Thursday 18 January 2018

Dunga rages against machine but there is no fantasy ending

Brazil had nothing to offer once their manager's method became unstuck, says Dion Fanning

B razil may be wondering how they lost to Holland on Friday afternoon, but the man who knew he would be the scapegoat didn't take long to assume responsibility.

No matter what Brazil achieved at this World Cup, Dunga's style of management was only ever going to end in a hail of bullets. It was only a question of which side grabbed hold of the gun.

On Friday, Dunga quit. He had no option. His Brazilian side had lost a battle in Port Elizabeth and Dunga was supposed to have built a side that didn't lose battles.

Up until Friday, they had seemed to have embraced the collective. In fact, for a long period of the game, they seemed to have no problem with it either. The speed with which Dani Alves reacted when Arjen Robben tried to surreptitiously take a corner in the first half told of Brazil's determination to do the hard work.

As Robben jogged away from the corner, he tried to give the impression he was leaving the set-piece to Wesley Schneider but Alves realised Robben had rolled the ball into play and burst forward, foiling the Dutch plan.

At that point, Brazil's adherence to Dunga's philosophy seemed absolute. Yet Felipe Melo's misfortune in heading past Julio Cesar, who made his first mistake of the tournament, seemed to undermine everything. Brazil were working hard and they weren't getting any luckier. From that moment, it was as if Dunga had taught them nothing. There was only one ultimate outcome and there would be no second Dunga era.

From the moment he forced his way onto Brazilian consciousness, Dunga has been at war with elements in the Brazilian media and elements of the Brazilian spirit.

He was blamed for dragging Brazil down when they stumbled through the World Cup in 1990 but, in 1994, he was central to the vision of the side that Carlos Alberto Parreira possessed. The more elegant Rai started the tournament as captain. He had the lineage -- he was the younger brother of Socrates -- and the style but he could not fit into the style that Parreira wanted to play.

When he was dropped, Dunga took over the captaincy and took it upon himself to defy everyone. Brazil's stubbornness manifested itself in the manner of victory: a penalty shoot-out in the final. If Dunga was going to find some sort of serene transcendence in this ultimate sporting moment, then he would have been a different man. As he lifted the trophy -- Brazil's first World Cup since 1970 -- he was still fighting. "Screw you, you bastards and sons of whores," he screamed. Things would never be any better than this.

Dunga's war with the Brazilian press may have ended now but Brazil will again try to search for some comforting formula, but there is no formula that guarantees success. Dunga is the latest to have failed by that standard though he will believe he remained true to his code

He was born in Ijui, in Rio Grande Do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. He absorbed the traditional values of the region, based on the Italian ancestry of most of its inhabitants. "He is a typical guy from that region where they believe in a macho code," says Brazilian television journalist Decio Lopes

Dunga, of Italian and German extraction, never strayed from that path despite a career that took him across the world and led him to experience many cultures. He was always the tough guy from Rio Grande Do Sul, a stance that hardened when he became manager four years ago.

Brazilian football is always looking for a reason for his failure but it always comes down to a choice between fantasy and reality. The team of 1970 represent the magical combination where fantasy seemed the most practical way of winning football matches. The side of 1982 offer an alternative but in some ways they are a greater curse because they offer a nobler way of failing.

On Friday, Brazil left the tournament at effectively the same stage as the 1982 side but having provided none of the memories. Instead, they will remember the hostility of Dunga and his attempts to create a siege mentality among players who, unlike their manager, rarely felt under siege.

When Brazilian journalists shared a plane with the team for the warm-up games against Tanzania and Zimbabwe, they noticed that the players would not look them in the eye. Normally there is little reserve between the players and the media and no limits to access. During the World Cup, Dunga changed this, persuading the players that they were as despised as he was.

If the country was split over Dunga's methods, the country's media was not. After Brazil beat Cote D'Ivoire, one journalist was laughing on his phone as Dunga spoke at the press conference. Dunga's paranoia persuaded him that the journalist was laughing at him.

Dunga confronted him immediately but the journalist denied he was doing anything other than chatting to a friend and the press conference continued. Dunga couldn't move on. He called the journalist a "cagao", literally a person who hasn't learned to wipe their ass. The journalist, Dunga was saying, was yellow. Brazil had just qualified for the knock-out stages but the fight never stopped.

Many believed that Dunga's methods would work and there was enough to suggest it as they remained disciplined through the group stages and in rolling over Chile.

In pursuit of his vision, Dunga left behind Ronaldinho and young players Ganso and Neymar. Brazil should have enough talent that there is always a debate about squad selection but as the game slipped away from them in Port Elizabeth and they turned to hitting long balls forward for Kaka to win in the air, then it seemed Dunga had only one way of playing. And it wasn't a very good way.

Relying on Gilberto in midfield always seemed a gamble. Even against North Korea, the game passed him by and he was a definition of pointlessness: a holding midfielder who brings no stability.

Dunga had believed that by becoming the focal point for all the expectation and hysteria which surrounds Brazil, his players would be free from those pressures. On Friday, that belief was shattered in the self-destructive minutes following Holland's equaliser. Suddenly Brazil began to play as if Dunga was channelling all the explosive rage he was showing in the dug-out straight to them.

They may not have been helped by an eccentric refereeing performance but Mark van Bommel was not the only player who could have joined Melo in being sent off. Michel Bastos could have gone too as Brazil crumbled and Dunga looked like he could smash up his dug-out.

He could send nobody out to save the game as Brazil's reserves don't compare to Argentina's or even Holland's. In that context, his squad decisions were always going to damn him.

Even if he had been loved, Brazil's failure would have damned Dunga. Brazil's problem is not that they are romantics but they always want more. "I am the least difficult of men, all I want is boundless love," Frank O'Hara wrote and Brazil makes the same straightforward demands of its footballers. Their dreams are boundless and only begin with winning the World Cup. Sometimes even that can be a failure.

When the game ended on Friday evening, Dunga sighed heavily and walked down the tunnel. One of his backroom staff put a comforting arm around him but there was no comfort. Dunga, in a room full of enemies including the perceived who had become real, acknowledged the inevitable, "We are sad, nobody prepares to lose."

Dunga was always prepared to fight and he thought it could protect him from defeat.

Sunday Independent

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