On paper at least, Brazil’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifier at home to Bolivia on 29 August 1993 should have been straightforward. Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side were, however, under enormous pressure with three games left to play in the South American Zone.
Just one month earlier, Brazil had suffered their first-ever defeat in the qualifying competition, 2-0 away to Bolivia in La Paz, and the week before the return fixture had left the pitch to a barrage of booing after a 2-0 home win over Ecuador. However, showing the strength of will and unity that would end up taking them to glory at USA 1994, Brazil’s first world crown for 24 years, A Seleção put La Verde to the sword in a 6-0 success.
Yet despite the emphatic nature of that win, the defining moment came when the players entered the field hand-in-hand prior to kick-off. This gesture of togetherness was repeated before each match right through to 17 July 1994, the day they edged Italy on penalties to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy for a fourth time.
Fast-forward 16 years and Dunga, the captain of that team, is the head coach of the Brazil squad looking to claim a sixth world title at South Africa 2010. And since taking the reins in 2006, the former midfielder has worked tirelessly to instil the same ideals of fighting spirit and teamwork that served so well in 1994.
“I don’t think I’ll ever see a squad with the same team spirit as that Seleção,” he said when interviewed in Johannesburg. “Back in 1994 we were subject to distrust, threats, controversy, criticism... it was almost inhuman. But the spirit, willpower and joie de vivre of that group was similar to the squad we have in 2010.”
From the pitch to the dugout
Such similarities are inevitable, given that Dunga was very much a leader and on-the-field coach back in 1994. Moreover, accompanying him here at South Africa 2010 are two former team-mates of Dunga from that USA triumph in the shape of assistant coach Jorginho and recently appointed scout Claudio Taffarel.
“In every training drill and exercise I see a huge amount of commitment, and I saw that same level of desire in 1994: the determination that Dunga, Taffarel and I experienced first-hand", said Jorginho. “There are no egos, they all fight for each other. That was our strength back then (in 1994),” added Taffarel.
Another member of the class of 1994 currently in Johannesburg, working as a TV commentator, is Dunga’s former partner at the heart of A Seleção midfield: Mauro Silva. “Dunga’s already been there and done that. He’s already won the World Cup, he’s lifted the Trophy. So, he can say that ‘lads, this is the way to win it’, and nobody could doubt that he knows what he’s talking about,” he said in an exclusive interview with FIFA. “His (footballing) philosophy is a good reflection of his personality: he’s serious, hard-working and above all a winner.”
Indeed, the current Brazil squad will not have to look far for inspiration, as captain Lucio, of UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan, explained: “It was at the exact moment that Dunga lifted the World Cup (in Los Angeles’ Rose Bowl) when I began dreaming of playing for the Seleção and being crowned world champions.”