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More than a day later and the overpowering sense is still one of disbelief.

Marcelo and Maicon looked lost on the flanks, David Luiz’s inability to concentrate was so bad it was almost laughable, Dante was a boy against men, and midfielder Fernandinho, the worst of the lot, put in one of the most inept displays I’ve ever seen from a Brazil player (and I saw Rafael Scheidt).

But I am not a coach and as a long-time resident of Brazil I see the psychological and social reasons for this catastrophic defeat more clearly than I see the football ones.

One of the explanations for this loss is that Brazil is a country where emotion always trumps reason and the already disastrous defeat seems worse than it is because Brazil’s manager, and as a consequence many of the fans, failed to show, or even to understand, that humility is a key factor not just in sport but in life.

Brazil were already under huge pressure to win this game but they turned up with their minds elsewhere, worrying about Neymar.

That is understandable for fans, who felt the loss of their best player. But it’s unacceptable for a team of multi-millionaire footballers who have all excelled in their own right.

All of the players and even the 60-something manager, entered the stadium wearing baseball caps with the hashtag #ForçaNeymar, or #StrengthNeymar.

Captain for the day David Luiz held up Neymar’s No. 10 shirt as the teams lined up for the national anthem. It was an admirable gesture but an infantile one just moments before the biggest game of his life.

While the Germans were concentrated on the task at hand, the Brazilians were fretting over their friend and of what might have been. Their minds were elsewhere. They lacked focus. (As Dante admits in this piece.)

Any hammering at home is disastrous but this one was especially bad because it was so completely and utterly unexpected. Brazil had never lost seven goals in 84 years of the World Cup.

And yet defeat happens. Only clowns espouse that truculent line so beloved of American coaches (and Felipão) that second place is the first loser. We all lose every day, at work, in love, in traffic, in the race to get to the front of the supermarket queue. We lose, therefore we are.

Many of Brazil’s fans, egged on by Felipão, who has for more than a year been repeating that “We will win the World Cup, there is no other option” never wanted to consider the idea of failure.

(See this astute story on the national trait of promising too much and failing to deliver.)

Brazilians are eternal optimists and they believe. More worryingly, they believe that if you believe then everything will work out. But that’s not true and faith is often misplaced or blind.

And yet there were good reasons to consider Brazil favourites. They are only team to win the World Cup five times, playing at home, in a continent where no European nation has ever won the trophy.

What Brazil lacked was humility and they paid a price for it. It is harder to humiliate the humble.

A little less arrogance from Felipão and the fans and pundits who still think that Brazil is the world’s dominant football power, who have refused to understand that this is not 1970 or even 1982, who don’t know that the game has moved on and Brazil still produces craques in spite of not because of their clubs and coaches, would have saved a lot of heartache. “We want to win, but there are other good teams in this competition,” would have been a more honest and more humble message than “We win this and we go to heaven or we lose it and we go to hell,” as CBF president Jose Maria Marin said.

Life is rarely about all or nothing, whatever Nike tells us.

(Unfortunately, the delusions continue, with Felipão saying Brazil will bounce back, rather than acknowledging root and branch changes need to be made. Predictably, the people who run the CBF have yet to appear in public.)

The dust will settle and Brazil will examine the reasons for this defeat. I sincerely hope a good look at emotion vs. reason and humility vs. arrogance will be part of the debate.

Confidence is necessary at the highest levels of sport and emotion is a fundamental quality and one of which Brazilians can be proud. But it had no place on the football pitch on Tuesday, and if it did, it should have been tempered with a large dose of modesty.

Brazil may still have lost to an excellent German side. But the loss need not have hurt quite so much.

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FelipaoLuiz Felipe Scolari just announced his squad for next month’s Confederations Cup and it’s characterized by brave choices and an onus on youth.

Both Ronaldinho and Kaka have been left out, with the former omission particularly surprising given that he has been in sparkling form with his club Atletico Mineiro.

I think he’s right to leave him out because Ronaldinho has failed to show not just his club form in a yellow jersey, but also failed to show the same appetite for the game. However, if Brazil don’t do well, the screams for his return will become deafening.

The big surprise is the inclusion of Bernard, another Atletico Mineiro player. The tiny attacking midfielder has been one of the stars of Atletico’s Libertadores campaign.

I think his inclusion is as much about preparing him for the World Cup than it is about the Confederations competition. Felipao pointedly stated that he wants to give Bernard the experience of a big tournament before next year.

