Tag - Brazil

Hull The Door

The second weekend of the Premier League is in the books and the Two Daft Yanks are here to break it all down. On this week’s episode:

  • Are the quick starts by United and City signs of a Manchester revival?
  • Hull City remains undefeated against the odds
  • This Week In Daftness: La Liga Empty Seats Edition
  • Benteke Transfer
  • Brazil Redemption?

Listen to/download the podcast below or listen on your mobile device via StitcherTuneIn or iTunes

Two Daft Yanks: Hull The Door


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Two Nights, Two Games, Two Worlds

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to attend two soccer matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just outside of Denver, Colorado.  This was part of my super soccer weekend as along with watching the Champions League final, I attended the MLS match between the Colorado Rapids and Philadelphia Union on Saturday night and an international friendly between Brazil and Panama on Sunday night. Both nights were fun and entertaining in their own way but stark differences could be seen between the two nights in terms of the style of play and the crowd which made it seem I was in two different world’s each night even though I was sitting just sections apart.

The MLS match was a more suburban crowd while the International game was a more diverse and eclectic group. Both nights had about 11,000 in attendance but the vibe and feeling around the stadium was much different than the night before. You could tell the Brazil – Panama crowd understood the game better and reacted to all significant plays on the pitch not just those that resulted in scoring chances. This is just part of the soccer evolution here in the United States and as the game matures and people become more familiar with it they will learn the nuances of it and understand the game at all levels as the general public does with American football.   

On the field is where the differences between these two nights were the most noticeable. MLS loves them a long ball and on the very first kick of the night to open the Rapids and Union match, Philadelphia needlessly hoofed the ball down the pitch into the arms of the Colorado goalkeeper. While in the Brazil and Panama match the Latin style of play was in full effect with the ball being played on the ground. The only time the ball was in the air was on corners, deep crosses and when fullbacks were switching the flank. This is where the US based player needs to improve greatly if the United States is ever to truly compete at the highest international level. Brazilian and Panamanian players are comfortable receiving the ball in space or under pressure on virtually every spot of the field. Too often MLS players will hoof the ball to no one in particular when under any amount of pressure.

This all goes back to individual training, coaching and youth development. The Unites States and MLS need to increase their ability to improve players in these areas if they want to have a more nuanced and tactical style of game and player. That is the exact style of player USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann wants but this process (as we know) does not happen overnight. It will take a significant amount of effort and time for the US to improve in these areas.  I’m not saying the US and MLS needs to emulate exactly the style of other leagues around the world to be successful. Soccer is the beautiful game because there are a multitude of paths to success and the sport would be boring if everyone approached things the same way as we often see in American professional sports. It is clear though the level of on the ball skill for both teams and players needs to improve in order for MLS and the USMNT to take the steps forward we all want.

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International Break Blues

The Two Daft Yanks are back after suffering through another international break and they have the blues. It’s time to get back to some footy talk both international and club based! On this week’s episode:

  • USMNT “Fallout”?
  • CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers Update
  • Euro 2016 Qualifiers Update
  • Weekend EPL Action
  • And More!

Listen to/download the podcast below or listen on your mobile device via StitcherTuneIn or iTunes

International Break Blues

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What’s Wrong With Brazil?

Soccer - International Friendly - Brazil v Republic of Ireland - Brazil Training - The Emirates

This past Saturday’s defeat on penalties to Paraguay has shown a light yet again on a growing issue within Brazilian football- Brazil is, frankly, pretty average these days. They are still blessed with skilled players with lots of technique but as a team, they are pretty pedestrian by their standards. They no longer look the innovative, impish but intelligent artists of football.They were always likely bound to play more conservatively following their 7-1 demolition at the hands of Germany on home soil in last summer’s World Cup but they are hardly recognizable as a Brazilian team any more and with Dunga at the helm of Seleçao, they looked bereft of ideas in their Copa America campaign once Neymar was suspended.

When you watch Brazil now they are a team that look all runners and no creators or playmakers in their midfield or strike force. Even their fullbacks, especially Dani Alves, were often the runners who got forward more often and end up in more forward positions than their main striker, Roberto Firmino. Now, I’m no tactical expert but in my somewhat rudimentary understanding of tactics, Brazil look to have too many trequartistas or running attacking midfielders and no out-and-out strikers or the kind of strikers who play more through the middle and run the channels. They seem to run around too much at times, often looking like they’re lacking true attacking purpose and in this Dunga Brazilian side it seemed Roberto Firmino as the main striker often got into others’ way and positions where runs could be made the players seemed to get in each other’s way and clog their areas of attack.

This style of play is also compounded by how Brazilian sides tend to play in their domestic league since the nineties as well where they seem to attack almost in platoons or groups of three of four with the fullbacks often providing the only width. Narrow formations of 4-2-2-2 with a “box” midfield proliferate Brazilian domestic clubs and it isn’t the 4-2-2-2 of the Brazilian ’82 World Cup side that had four creative number tens in midfield. The current midfield that dominates Brazilian football is a pretty stale boxed four that often consists more of two number sixes and two number eights than anything resembling a samba midfield of days gone by. Some clubs have gone to narrow 4-2-3-1s with three attacking midfielders but they generally play so narrow that their attacks lose impetus because the attacking midfielders get in each other’s way because they’re similarly styled, generally. Or the two outer attacking midfielders spend time trying to provide a bit of width with the fullbacks causing attacks to peter out. Picture domestic leagues with midfielders trying to beat several players on the dribble before losing it outside the box. Repeat ad infinitum and sprinkle in the odd goal and that’s Brazilian Série A matches for the most part. Couple that with a pragmatic coach in the likes of Dunga and you can see why sans Neymar, Brazil has a bleak outlook in their near future for their national side. So, while Dunga tightened up their defense and salvaged some pride following the embarrassment versus Germany, his current team doesn’t instill any sort of awe or entertainment and skill that history is littered with from Brazilian sides of the past.

