Can Dunga ride to the rescue this time?
New coach needs to impose some of his personal steeliness into a Brazil squad
Brazil’s new manager Dunga smiles during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
The return yesterday of Dunga as coach of Brazil’s national team breaks one of the most sensible but least observed rules in South American football management – never go back.
In the chaotic, febrile world of the Latin game, one of the oldest tricks in the football boss’ handbook is to reappoint a previously successful coach in a moment of crisis. There are exceptions but the record shows it rarely works out as the roots of the crisis usually have little to do with the man he is replacing.
Brazil should know this better than most. Four times it has reappointed World Cup-winning coaches. And all four times the returning hero has failed to reproduce his success. The last of this sorry line was Luiz Felipe Scolari, the winner of the country’s fifth world title in 2002 but now better known as the man in charge during the 7-1 semi-final humiliation at the hands of Germany earlier this month.
The tremors from that earthquake are still being felt in Brazil. The causes are still the subject of intense debate in the sports pages and on the football round-tables that fill up much of the evening schedule on cable television.
But the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) – a resolute bulwark of cronyism and corruption – seems intent on ignoring the demands for the radical root and branch reform the domestic game clearly required even before the Germans reinforced the point by humiliating the national team.
Brazilian football now stands exposed and coming to the rescue is Dunga to the disappointment of about 80 per cent of his country folk if early polls are to be believed. He has been here before, though without the widespread unpopularity which came later.
After the badly mismanaged World Cup campaign in Germany in 2006 when the complacent Carlos Alberto Parreira failed to get the best out of a squad that included Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaká and Robinho, the coach who won the country’s fourth world title in 1994 was replaced by his former captain.
Dunga came into the job with no management experience but the reputation as an enforcer on the field who would end the indulgences granted to the squad by Parreira. That he did and one of his immediate jobs now will be to impose some of his undoubted personal steeliness into a squad that turned into a laughing stock during the recent World Cup.
Technical revolutionBut nothing in Dunga’s limited career as a coach indicates he is the man to lead the technical revolution Brazilian football needs if it is to get back to competing with the best of Europe.
He did win the Copa America in 2007 adding a Confederations Cup in 2009. But both campaigns were unconvincing and his teams’ lack of style meant they never inspired great affection among fans who took to insulting him from the stands during qualification for South Africa.
There when it really mattered he came up short, his side eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarter finals. Since then he has only added one unsuccessful 10-month spell in charge of his old club Internacional to his resume.
So what he has done to inspire the confidence within CBF that he is the man to drag the seleção out of one of the worst crises in its history is unclear as is how he will implement one of the organisation’s few attempts at reform.
Youth teamsCBF executives have said that players from the country’s youth teams will feature more in the senior side as preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
That will demand a major change in Dunga’s philosophy. He brought the oldest squad to the World Cup in South Africa and all through his first period in charge showed himself completely uninterested in the country’s youth set up, not once during his four year stint speaking with the coach of the under-20 team.
Rather than any footballing philosophy or technical criteria the fear in Brazil’s football press is that Dunga’s owes his reappointment to the CBF’s old-boy network, appointing a stolid but known quantity who at his unveiling spoke how a good team was necessary to sustain CBF’s marketing operation. Dunga also spoke yesterday of his 76 per cent success rate during his previous four years in charge. In a country crying out to get back to its footballing roots Dunga will need to come up with something better than stats if his own second turn is to buck the trend and be remembered more favourably than his first.