Monday, June 21, 2010

favourite/favouritism

Dunga's Brazil is a fricking beautiful side. So effortless was their ability to press, build and rebuild play from the back, so relentlessly high their back line, so clever their crossing from the wings, that when Cote d'Ivoire scored their lone goal late in the game, it was honestly unexpected to see both Drogba and the ball run free out of Brazil's looming shadows -- if shadows can be canary-coloured -- and bomb past an uncharacteristically flat-footed Julio Cesar. Accusations of Europeanisation may stand, but boring? Stodgy? Lacking in creativity? Please. Creativity and productivity are not wildly oppositional things.

Maybe this Richard Florida notion is why some people get the sinking feeling that the football of the future will be played in tree-lined avenues peopled by clever sweatpants-wearing software professionals when they watch Dunga's Brazil. And Kaká is hardly the sort of man to encourage you to use the fountain in the square as a goal [but more on Kaká later]. But I see nothing wrong with the fact that Brazil are capable of building an attack from their very last line instead of their third or second. Indeed, their slippery first quarter of an hour last night suggested that their defenders were their best-balanced players. Flair didn't die at the feet of Lucio and Maicon. It was assassinated -- oh yes -- by that ridiculous stepover of Robinho's early on in the match that ended in bupkis for Brazil. Imagine if things had continued like that all night long.

Yet, being the tournament favourite is bound to expose you to the charge of tournament favouritism. I am not suggesting that the administration of the game has somehow developed a pro-Brazilian stance. The outrage following last night's actions would have been the same had the player in question been Steven Gerrard, who is not Brazilian and not -- well, he's just not Kaká. But having acknowledged their might in full, I would like to reiterate my thought that if Brazil get to the end of this tournament, there will be a large number of neutrals who will be happy to see them lose; not because of the tourbillon style of play, but in reaction to the partisan attitude that marked last night's match and continues to explode in the punditry of the morning. Sample this reaction to the incident that resulted in Kaká being awarded a second yellow:

The forward, Abdul Kader Keïta, was not hit with the ball or slapped across the face or punched, just bumped by the Brazilian star Kaká, who did little more than shrug, sticking his right elbow into Keïta’s chest.

That was all it took for Keïta to fall to the turf as if he had been doused with pepper spray.


The Guardian is characteristically better:

[Kaká] put out his elbow as the substitute Kader Keïta ran towards him and, while that could primarily have been intended as self-protection, the action was risky.


There you go. It was risky. Not stick-your-hand-out-during-the-final-volley risky, but you-have-a-booking-already! risky. Keïta presumably did not insult Kaká's sister, and Kaká was well-mannered enough not to shove his head into Keïta's chest, but the situation is not essentially without precedent: as also the ensuing reaction that the referee was somehow unjust to correctly interpret the rules. The Guardian quotes Dunga as saying:

"The player who commits the foul escapes the yellow card ... I have to congratulate him for that. It was totally unjustified. Kaká was fouled and yet he was punished."


That the rules were not fully applied -- ie. Keita not booked for hilarious simulation -- is certainly a cause for complaint, if complaining about your referee after a 3-1 victory that included the luck of counting a blatant handball among your goals, at a crucial moment during the game, is your thing.




A version of this post appears on IBNLive's football site, here.

3 comments:

Y said...

Rajesh Khanna devastated after Kaka's red card. (Headlines in the Indian papers.)

PeCee said...

I have been following your blog and frankly was really confused and disappointed with your sentence " would like to reiterate my thought that if Brazil get to the end of this tournament, there will be a large number of neutrals who will be happy to see them lose; "

Whoever they are facing, the five-time champions have always come under pressure to win every match with unrivalled swagger. That is the price they pay for starting each tournament as favourites, the burden of their success down the years.

Last night I was drafting what I should post ...since Brazil was playing this noon! And Brazil...is my fav team!
Well done Brazil! 3-0 at the 60th minute...great soccer! Not your best..but still the average game was enough!
"Controlling possession has always been one of the hallmarks of Brazilian teams. We need to hold onto the ball and tire out our opponents " - Dunga
How to break down a team that defends deep and in numbers ? Well..learn from Brazil..!!! Against Chile - they did not face the type of defence they encountered in their group matches (defence that parked their bus right at the goal post coz they were playing aginst Brazil).
This was Brazil at their average (note: still not at their best) , free flowing and amazing counter attack and teams like Chile just suit their attacking style. Brazil will always be Brazil! :) They are expected to win every game they play...they entertain and that's why they are my fav anytime

Suhrith said...

Well said. I was quite gutted for Dunga. Thought he got most things correct tactically and for much of their game against the Dutch, Brazil were the better side. The goals they conceded came down to individual errors and I think going forward they could have easily added a few to their solitary goal much before the Dutch acquired even a semblance of control over the proceedings.