Dunga: We respect the US
For Carlos Dunga, Brazil's 3-0 defeat of the USA in the group stage of this competition has no bearing whatsoever on the meeting of the sides tomorrow in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. He is even less concerned with the countries' head-to-head record, even if it shows an impressive 14 wins for Brazil from their 15 official fixtures. What the coach is interested in, however, is repeating his oft-quoted belief that "football is about neither the past nor the future".
It is a philosophy that sums up Dunga to perfection. All that concerns him right now is the threat that will be posed by the USA at Ellis Park in Johannesburg tomorrow evening - a match, the coach told FIFA.com, that has no relation whatsoever to the meeting of the sides ten days ago in Tshwane/Pretoria. "That's in the past now. If you carefully study the USA's opening two defeats here, you'll see that. They were playing well against Italy until they had a player sent off, while against us, they conceded in the opening minutes, and that unhinged them. I mean how could you not seriously respect a side that, following two losses, reacted in the way the USA did against Egypt and the overwhelming favourites Spain? You don't do something like that without deserving merit. That result showed enormous character."
Those stellar performances by Bob Bradley's charges against the African and European champions have clearly not gone unnoticed by Brazil. Though unwilling to talk in detail or single out individual USA players, Dunga was fulsome in his praise of his opponents' discipline: "What's struck me the most about them is that they're very obedient tactically and they manage to maintain a consistency of performance for the full 90 minutes."
"What's more, they're very dangerous when they counter-attack, as we all saw in the semi against Spain," says the man who has been at the helm of the Canarinho since August 2006. "This will be another game in which we'll need to find the balance between defence and attack that has been characteristic of this team. If I've learned anything from all my years in football, it's that without that balance a team won't get very far. It's necessary to have some very industrious players, the type we in Brazil call 'piano carriers', to do the hard work in defence, win back possession, etc. That's why individuals like Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo are so important in our system, as they can free up all the talent we have up front, for example," says Dunga.
For the captain of Brazil's world title-winning side from 1994, there is another factor ever-present when the Seleção take to the field: pressure. "There's no denying that for many people, Brazil must always win. However, in football there are no longer clear favourites," says the 45-year-old, adding: "I'm expecting a game with a lot more nerves than the group-phase one, and as a consequence we'll need to be more patient. In the first match we had the good fortune to score early and hopefully we can do that again. That said, the USA have a different rhythm about them now."
After more than three intense weeks working together, following on from their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay, Dunga feels there is very little more he can say to his charges. According to him, the team-talk before the final will be limited to a few reminders about positioning and specific details on some members of the opposition. Everything else, his men are already clear about. "We've spent days and days developing a system for our game, so it wouldn't make sense now to spend hours explaining things. Everything I had to say has already been said," the coach insists. "We all know what we have to do and, above all, we know the motivation that playing in an international final brings. We're ready."