No panic in Brazil after stuttering beginning

But renewed criticisms of Oscar and coach Felipão

Deflation definitely, but there was no panic on Brazil's biggest television network after another stuttering performance by the national team during its 0-0 draw with Mexico in Fortaleza yesterday.

Instead in this superstitious footballing culture Galvão Bueno, the samba version of George Hamilton, was busy pointing out that back in 1958 the country also drew its second group game against England nil-all before going on a charge that would bring a first World Cup title.

Of course back then Brazil could introduce a 17-year old named Pelé into the side for their third match. Yesterday when Felipão turned to his bench for attacking alternatives he found Manchester City flop Jô, though Hulk should be available again for the final group game against Cameroon.

Pelé himself was forced to listen to the first half of yesterday's game on his car radio, caught up in a huge traffic snarl in São Paulo as everyone tried to get home early in time for the 4pm kick-off. It was the first time he listened to rather than watched the national side since the final game of the 1950 World Cup when Uruguay inflicted its most humiliating defeat in the historic Maracanazo.


Though superstitious himself – in December he refused to take part in Fifa’s draw for the finals least his notorious bad luck dump the team in a difficult group – Pelé refused to see his traffic-imposed repeat of 1950 as an omen.

“I think this time it will be different. We’ll get to the final. Brazil played well today, it just didn’t win. There are no easy games. Cameroon passes the ball well. If Brazil wins 1-0 it’s enough. We have to be positive,” he told Globo television.

But not everyone could be as confident as O Rei. Paulo Vinícius Coelho warned that “the excess of youth” left him fearful of falling in the semis. “The problems are graver than they appeared against Croatia.

The more talented players did not get close to each other, they didn't look for each other and they lack passing options," he warned in Folha de S.Paulo.

PVC is not the only commentator to show rising concern at the gaucheness of the team’s younger stars.

"The draw is not motive for despair but a wake-up call," wrote Carlos Eduardo Mansur in O Globo. "The young Brazilian stars can, yes, decide games against heavyweight rivals. But it is a damn risky bet."

After a promising performance in the opening game there were renewed criticisms of Oscar and of coach Felipão for the introduction of Bernard instead of Willian, who with Neymar was Brazil’s best player in the warm-up games before the tournament. There were also rising exacerbation at the fading impact of Paulinho in the national side.

“It is frightening to see the enormous difficulty Paulinho is exhibiting in trying to be Paulinho again,” noted Mansur.

"It is time to mix up the team. If possible," advised Antero Greco in Estado de S.Paulo. "I do not like the role of sacrificial goat. But it is difficult to wait for any evolution from a turned-off Fred (offside three times), a left behind Paulinho, a lost Ramires, a lopsided Marcelo, a flustered Oscar and even a distracted Neymar. Who to turn to? Act, Felipão!"

So no panic yet, but more of the same against Cameroon in Brasília on Monday and it could well break out.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America