Freddy or Not – Time for Change!

by Robbie Blakeley

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

After a bore draw against minnows Venezuela – incidentally the only South American nation never to have qualified for a World Cup – the wave of optimism surrounding coach Mano Menezes is disappearing faster than a snowball in hell.

It was a different coach with some different players, but the formation and the style of play were distinctly Dunga-esque.  With Brazil’s toughest group game coming up against Paraguay on Saturday, Menezes has several problems to address if his side are not to be hounded from the field for a fourth successive game.

For the last two or three years, the Brazilian defence has been water tight, and is not in need of change. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is one of the finest in the world, and has top club experience with Italian giants Internazionale; the same goes for centre back pairing Lucio and Thiago Silva. Both ply their trade in Milan, Lucio on the blue side and Thiago Silva on the red. Flanked by full-backs Dani Alves and Andre Santos, both are competent defenders as well as possessing the trademark Cafu-like need to gallop up the field.

Moving into midfield, the first problems arise. Menezes has dispensed with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo from the Dunga era, and has installed Lucas Leiva (yes, that Lucas, of Liverpool) and Chelsea’s Ramires.

Against top opposition, Lucas is out of his depth and Ramires loked lightweight even against Venezuela. It was a surprise to see Tottenham’s Sandro, a monster of a man, sitting on the bench while Lucas tip-toed around the park like the sugar plum fairy.

Ramires has also shown signs of improvement, but there are players of greater technical ability who know when to execute the killer pass to unlock a stubborn defence, as was needed on Sunday when Venezuela parked the bus. The 18-year-old Lucas Gaucho would be a far easier fit than Ramires, who was hustled off the ball too often.

But in attack lies the most challenging piece of Menezes’ puzzle. Brazil have now scored just one goal in their last three games, and bar the opening 30 minutes on Sunday did not look convincing in the final third of the pitch. Pato played through the centre with Robinho and Neymar on either side. The ex-Manchester City man was dreadful, being booed mercilessly by the fans when he was finally substituted.

Neymar appeared to be running on empty after a gruelling, albeit successful Copa Libertadores campaign with Santos, and Pato, for all his ball skills does not have the strength to hold the front line alone. The Milan forward would be more effective playing with another striker in a 4-4-2 system. If Brazil are to finally start banging in the goals the time has come for change.

Fluminense hit man Fred, who scored Brazil’s winner against Romania last month, played half an hour on Sunday and should be given the chance from the start against Paraguay. They say imitation is the best form of flattery, but last weekend Menezes just looked devoid of invention. He needs to stop forcing players into a set formation and mould the formation around the best players available.

My Team for Saturday:

Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos; Elano, Sandro, Lucas Gaucho, Neymar; Fred, Pato

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