Once upon a time, Brazil was known as the kings of soccer worldwide. Their magic and flair drew the attention of millions of fans. They practically had a samba parade for 90 minutes and played like they were playing a pickup game in the streets of Brazil. They’ve produced some of the biggest stars in the game such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario, Socrates, and of course, Pele.
It seems as if those magical years for Brazil were decades ago. The five-time champions have noticeably lost their world dominance in the past years. Apart from the Confederations Cup, the verde amarela have failed to win a tournament since the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. In the World Cup, they’ve failed to reach the final since 2002, after reaching three straight and winning two from 1994-2002.
It’s no secret that this generation of Brazilian players lack the famous “joga bonito”. The only players who have a similar style of play in the current squad are Neymar, Willian, and possibly Coutinho. The appointment of Dunga, a defensive minded coach, didn’t help the cause. Dunga decided not to call up offensive-minded left back Marcelo for Filipe Luis, starting left back for the best defensive team in the world, Atletico Madrid.
Clearly Dunga is not the coach that Brazil needs. He proved it in 2010 and again in his second stint, but how much can we really blame on the coach? Under Scolari in 2014, Brazil made it to the semi-final of the World Cup, but failed to truly convince. The embarrassment in the semi-finals against Germany proved they’re not ready to compete with the World’s best, at least for now.
Unfortunately for Neymar, he’s playing during his country’s weakest generation in years. At 24, he has been expected to be the captain and central point of attack. The problem is: he has no supporting cast around him. The 2002 squad included Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Kaka and Julio Bautista. Meanwhile, the 2016 Copa America squad had the likes of Willian, Coutinho, Casemiro, Gabriel, and Hulk.
As a fan of the sport, it is depressing to see a team who’s known for it’s flair and beauty to play so unattractively and flat out ugly. They’re blessed to have a player like Neymar, but unless they surround him with a good supporting cast and the right coach, his prime may come and go with nothing to show for.