Lucas, now of Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea’s Oscar, are two other youngsters called up.

Among the other brave decisions are the exclusion of Ramires, which I think is a mistake, and the inclusion of Leandro Damiao. The internacional striker has lost some of his gloss recently but Felipao likes an old style No. 9 and Leandro Damiao fits that bill.

Brazil still look weak at the full back positions, especially if Marcelo and Daniel Alves get injured. I don’t rate either of them too highly and Marcelo is always liable to lose the rag.

Brazil play England in a friendly at the Maracana on June 2 and then face France in Porto Alegre a week later. The Confederations Cup kicks off on June 15.

The full squad, from the CBF home page:

Goleiros

Julio Cesar – Queens P. Rangers

Diego Cavlaieri – Fluminense

Jefferson – Botafogo

 

Zagueiros

Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain

Rever – Atlético Mineiro

David Luiz – Chelsea

Dante – Bayern de Munique

 

Laterais

Daniel Alves – Barcelona

Jean – Fluminense

Marcelo – Real Madrid

Filipe Luís – Atlético de Madrid

 

Meio-campo

Fernando – Grêmio

Hernanes – Lazio

Luiz Gustavo – Bayern de Munique

Paulinho – Corinthians

 

Meia atacantes/atacantes

Jadson – São Paulo

Oscar – Chelsea

Lucas – Paris Saint Germain

Hulk – Zenit

Bernard – Atlético Mineiro

Leandro Damião – Internacional

Fred – Fluminense

Neymar – Santos

Pele croppedAs Brazil prepare to play Italy in Felipao’s second friendly match on Thursday night, here’s a reminder of why such games are taking place in Geneva, a home stadium for neither country.

Among the reasons: Time, money, and globalisation, as I say in my Reuters story from last year.

“It’s a trend,” says the headline and it’s not wrong.

It’s increasingly common for two international teams to face off in a third country.

The matchups and venues often sound completely random. Ireland have played Italy in Belgium and Oman in England. England have faced Brazil in Qatar and Italy in Switzerland. Argentina have taken on Nigeria in Bangladesh and Venezuela in India.

At least Brazil vs. Italy is more attractive than Brazil against Iraq in Sweden or Brazil against Japan in Poland.

Here’s the most iconic image of Pele, taken from the mural that surrounds Santos’s training ground. For no other reason than it’s cool.

England take on Brazil this evening in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s return to both London and the Brazil manager’s position. (See my Reuters piece on what to expect from Felipao’s reign.)

The former Chelsea coach has just one task. Win the World Cup at home in July 2014.

What happens until then is largely irrelevant. Only an unthinkable turn of events would lead to his firing before the tournament begins and poor form up to that point will be ignored. Felipao took over in 2001 when his team were considered outsiders and barely a year later he’d led them to a record fifth World Cup title. The dinosaurs at the CBF trust him and so do Brazilians.

ronaldinhoFelipao has taken a big chance in recalling two particular players and both of them start tonight.

Ronaldinho Gaucho is being given another chance to prove he can cut it at the highest level. Dunga gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. Mano Menezes gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. I can’t fathom why Felipao reckons the Atletico Mineiro player is worthy of yet another chance.

He may have played well last year but the World Cup at home is a serious business and that requires concentration, consistency and serious dedication, qualities that Ronaldinho doesn’t seem to have. He may shine on occasion but Felipao needs more than that at this stage.

Luis Fabiano, meanwhile, has a goals per game record at international level that is up there with the best of them (if this site it to be believed). His problem, however, is his temperament. He was sent off several times last year and got Lord knows how many yellow cards.

The pressure on Brazil at home will be immense and the one thing that Felipao needs more than anything are players who can handle that pressure. I doubt Luis Fabiano can.

The Brazil team:

Júlio César; Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Dante and Adriano; Ramires, Paulinho, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Oscar; Neymar and Luis Fabiano.

Kick off 7:30pm UK time, 5:30 pm Brazil time.

Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has just announced the squad for the Brazil vs. England match at Wembley on Feb. 6.

It is the first squad of his new reign and there were, as expected, a few surprises.

I think he’s right in recalling QPR goalie Julio Cesar and Lazio midfielder Hernanes who, I read the other day, has scored more goals than any other Brazilian playing in Europe this season.

But I can’t really see the point of recalling Ronaldinho. Talented he may be but he is lazy, and more of a problem off the field than a solution on it.