What’s interesting about this situation is not only that Brazil is struggling but it’s a good case study in how even a nation that was at the top of the footballing food chain for decades can not only stagnate but regress in their standards. Brazil are by no means terrible but by their standards they are in what might be considered a crisis. For all the talk of progression in this country about the standards of our soccer/football, we can use the case of Brazil (and to a lesser extent the Magic Magyars of Hungary of the fifties) to remind us that while we may very well be getting better at the sport, it’s by no means a guarantee that we will be on top because other nations are progressing as well. In fact, in my opinion, despite regularly getting out of World Cup groups recently and even winning our group in 2010, as far as our actual talent, despite our talent pool being much larger than in the past, in terms of how we currently fit into the global game, it feels like we’ve stagnated.

Others have talked on this point at far greater length and much more detailed than myself but the point is, getting better isn’t the same as being good or great and even when you’re great, like Brazil has been, it doesn’t mean you’ll remain so forever. Evolve or die; repeat cycle perpetually lest you get caught by the chasing pack. Because here’s the thing that sometimes people forget for those who aren’t geologists or geographers- not only is climbing the mountain difficult (e.g., getting better at football like the US or being good at football like Brazil) but because of active plate tectonics (e.g. tactical evolution, socio-economic changes, etc.) the mountain can actually get higher. As Brazil as found out, sometime you remain on a plateau.

Like Germany’s revitalization of their development structure in the 2000s which led to their rebirth of being at the top of world football, Brazil is also in need of drastic change but their domestic federation is so traditionally corrupt (hint-hint, MLS) it will take a historical revolution in the administration levels of Brazilian football and as you are likely  aware if you listen to the podcast regularly, I like to remind people that people in power tend to only give up power through revolution or scandal. With the political undercurrents in contemporary Brazil there’s a chance that change may occur but it is still far on the horizon at this point. Maybe the Seleçao sliding into mediocrity will be the catalyst of change both on and off the field. The initial post Copa America exit comments coming from the Brazilian camp, however, sounds more like they’re in denial than actually being closer to the solution.

I hope Neymar gets stronger because he’ll be carrying an entire nation’s hopes on his shoulders like a Latin Atlas. Because short of him, the days of samba soccer, sadly, look to be dying.


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Even The Big Boys Are Naive At Times

There’s been a lot of talk since the US’ elimination from the World Cup in every corner of US soccer circles it seems about how we should progress further in the future. Every excuse has been mentioned from the same old ones such as “need to work harder; need better athletes; if only our best athletes played; etc.” to the more subtle and insightful such as “need more technical players; need to be more tactically astute; less situational naivete, etc.”

This last excuse is something I’ve called the USMNT a lot recently (most notably at the end of the 2-2 draw against the Portuguese and our defensive effort versus Belgium) but after watching a soccer superpower such as Brazil  yesterday completely capitulate on home soil in a supposed effort to right the wrongs of 1950 (in their minds), I’d be remiss not to hammer Brazil for the same thing.

Let’s be clear about this, I’m not saying Brazil needs to reassess how they play soccer/football or that they necessarily should revamp their national team setup (though Germany did this very thing following their underachieving [in their eyes] sides of ’98 and ’02) but let’s be clear about Brazil’s performance yesterday- They played completely naively.

Signs were there from the opening kickoff that there were holes in Brazil’s defending lines and massive ones at that. Brazil’s setup yesterday looked all the world to me that they just felt that intangible things (such as home field and crowd advantage) and some misguided sense of destiny (revenge for 1950 and “do it for Neymar”) would be all that was needed to beat Germany, a country who historically has shown they are arguably the best in the world when it comes to the psychology of big matches. You can beat a German side but you’ll never be able to intimidate one, in my opinion.

But “Big Phil” Scolari’s setup yesterday was completely amateurish at the outset as Brazil’s midfield went seemingly on holiday for the entire first half leaving an overly aggressive central defense pairing (and arguably questionable pairing to begin with) isolated in two v ones and three v twos for seemingly the entire half. German goals two through five were variations on the same theme- Brazil loses ball deep in own territory; Brazilian centerback already out of position presses even higher trying to win the ball back, then leaves his partner exposed when Germany passes around him; Germany’s poise and patience picks apart Brazil’s remaining overloaded defenders.

It was both astonishing and embarrassing and for a nation that prides itself on being one of the high elders or “keepers of the game,” so to speak, it was utterly pathetic.

I only bring it up because it shows that the process to becoming successful on the world stage isn’t necessarily cyclical, it isn’t necessarily linear but all the pitfalls that can befall a team can happen to anyone and that the task ahead for the US is a partly daunting one. It won’t necessarily be able to easily measured in further progression in tournaments compared to previous ones Also, don’t mistake yesterday’s result compared to ours versus Germany as anything other than what they are- two totally different results against the same opponent that aren’t related at all. But if a country like Brazil can be amateurishly naive on the world stage you can bet the US has been and even will be again in the future.

Conversely, Germany’s recent success (though to be fair they have yet to win a major tournament since ’96) has come following a major soul-searching and revamping of the national team and youth national team setups following ’02. Brazil will likely do something similar (at least in part if not in whole) following this monumental defeat. Surely the US can look at ways to help overhaul their system beyond the tired old things like “run harder, run faster, be stronger” or the ignorantly clichéd and flat out wrong, “if only our best athletes played soccer.”

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