Brazil out of Copa and Dunga must go
Dunga must go after double disaster
(Derlis Gonzalez 72-pen)
- Paraguay win penalty shoot-out 4-3
The comments were unforgivable. The game was unbearable. On both counts, Dunga must accept a guilty verdict.
Brazil's coach is an honourable man but he dug himself a hole before the quarter-final defeat by Paraguay and his ponderous players kept on digging.
By the time the penalty shoot-out ended yesterday (Singapore time), Dunga was left in a bottomless pit, waiting for his employers to fill him in.
The Selecao are in a shambles, a fading, dying shadow of the samba artists who once dazzled the world. Where they once touched perfection, they now find themselves in the game's gutter.
Whatever the context, Dunga's pre-match comments cannot be condoned. His apology was welcomed, but it wasn't an antidote to those poisonous words.
Referring to the perceived criticism that has dogged his career as both player and coach, Dunga said: "I even think I am an Afro-descendant because I get hit so much."
As soon as the incriminating words left his mouth, Dunga must have known he was a condemned man.
The uncomfortable issues of race, skin tones and stubborn stereotypes remain a political and cultural ball and chain in Brazil.
A lighter man referring negatively to a darker man, regardless of the validity of the argument, is just too unpalatable for some in a country where racial tension is an unwanted way of life.
However many times Dunga apologises, it may never be enough.
The fact that his hopelessly inept players didn't at least bail him out against comparative minnows would suggest his days are numbered.
From player to coach, Dunga's style always veered closer to primitive than pretty.
His 1994 World Cup triumph as skipper was one for the pragmatists rather than the purists. His two stints in the Brazilian dugout have done little to wash away the stigma that sticks to his resume like an uncompromising man-marker.
While coach Ramon Diaz has made the most of limited resources at Paraguay, Dunga has either squandered or restricted the superior talent at his disposal.
Neymar's injury at last year's World Cup and his suspension at the Copa American magnified Brazil's myopic reliance upon individuals to carry a team's hopes.
In consecutive tournaments, Neymar went from irreplaceable dynamo to fragile domino. Brazil collapsed the moment he fell.
Without Neymar, Dunga's transparent, rudimentary 4-2-3-1 approach was easily exposed by the committed Paraguayans.
Two holding midfielders ahead of a largely static back four put too much pressure on the trio behind Roberto Firmino.
Jose Mourinho favours a similar system, but he has Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard.
Dunga inexplicably picked Robinho. The 31-year-old scored a simple tap-in, but his best days were five years and three clubs ago.
The only coach whose judgment might be questioned more than Dunga on the back of this Brazilian debacle is Brendan Rodgers.
Never shy to overspend on underwhelming talent, the Reds coach's decision to lavish £29 million ($61.6m) on Firmino is being ridiculed before the Brazilian has even swopped Chile for an even chillier Liverpool.
The Anfield newcomer was substituted after passing the audition for The Invisible Man, The Musical. Capable of playing on either side of the box and through the middle, Firmino contributed nothing in all three positions.
Robinho's 15th-minute opener was the only time a Brazilian touched the ball in Paraguay's penalty area in the first half. Dunga's sleepwalkers have managed only five goals in four games at the Copa America.
The hypnotic beats of jogo bonito were silenced years ago, but the Selecao rarely play with a pulse any more.
Luiz Felipe Scolari was hardly a romantic aesthete, but he usually talked a good game and occasionally played one.
On home soil, there were glimmers of beauty at the World Cup. Brazil were not a great side, but there were moments of greatness.
In Chile, however, there's been an air of despondency from first kick to last penalty, like a broken marriage between two parties who cannot remember what they once loved about each other.
Brazil and the Beautiful Game were once inseparable. Now the two are divorced and the relationship seems broken, beyond repair.
The 7-1 humiliation against Germany felt like a freak occurrence. But the Paraguay loss feels more routine. Embarrassing defeats are becoming commonplace. Being average is the new normal.
There is no defence for the coach or the men behind him. Brazil's inaction spoke just as loudly as Dunga's appalling words.
The coach will learn quickly that the criticism was never about his ethnicity, but his tactical inadequacies.
For Dunga, that's the only black and white certainty.
"It is a good experience. We would like to win but it is a great lesson, learning for the highest purpose of the tie as we look at the World Cup in 2018."
- Brazil coach Dunga
"To see my teammates with tears in their eyes, you can’t put a price on that. Nobody trusted in us when we arrived here. But we’re a very united team and we have more to give."
- Paraguay striker Derlis Gonzalez on meeting Argentina in the semi-finals
Brazil football on sick bed, mystery virus or not
There are more questions than answers after Brazil's shock exit to Paraguay in the Copa America quarter-finals yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Brazil coach Dunga spoke of a viral infection afflicting several members of the team which, ironically, is unknown to some of the players.
As the world's most successful footballing nation struggled to digest another tournament setback, Dunga said as many as 15 members of his squad had been affected by the virus, which he said had disrupted preparations for the quarter-final.
"I'm not making excuses, but around 15 players had viruses which limited our training," Dunga said.
"Some had headaches, back pain, body aches. Some players felt it more than others and had to reduce training, some players vomited. Today was a game where we needed speed and we didn't have it."
Dunga's explanation caused confusion among members of his squad, with midfielder Filipe Luis saying he was unaware of any mass illness among his teammates.
"I didn't know anything about that," the Chelsea player said.
"Some of the other guys might have had a problem, but I didn't."
Goalkeeper Jefferson, however, backed his coach.
"Everyone woke up with a fever, headache and body aches," he said, before playing down the extent to which it had affected the result.
For the second Copa America in succession, Brazil exited at the quarter-final stage to the Paraguayans on penalties.
Dunga's side looked to be in control during the first half when Robinho fired them into a 15th-minute lead.
But Derlis Gonzalez levelled from the penalty spot for Paraguay in the second half, and then struck the winning spot-kick in the shoot-out to clinch a famous win and set up a semi-final with Argentina.
While Dunga talked about a mystery virus, others will be left asking whether Brazilian football in general is on its sick bed.
Dunga had looked to have been nursing the Selecao back to health as the team recovered from the traumatic humiliation of last year's World Cup semi-final drubbing by Germany, overseeing 10 consecutive wins in friendlies leading up to the Copa America.
But those results merely camouflaged the same problems that existed at the World Cup - a dearth of creative flair and an over-reliance on Neymar.
With Neymar missing from the last two games due to a four-match ban, Brazil suffered another early exit in a tournament.
"We knew from the beginning it would not be easy," Dunga said. "There's always pressure on Brazil when you win or when you lose. We will try to get better and better. Many great players have failed on penalties.
"If it was easy, a lot of people could do my job, but it's not... It's useless to cry about it."
Dunga, meanwhile, acknowledged the deeper problems facing Brazil as they attempt to reclaim their place at the summit of the global game.
"We all have to think about Brazilian football," he said. "We can't ignore the fact that other teams have got a lot better." - AFP.