The status of the Brazilian national team -- and its value to its international sponsors -- does not rest solely on the fact that it is the only country to have won the World Cup five times.
It is a style thing. There is a way of playing associated with Brazil, joyful and expressive, which has made the
But the sales talk is wearing thin -- especially in light of Spain's triumph in the 2010 World Cup.
Two years ago, when Spain won the European Championship, Brazilian great
It is a comment that is even more pertinent two years later. In the view of the dominant current in Brazilian soccer, what Spain has done was no longer thought possible.
The game in Brazil was shaken to its roots by the
New dogmas were formed, reinforced after Brazil's 1982 side, the last of the great romantics, was cut down by Italy. The physical development of soccer, it was argued, made contact more inevitable and more intense. Brazil sought to match the Europeans in physical terms, in the expectation that the difference in technique would tip the balance its way.
This had an implication on the way the game was played. Old-style, elaborate passing movements through the middle were considered too easily blocked in the age of the hyper-athlete. Instead, the aim was to launch quick breaks down the flanks. Statistical analysis appeared to indicate that if the move contained more than seven passes, then the possibility of a goal was reduced. Playing on the counterattack became the new obsession.
All of these observations were on display in the Brazil team that
And then along comes Spain to show that old-fashioned passing, carried out at pace, remains a highly effective weapon. "Where are our Xavis? Where are our Iniestas?" the Brazilian media cry, without being able to name a single strong candidate. It is little wonder. The Spain and Barcelona pair would be considered on the small side for a Brazilian midfield. Maybe someone would have tried to convert them into fullbacks.
But now that
The new man faces a huge task. He must rebuild an aging side and prepare it for the type of pressure no team has ever known -- winning the World Cup in 2014 as host in a nation where 200 million will be demanding nothing less. With no qualifiers, there are few competitive games to help him get his men ready -- just next year's Copa America and the 2013 Confederations Cup. And then there is the style issue. Can the
Looking around the candidates, though, it is hard to find anything else.
The most successful local coach in recent times has been
All of this makes
His appointment would clearly be a gamble, but given the size of the task, the same could be said of any of the candidates. From a PR angle, it is hard to see a better option, as Brazil struggles to regain lost ground in the hearts of fans around the world.