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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Copa America: Brasil 1 x Ecuador 0

Watching Brasil play tonight, I was reminded how often a soccer coach shapes a team in subtle, and not so subtle, ways. Soccer, out of all of the team sports in the world, has the least amount of game management. You are only allowed three strategic substitutions in a game. Most of the preparation occurs outside of the pitch; however, teams implement the tactical game plan of their respective coaches during the actual game.

I was struck how much Brasil plays like their coach: Carlos Ferri "Dunga." A very talented but no-nonsense midfielder who won the World Cup in 1994. He was the captain of a team with stars; however; Dunga did all of the dirty work in the midfield. He played more akin to an Italian or British player. Hard and precise in the tackle, and very quick to counter-attack with accurate passes. He didn't have the "jogo bonito" flair that we associate with Brasilians. But he had something quite different that made him a great player.

This currrent Brasilian team (without Ronaldinho and Kaka') lacks the creativity that we, and their harsh critics at home, expect from them. They play very deliberately, and the hand of Dunga is easily seen on this side. We see flashes of individual brilliance; namely, in the form of the sleek, speedy, and silver-booted Robinho. But mostly, this team, with its usual colorful names (for example, Vagner Love) plays like their fiery and pragmatic coach.

Dunga played in Brasil, Italy, Germany, and Japan during his stellar career. He played in three World Cups, along with two final games. He is also the part-owner of the English club, Queens Park Rangers.

Ecuador fought hard for the entire 90 minutes, but Robinho scored his fourth goal, on a second half penalty kick, to make him the leading scorer in the Copa America. After the earlier draw between Mexico and Chile, all three teams will advance to the elimination round.

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