Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brazil was different story – favorites, sure. But convincing ones? Not in Brazil. In Europe nobody was really thrilled by the Brazilian performance, but the team was considered dangerous anyway. The impression was that the world champions were not in good form yet – but surely would be by the summer. And if they win when not in form, imagine what could be when they really play. At home criticism ruled – the team was under attack for quite awhile. Part of the problem was the old debate about the direction of the Brazilian football. Presently, it was adjusted to the European model – tough, disciplined, tactical, and physica game. Mario Zagallo coached – and that is rather curious, because he was not among the hardliners promoting the European brand of football. Yet, his team was clearly defence oriented and tactics dominated. The team was stiff, not entertaining at all, terribly restricted and schematic – but it was winning. Goalkeeping was the major problem – a few keepers were tried, to no satisfaction. Goalkeeping was an old problem – and with the exception of Gilmar, Brazil never had really great goalie. Felix, who played in 1970, kind of retired. Other problems loomed as well. There was a little controvercy over Carlos Alberto – Zagallo announced that the captain of the 1970 squad is out. Reasons were never clear – Carlos Alberto was injured for quite a long time, and after coming back Zagallo stated he is out of form. But somehow form was not the real issue. Tostao was out too – his eyes were getting worse, surgeries did not help, and the great player had to quit football. Gerson also ended his career. And finally Pele… concerned voices argued it is time to remove the King from the national team since… 1966. At first the reason was not his age, but after 1970 it was. Zagallo made clear that he was not going to need him anymore. Pele himself thought it was time to step down and announced his decision not to play for Brazil anymore. Shaky goalkeeping apart, the new Brazil was pretty much what the ‘party of change’ wanted: disciplined, defensive minded, ‘European’ team. It was winning too… but the ‘party of samba’ was not happy at all – the team was not fun! The team was winning, but painfully, miserly, minimally… and may be it was just lucky, but luck does not always help. Brazil was not outplaying the opposition, it was not dominant. May be good in defence, but the attack? Criticism mounted, including the voice from the very top – the President of Brazil officially stated that Pele has to be included again. The King said he was not going to change his mind. The President had the last word: there was always a place for Pele in the national team. Zagallo seconded that… as long as Pele had no desire to play for Brazil, Zagallo was free to dodge politicians and journalists by stating what they wanted to hear: the door is open, it is up to the King. Zagallo repeated 1970 – when he ‘included’ Dario in the squad, because the President wanted his favorite player in the team. May be Zagallo would have included Pele, if the King changed his mind, yet 1974 was almost full repetiton of 1970. Pele was considered in earnest, but he never changed his mind, so to the last minute it was just speculations, however exciting.
Jairzinho (left), Rivelino, and Clodoaldo (deep back) fighting tough Scots at Hampden Park – new boy Kenny Dalglish(14), David Hay, and Jim Holton (6). Vast diference in fame… and Holton just relegated to 2nd Division with Manchester United, but it was Scotland impressing commentators at this match. Brasil won 1-0.
West Germany was conquered at their own turf and weather.
The Soviets were largely concerned with their own troubles – Muntyan rarely outsmarted Marco Antonio, and Onishtchenko still unconvincing yopugster. But here he almost scored – his header hit the sidebar. Brazil won 1-0 in Moscow, but it could have been easily 1-0 for the Soviets too. The World champions were rather pedestrian…

One of the Brazilain formations shaping the World Cup 1974 squad – here Wendel is wrongly listed, but he did not make the final squad anyway. Goalkeeping was the biggest troube, but it was replaced by other concerns. At the end nothing really changed – only the goalie missed the finals.