Despite topping the goal-scoring charts of the highest-scoring team in the Serie A, Alexandre Pato has yet to break onto Brazilian coach Dunga’s national squad.
This is not for lack of desire.
In fact, before Brazil’s World Cup Qualifying match against Peru, Pato called home during his time at Internacional.
“It’s really special for me to be with the Brazilian national team in my home...I want to play as well as possible, not only for my home fans, but also for the Brazilian national team. But I respect those who are in front of me,” Pato said.
Over the course of the next year, Dunga will have to finalize the group representing Brazil in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Their main challenge will be to overcome Brazil’s traditional lack of chemistry in the early stages of the tournaments.
Although the country has some of the best players in the world, the reality is that, because most of the national team plays abroad, the Brazilian squad always struggles to develop the chemistry that is essential to mounting a successful World Cup challenge.
This has been evident in Brazil’s poor performances in the early stages of the World Cup. For example, in France '98, Brazil lost to Norway in the group stages and only managed a 2-1 victory over Scotland with an own-goal by Tommy Boyd in the 77th.
In Japan/Korea 2002, Brazil managed a 2-1 victory against Turkey, but it was only secured by a Rivaldo penalty in the 87th. Later, the team struggled past Belgium in the second round in a game in which Belgium had a controversial early goal overturned. Only a late goal by Ronaldo (again in the 87th) put the game away.
One of the main characteristics of the Dunga era is a distinct consistency in tactics. The hope behind this is that Brazil will develop, if not an understanding amongst players, an understanding of the system within which the group is operating.
In this way, Dunga replaces the traditional emphasis of teammates understanding each other’s tendencies and behaviors with an emphasis on the knowledge of how the system operates and the function of each player in that system.
In other words, players will know what the other is doing because they understand the roles assigned to them rather than what each player himself prefers to do.
With the system that Dunga will use already established, player selection now becomes a question of who has the attributes necessary to perform the function of his position in the system.
We see the nature of the system with complementary roles found with the front line. The two strikers fit a strict mold.
One of the two functions up front is the goal scorer. Brazil has always had a man on the team capable of notching a score at crucial times in every game. His function has always been to be consistent—a guy the team can count on to finish in every game.
In the past, this role has been filled by players like Ronaldo or Romario, but right now this is a function no player has claimed.
The other forward plays in a role similar to that which Rivaldo used to play. He plays off the goal scorer and his movement, technique, and creative play. He is designed to create space and opportunity for the threat.
Today, Dunga has designated that role conclusively to Robinho.
Pato’s struggle to break into Dunga’s starting 11 is a direct result of the fact that, as of yet, he does not fit the model for either of these attacking options up front.
He does not have the creativity, imagination, or technique of Robinho (who is playing off the goal scorer), nor does he have the killer instinct or multi-dimensional approach to the game of Luis Fabiano, who is filling the role of the goal scorer.
The challenge for Pato will be to develop depth in his play.
As of now he is one-dimensional with a heavy emphasis on his main attribute: speed. Maybe with time and the experience of playing in one of Europe’s top leagues, his style will develop in order for him to make his mark on the international stage.
This season, he has gone a long way in his development. There is no doubt that he has the ambition to improve and fill the shoes of Ronaldo and Romario.
Pato has already made clear in an interview with La Repubblica his desire to win the golden ball as well as wanting to become the world’s best.
As he develops as a player and begins to define himself, Pato (who will turn 20 in August) will certainly have a bright future with the yellow jersey.