 Final. Watched Diego lift the trophy in Mexico from Portsmouth, England. Watched 1990 in Arlington, Texas, videotaped all of the games, since lost. Went to the 6 Dallas games of the 1994 World Cup. Rented an RV and drove around France 1998. Got up at 2:30 every morning for weeks in Northampton, Mass. 2006 was a brilliant time playing ping pong between matches in Austin, Texas. This Cup I am in Rio de Janeiro, checking out the FIFA Fan Fest as often as possible.

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