Fred deserves a chance given his scoring record but he may be getting on a bit for 2014.

Recalling Luis Fabiano, however, makes little sense. The hot headed Sao Paulo striker is just as likely to get sent off as score a hat trick and in the pressure cooker situation of a World Cup on home soil you can’t risk those kind of players.

I was also surprised to see Kaka missing, as he was superb in his last few games for Mano Menezes.

Here’s the Reuters story with more details. Link is here.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Ronaldinho and goalkeeper Julio Cesar were both recalled by Brazil as new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named his first squad on Tuesday.

Scolari, who led Brazil to their 2002 World Cup title and returned for a second stint in November, also left out Kaka and gave another chance to striker Luis Fabiano for the friendly against England next month.

Lazio midfielder Hernanes, another player overlooked by previous coach Mano Menezes, was also included for the match at Wembley on Feb 6.

Scolari has less than 18 months to build a team capable of winning a sixth world title for Brazil on home soil.

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers), Diego Alves (Valencia)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Barcelona), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Leandro Castan (AS Roma), Miranda (Atletico Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Ramires (Chelsea), Arouca (Santos), Paulinho (Corinthians), Hernanes (Lazio), Oscar (Chelsea), Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro)

Forwards: Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg), Neymar (Santos), Lucas (Paris St Germain), Fred (Fluminense), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo)

felipaoThere were seven managers who spoke at the Confederations Cup draw this Saturday but the star was home grown: none of them had a fraction of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charisma or charm.

You can argue whether Felipao is the right man to lead Brazil to the next World Cup or not but you can’t argue he’s not a better salesman for Brazilian football than his predecessor Mano Menezes.

I think Mano was dealt a rough deal as his teams were starting to play good football. And Felipao’s track record has been mixed since Brazil won the World Cup under his tutelage in 2002.

But many people reckon Felipao was brought in as much for his ability to rally the troops as for his tactical nous.

He proved that today, with a series of smart, entertaining and intelligent comments after the draw was made for the 2013 Confederations Cup. The managers of the other six nations – Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez apart – were dull and boring in comparison.

Here’s a quick piece I bashed out on deadline citing some quotes from Felipao. The full story can be found here at Reuters.com and the bigger story of the draw is here.

SAO PAULO, Dec 1 – New Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari welcomed a tough Confederations Cup draw that pitted his team against Japan, Mexico and Italy and said failure to win next June’s tournament does not mean his side cannot lift the World Cup on home soil 12 months later.

Scolari, who was last week appointed Brazil manager for the second time, denied Spain was the hot favourite for the World Cup warm-up and said he aims to put together a team that will excite home supporters.

“I don’t see any team as favourite but I want to tell our fans that if we play at home … we have to play to win,” said the man known as Felipao, or Big Phil. “That is our goal.”

The draw for the tournament was made in Sao Paulo on Saturday morning, with Brazil drawn against Japan in the capital, Brasilia, on June 15, Mexico in Fortaleza on June 19, and Italy in Salvador three days later.

The other group comprises Uruguay, World and European champions Spain, the tiny Pacific island nation of Tahiti, and the yet-to-be decided champions of Africa.

“There is no group of death, this is a strong group just like we wanted,” said Scolari. “We want tough games that put us under pressure and get the fans going.”

The former Chelsea and Portugal coach pointed out that Brazil won the last two Confederations Cups but crashed out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage a year later.

“Brazil won the last two Confederations Cups and didn’t win the World Cups,” he said. “So having done well in the Confederations Cup masked (our situation) a bit. I don’t think that losing the Confederations Cup means we go to the World Cup with no one believing in us.”

Scolari said belief is an important factor, and getting home fans behind the team is a key challenge over the next 18 months. Brazil’s fans are as fickle as they are demanding and they have not shied away from booing their own players if they are not winning in style.

Felipao said he wanted people “to believe more, to feel more for the team, to go to stadiums”, and said the team will do its bit to bring a happier atmosphere to Brazil matches.

“We will look into how the players — they are, after all, the ones carrying the flag — can bring back an atmosphere of joy and friendliness,” he said.

“We are going to work with the technical commission to discuss ways to get people that aren’t involved with football more involved.”

The World Cup will take place in 12 Brazilian cities in June and July 2014. Brazil has not hosted the tournament since 1950, but it is the only team to win the World Cup five times.

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