It seems hard to believe it was only 11 months ago that Dunga, Brazil's 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™-winning captain and current coach, masterminded an emphatic 3-0 victory over Argentina in the final of the Copa America. On Wednesday night, on home turf against the same opponents, the tactician was subject to the harshest wave of criticism in his long and fruitful involvement with the Seleção.
"So long, Dunga!" was just one of the discordious chants to fall upon the fiery coach's ears over the course of an anaemic second half. With the visiting Albiceleste dominating possession and threatening to break the deadlock via Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme, the 57,000 fans packed into the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte turned viciously on their team.
The man at the centre of the storm, however, refused to let the crowd's reaction get to him. "People can say what they want. This is Brazil and we never have an easy ride during qualifying," said Dunga. "Sometimes we've gone through the mill and ended up being crowned world champions. Reaching the finals is all that matters."
Players request patience
Unfortunately for Dunga, the national team's impressive trophy haul has had an inverse effect on their fans' tolerance of poor results. So, having followed up a friendly reverse to lowly Venezuela with a 2-0 away defeat by Paraguay, this tame draw at home to Argentina - their arch-rivals' first FIFA World Cup qualifying point on Brazilian soil - was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
And as the thousands of Brazilian supporters trudged dejectedly away from the stadium after the final whistle, with their team in fourth spot in the South American Zone standings, the air of optimism that had preceded the game was nowhere to be seen. "We're very sad about this result.
We didn't perform the way we wanted to and it's understandable that the fans went away unhappy
," said Inter Milan right-back Maicon afterwards.
"But I'd like to ask our fans for their patience, that's the key word. They must understand that we've just come up against two very tough opponents: Paraguay away and here against Argentina, who are one of the best teams around. We didn't pick up the results we wanted, but they need to give us time and understand that sometimes things don't go to plan."
On the same wavelength was club-mate Adriano, one of the few Brazilian players to be warmly applauded on leaving the pitch: "We did what we could, but we're not losing our heads. Now we've got a very valuable rest period ahead of the next round of matches. Brazil are a great team but they don't always have it easy. And it must not be forgotten that we were playing against Argentina."
Another player to plead for calm after the almost unprecedented show of ire from the Mineirao faithful was Gilberto Silva. "We didn't get the results we hoped for, but we're still in the race. Whoever thinks Brazil are out of the running is wrong," said the Arsenal midfielder. "Now we'll have a break and come back as strong as before. The supporters need to understand that nobody wants to win matches more than we do."
Their professional pride stung after these same supporters gave an ovation to Messi on his withdrawal one minute from time, the five-time world champions must now regroup and prepare for the climb back up the table. And, according to Dunga, the situation is by no means beyond repair: "We just need to win games and pick up points. The qualifying phase isn't over yet."