by Gabriel Calderon
I came up against Brazil at two FIFA World Cups™, in 1982 and 1990. I remember taking on an attacking and ambitious side, one that pushed loads of players forward in attack right from the off.
They were the best team at the tournament in Spain by some distance, but they refused to stop attacking against Italy (in their final second-phase group game) and ended up losing 3-2. And they only needed a draw! Back then they went down playing the football that their fans enjoy.
At Italy 1990 I came up against them again with Argentina in the Round of 16 and we deserved to go in 5-0 down at the break – Brazil were like a hurricane going forward! I remember sitting on the bench looking on and, though we always used to cheer on our team-mates, this time we were frozen to the spot. We couldn’t even summon the energy because Brazil were so much better than us.
At the interval Carlos Bilardo didn’t even say a word and we didn’t understand why. Then, just as we were leaving the dressing room he said, “Please, just stop giving the ball to the guys in yellow”. Then in the second half came a moment of genius from Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia scored. We somehow won an unbelievable game and they headed for home.
I say all this for one reason: Brazil have learned their lesson. Now they’re the team with the best defence at this competition, but without losing the attacking ability that’s always been their hallmark. I’d describe it like this: they defend like Dunga did and attack like Brazil.
In his playing days Dunga was different to the rest of the Brazilian team. He was the one charged with doing the work that wasn’t as flashy but was equally important: bringing balance to an overwhelmingly attacking team and fighting for every ball as if it was his last.
This Brazil team are like that too. They let you attack until you think you’ve got them where you want them. And once you start to grow in confidence and think you’re causing them problems they break on you and win the game. They’re the hot favourites to reach the Final, no doubt about it.
Finally, I wanted to praise the football Chile have played at this FIFA World Cup. At a tournament where most coaches have put defensive solidity first, the Chileans were the team that had the most to offer. They were ambitious and really took the game to their opponents. They’ve left their mark at these finals and gone out with their heads held high.