FIFA World Cup 2010: Dunga Kills the Beautiful Game with Brazil

H Andel@Gol Iath @gol_iathAnalyst IIIJuly 3, 2010

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02:  Carlos Dunga head coach of Brazil reacts on the touchline during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Brazil at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 2, 2010 in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images

It is true. The beautiful game dies, and Dunga, Mourinho, Rehhagel, Van Marwijk, Hitzfeld, Ancelotti, et al, conspire to cause its demise.

The lot have killed the soul of football, the part that made it beautiful, the art, the poetry.

What is left are the bare bones, what these coaches call utilitarian or pragmatic football. Dunga calls it a bottom-up approach, football built on the framework of defense.

Hitzfeld used it to stifle Spain. Otto Rehhagel is the master of this art, pushing the principle to its extreme and turning the Greece national team into the dullest national side on the planet.

Van Marwijk has turned the side that has been known over the ages as the  true masters of the beautiful game (referred to in Dutch as Totaalvoetbal , total football) into a shadow of itself, proclaiming in the process that "there is no more space for 'total' or 'samba' football these days."

But what a shame!

The Dutch may revel in their victory over Brazil, who themselves are no longer playing the beautiful game (samba or joga bonito), but their victory comes with a price. They are no longer the side that was always a delight to watch for their grace and poetry.

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Ironically, the side that used to play rugged and dull football, the German side, has  replaced those words with incisive brilliance.

And Brazil, which used to be hailed for the joy and art they brought to the game, have exchanged those appellations for the erstwhile German dullness and ruggedness.

It has been said that the day Italy beat Brazil 3-2 at Spain '82, it was the day the beautiful game died.

Be that as it may, even at the '90 World Cup, where Brazil crashed out in the second round, the spirit of samba was still very much alive in the team.

While Brazil may claim that their successes at the '94, '98, and '02 editions of the World Cup were as a result of a reevaluation of the Samba style, wherewith it was upgraded or perhaps replaced by a direct and more defensively-minded approach.

Still, in those three teams, the magic that had distinguished every Brazilian side over the ages was still present.

This magic, the mark of excellence in Brazilian teams, was lacking in Dunga's team.

Having no need and no place for magic in his philosophy, he exorcised it from his team, preferring utility. This explains why he had no place for Ronaldinho in the team but had a place for such uninspiring players as Grafite.

The rejection of art for utility caused the Brazil-Holland match, which otherwise would be a classic, to become nothing more that an average affair.

It was like watching Shane Mosley fight Floyd Mayweather, all wound up and unable to to conquer his nerves, managing only one real moment in the fight.

The normally fluid and graceful Dutch were a nervous affair in the first-half of the match, a sorry sight to watch. One had to pinch himself to remember that these were the famous Oranje on the field.

Their game improved a little after they managed a lucky equalizer in the second half. It was then the turn of the Brazilians to become wound up and tight. This tepid display by two of the best sides in the World tells the story of the state of modern football.

The beautiful game remains in name only, or if one finds it, it exists in pockets only. We may thank coaches such as Luis Van Gaal, Guus Hiddink, Arsene Wenger, and the new German philosophy for that.

While winning at all cost, even if it means playing ugly football, is becoming the standard philosophy of the game, it is the fans who lose.

No longer will the fans come to games expecting to see beautiful art, they would now have to settle for doldrums that last for an hour and half. It is little wonder that fans are becoming exasperated with their teams.

English fans could not abide the way their national team played in the World Cup. As I understand it, their chagrin was not just with the team's inability to win but with their manner of dull playing as well.

They became kindred spirits with Nigerian fans, who had long resorted to calling their national team the Super Chickens instead of the proper Super Eagles, their alias.

This resulted from an uncharacteristic manner of dull, or perhaps more aptly, cowardly defensive playing introduced by their coach Shuaibu Amodu in a departure from their signature attacking and entertaining style.

The fans' anger forced the Nigerian FA to sack coach Amodu just five prior months to the World Cup.

While Van Marwijk, the coach of the Dutch team, may congratulate himself for his side's victory over Brazil and attribute it to their new "modern" style of play, fans like myself, who are admirers of their total football, feel let down.

This is not what we wait for four years to see. The same goes for Dunga and his new Brazil.

But lest we are construed as fans that are simply unmindful of the necessity for victory, we should point out that a few teams have found a way of winning games while playing beautifully.

Argentina are still winning (they eventually lost, 0:4, to Germany in their quarterfinal match), so are the Germans. Ghana, Chile, and Mexico pleased while they lasted in the tournament.

Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga playing beautifully; granted, they were conquered in the Champions League final by the more defensively-minded Internazionale.

Still, the latter managed it by tempering their defensive style with direct, incisive long balls, which was still a delight to watch.

Some may cite Spain, who are not playing badly at all as another beautiful side, but theirs is a style that swings to the other extreme, a style that knocks the ball around to doldrums.

The downside of this style is what happened in their match against Switzerland, or what happened to Barcelona against Internazionale.

In essence, the style of the Spaniard is not that different from what we are decrying. What is required to return football to its former glory is a re-enchantment of the game. We need our Ronaldinhos and Ronaldos, and we need the magic back.

Talking of Ronaldo, a big effect of this new approach to football is the stifling of strikers. It is one of the big reasons why strikers have been unable to shine at the current World Cup.

You notice a marked difference in their game when a match is open rather than defensively tight.

It is also responsible for the reduction in goal scoring, with teams having to now score through set pieces. It's a shame.

What is ironic is that when teams manage to score through set pieces, you hear commentators blaming the defenders (who are a big problem to the game) for poor marking!

In one breath, they decry the dearth of goals and with the other they scold defenders for allowing a goal. How pathetic!

Let me put it bluntly. The bane of today's football is coaches and defenders. Until these breed die out, football as we know it (or rather what remains of its beauty) is a goner.

Let me end by celebrating Diego Maradona, one coach at the World Cup who seemed to know what it means to play the game with delight and joy; and his team, Argentina, who played with flair and expression even though they lost to Germany in the end.

Kudos to the Germans for their brilliant, incisive, attacking football, which has transformed their team, so much so that they can no longer be mentioned in the same breath with dullness.

To coaches such as Van Gaal, Hiddink, Wenger, Ferguson, Parreira, Bielsa, Aguirre, and Rajevac, who still believe in the artistic aspect of the game, please keep believing and keep the spirit of football alive.


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