Abroad, the focus on Brazil's World Cup squad fell on the absences of
As March moved into April, momentum built for adding the young Santos pair,
It was an intellectual low point of the pro-Neymar campaign, a gaffe quickly seized upon by Dunga. Hindsight would seem to indicate that Menotti made the right call. Argentina, of course, won that year's competition, and even four years later in the next World Cup Maradona struggled with the demands made upon him.
The call for the inclusion of home-based players is normal and natural in Brazilian soccer. It reflects the wounded pride of a soccer culture that has to cope with the constant sale of its outstanding talents. But don't expect it to be rational -- some of those who today attack the inclusion of Wolfsburg midfielder
I recall the reaction of then-national team coach
Brazil played an appalling game at home to a poor Peru side. The Brazilians drew 1-1, could even have lost, and by the time the next qualifying match was played, a certain
Neymar and Ganso are certainly not mediocre. They are outstanding prospects. But are they ready for a World Cup? Different question.
Dunga made a point I raised last month in
Some argued that Neymar should be taken to the World Cup to gain experience. Dunga was having none of it. He is being paid to win this year's World Cup, he said, not that of 2014.
He may also dive into his own playing days to recall the 1994 World Cup, when a highly promising 17-year-old striker named
Dunga is acutely aware that since then it has become easier for the outside world to penetrate a squad and threaten its sense of unity. Back in 1994, the players did not even have mobile phones, let alone Internet connections. With Neymar on board, the Brazilian media would lobby for him to play as soon as the side failed to live up to expectations. At risk then would be the concept closest to Dunga's heart -- the harmony of the group.
Every decision that Dunga makes comes with this in mind. Individuals might win you matches, he argues, but groups win you titles.
This explains the absence of Ronaldinho -- the group "jelled" better after he was axed last year. It explains the exclusion of
In 23 games over the last two seasons, Brazil has won 18 and lost one. After Brazil's preliminary squad for South Africa was released, one journalist accused Dunga of being conservative, of lacking audacity. His answer -- fully justified by the facts -- was that if he has been conservative, he has also been successful.
For what it's worth, I have criticized him before and will almost certainly criticize him again. But in 2006, Brazil had all the star names anyone could wish -- and that didn't work. Based on his track record, Dunga has earned the right to try to win the World Cup his way.