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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is Brazil divided?

Brazil have beaten Ghana 3-0 to progress to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. It could have been much worse for the Africans, though, truth be told, they played rather well for the most part. The one thing that didn't work for Ghana was their offside trap; all three goals stolen by Brazil were due to some deft line play by their scorers. Ghana did look like scoring, and they did get some good shots on goal, but they lacked two things -- finishing and width. They played very narrow, and really that is not the way to play Brazil if you want to score goals.

I noticed something midway through the game, and as the game progressed, I find me telling myself that I could be right. Of course, I could be wrong. It could be this devil's workshop working overtime, but as of now I cannot convince myself that I am wrong.

Most of the Brazilian players do not pass the ball to Ronaldinho, unless it is absolutely necessary. Like, if he is the only player around to receive a pass, he gets the ball. Else he is overlooked for someone else, although the World Footballer of the Year might be in a better, more attacking position. I'm not referring exclusively to the incident when Cafu tried a shot on goal, when he could have passed it Ronaldinho for a simple tap-in. There is a whole gamut of incidents.

Ronaldo and Ronaldinho do not embrace each other, even if it is the latter who sets up balls for his older teammate. However when Adriano pulled off a goal, Ronaldinho and he were in a prolonged embrace, though Ronaldinho neither set up the goal, nor was he even in the frame when Adriano converted. In earlier games, one could have observed Ronaldinho not passing the ball freely to Ronaldo. It could have been a case of him not trusting the poaching skills of other, but in any case, do note that point, Your Honour. When Cafu decided to go for glory in front of goal, Ronaldinho displayed a rare gesture that spoke of his frustration and disappointment. Were there more (untold) emotions / frictions behind it?

As I said earlier, I could be wrong. However, if you do get to watch a replay of this game, notice how many times the ball is passed to Ronaldinho and how many times it is passed to his teammates who are not in a better position than he is in.

There are some ways to explain this, rather than to point out at a divided dressing room. In Brazil's midfield, there is only one player who has the pace to match the smiling assassin - Kaka. Ronaldo, for all of his three goals, isn't the kind that will run his heart out to be at the end of delightful crosses. Something like the Tendulkar-Ganguly combination when it comes to running between the wickets, the former being a perfectionist, and the latter sluggish.

Secondly, Ronaldinho's favoured position is the left side of midfield -- like the President of Brazil, he is left-of-center! In Barcelona, it is Giovanni van Bronckhorst who plays behind him -- a workhorse-type passer. For Brazil, Roberto Carlos plays at left-back, a crosser, who plays balls into the box rather than forward, into wider attacking positions. Thus Ronaldinho the midfielder doesn't get enough balls to feed into the forward areas. Naturally, to accommodate Carlos, he has to move into a more central area, which is quite crowded because Kaka, Ze Roberto and Emerson are all there already. In contrast, we can observe how unobstructed Cafu's movement is. He can move into wider positions and cross, or cut into the box and play short passes. This in part explains why Brazil haven't got many goals from the left, because Ronaldinho has to make allowances for the playing style of his teammates. Which restricts his influence on the game, and adds to his frustration.

I'm thinking how much more effective Brazil's attack can be if they played the Barca-style 4-3-3 with a narrow midfield and strikers from out wide. Since Cafu and Carlos are excellent wingers, they can synergise with their attacking wide midfielders (say Robinho on the right and Ronaldinho on the left). But for that, they need to play as one single unit. Which is what I am questioning. Are they playing as one team?

As of now, Brazil are through. They can think about setting things right as they wait for Spain or France to join them in the next round. I'm backing Spain; but why do I have this nervy feeling about les Bleus just pipping their southern neighbours?


Blogger Dream Sporting said...

Interesting analysis!

I did watch glimpses of the game, but the problem with watching it from work is that, the viewing is interrupted several hundred times. So, I don't quite recollect the nitty-gritty, but saw enough to realise that Ghana held its own but couldn't deal with Brazil's counter.

For sure, Ronaldinho does not get the freedom to 'roam' as he does at Barca. But importantly, it seems like he is totally dedicated towards fitting into the system and assisting the strikers. BRAVO!!!

But his frustration at being denied an easy goal seems a very fair one. There is a very good chance that this would be his ONLY 'peak' World Cup. He has done well with his assists, IMO. But for it to be remembered as his World Cup, he needs a couple of 'Diego like' goals. Else, this might become a second successive Ronaldo redumption WC (if Brazil go on to win).

Keep the good stuff comin!

6/27/2006 09:14:00 PM  

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