Brazil, a demolition which took 32 years

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David Luis fell to the ground, both hands raised to the heavens in prayer and forgiveness, in the aftermath of Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil. Luis, blaming himself as the captain, probably did not realise that this story began 32 years before, one desolate afternoon in Barcelona, Spain, and he was just a culmination of that event.

Brazil came into the 1982 World Cup tournament, with the tag of history’s best, alongside the 1954 Hungarians. Having seen all the matches they played in that tournament, I can personally testify, that in 40 years of watching football, I have never seen anything quite like it.

Spread out in a rather normal 4-3-2-1 formation, it was because of what they did on the field that made it different. Tele Santana, the coach, had unabashedly made an attacking machine and its one purpose was to be destructive for the opposition. The fullbacks, Junior and Leandro were more attackers than defenders. Couple that with Socrates the captain midfield general, who roamed to all portions of the ground, Zico and Falcao, great attacking midfielders and lastly Eder the attacking left sided player and you had a team which moved like quick silver and made the ball talk on the ground. Mind, this team lacked Careca, the star forward who fractured his leg weeks before the tournament. Yet it attacked as no one has in the history of football.

This team carried a nations belief in its indestructibility. They would simply score more goals than any opposition in the world. Through that tournament they tore teams apart and arrived in the round of pre semis, needing a draw to go through versus Italy. Italy itself seemed a dour side, with its forward Paulo Rossi just having come out of a three year ban for match fixing, and totally out of sorts. Yet the pedigree was there, as Enzo Bearzot had built a very good side which did well in 1978 and fancied it could handle Brazil now.

That fateful afternoon, Brazil attacked as never before. In a game, which had the most sublime football played in the history of the game, Brazil chased the game through 90 minutes, equalising twice, while the Italians defended doggedly and attacked on the counter. Yet Paulo Rossi rising from the ashes of his career, scored the most famous hatrick in football and took the game for Italy, by 3-2. Italy went on to win the 1982 World Cup, though probably being second best to Brazil.

In Brazil the heart and belief were broken. Santana’s magic and promise and the waste of the greatest team to play, were never forgiven. Brazil never forgot Cerezzo and his awful pass across goal, pounced on by Rossi to score. A psyche change occurred and now flair was considered second best and players were encouraged who were tough and stopped play. Exit the playmaker Socrates type, enter Dunga the destroyer. Looking down the years of football history, one sees a dramatic shift.. Naturally, every now and then a player of iconic ability would come, but the team generally played closed football. So we had Romario and Bebeto in 1994, who won the tournament against the Italians. Ronaldo in 1998 when the final was lost to an electric French team. Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in 2002, when the Germans were beaten. Yet through the years, with the mind set of hard football, Dunga and Fernandinho and the likes have prevailed.

So to 2014, and once the flair player Neymar was gone, and Silva the core was suspended, there was no quality on the field to challenge the clinical Germans. Where a Rubinho, Coutinho or a Ronaldinho would make a difference, Scolari chose to leave these flair players out. End result a broken team and a broken philosophy.

What is not natural to one, is rarely the best. For Brazil, football is an art form, win or lose. They need to go back to their way. They need to forget 1982, Cerezzo and Paulo Rossi. Maybe today is the shock which will make it happen.

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