The beauty of the beautiful game

Something beautiful happened the other day. Brazil were beaten by Peru and the giants of the world game, the five-time World Cup winners, were eliminated from the Copa America.


Perus goalkeeper Pedro Gallese celebrates his team's 1-0 victory over Brazil at the Copa America Source: AAP

By this I don’t mean that I am rejoicing in Brazil’s exit.  I remain a big fan of Brazil’s technical traditions, provided of course that those traditions are being adhered to.

In many ways it was not a pretty sight. Brazil were woeful, not something any of us would wish upon a football country which has brought us so much joy over the years. The Peruvian win was achieved by a blatant, latter day ‘hand of God’ goal, palmed in by Raul Ruidiaz.

That said, Brazil’s defeat was not undeserved. Save for a heavy win against a weak Haiti, the ‘samba dancers’ didn’t do much dancing and rarely put a foot right.

But the beauty of this outcome is that even in 2016 when so much money and power rests in the world’s traditional powers and their leagues, upsets of this kind are possible. That was also the beauty of the Leicester City story in the Premier League.

That was also the case in 1992 when Denmark won the European Championship and when Greece won EURO 2004. Gifts for those who continue to believe in the romance of football.

Of course sceptics of a Brazil under the guidance of dour coach, Dunga, were not surprised. In July, 2014, while holidaying in Brazil I wrote:

‘The curious thing, as we now look back on the Word Cup of 2014 and its lessons, is that it is the traditions inspired by Brazil, and Santos, that triumphed while Brazil itself, having abandoned its own values, miserably failed. Under Luiz Felipe Scolari Brazil chose a path of rough-house pragmatism and flunked, hammered 7-1 by Germany. And now the Brazilians have chosen to go with Dunga, a man not dissimilar to Scolari in ideology, to be the architect of their next World Cup campaign, replacing a loser with another former loser.’

Appropriately, Dunga has now been sacked for the second time. Those who appointed him, and who since have either been charged or are being investigated for corruption, can stew in their own regrets for the mistake, a mistake that was glaringly obvious for most of us.

He has since been replaced by Tite, the former Corinthians coach, who, according to my Brazilan friends, keeps much more faith with Brazilian traditions. If true, that is gratifying.

Football could use again a Brazil that play the way they played when they won three World Cups between 1958 and 1970, or the ones that played in the World Cups of 1982, 1986 and 2002.

The question is, do they have the players? Those earlier teams all had a handful of technically gifted match-winners. The Brazil of Dunga really struggled without the country’s best player, Neymar, who was spared so he could play in the Olympic Games tournament. As we saw in the Copa America, Brazil only have one Neymar.

Now the road seems open for Argentina to win the Copa in the tournament's 100th year. But don’t count your chickens. This seems to be a year of upsets and surprises.

Meantime we await the outcomes of EURO 2016 and if it dishes up another unfancied winner, as it did 12 years ago.

As I write the performances of the fancied France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and England have not been without blemish. A surprise is still eminently possible.

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4 min read
Published 17 June 2016 at 3:59pm
By Les Murray
Source: SBS