Shortly after his appointment as Brazil coach for the second time in his career, Dunga announced that he was creating the post of occasional assistant coach, one that would see a leading figure join the team for a few days at a time, for tournaments and back-to-back friendlies.
The first person he invited to fill the position was none other than Mauro Silva, his former midfield partner in the side that won Brazil their fourth world title at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™.
Mauro was only too happy to accept, and judging by everything he had to say in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the Brazil players will have a lot of interesting things to take in when he joins up with the coaching staff for the friendlies with Colombia and Ecuador in the USA in early September.
FIFA.com: Given that you’re going to be working with the team for just a few days at a time, is it fair to assume that you’ll be focusing more on the atmosphere in the camp and the way in which the squad goes about its business than what goes on out on the pitch?
Mauro Silva: That’s right. I won’t be in a position to assess anything to do with the style of play and things on the pitch until we get to the USA. What they’ve been looking at right from the start is how the team goes about its work. Dunga and Gilmar have been open to suggestions right from the off and they’ve made a good start. I hope to be able to make a contribution, because I’m a real perfectionist and throughout my career I’ve always done everything I can to improve. I achieved big things with Bragantino, a side that doesn’t usually win titles, and I did the same at La Coruna. Even with A Seleção I’ve been involved in teams that went through some tough spells but came out on top.
Have you learned a lot from having a successful career with smaller clubs?
You always face bigger obstacles when you play for a smaller club. The most that La Coruna ever aspired to was the UEFA Cup, but despite that we went on to win the Spanish league, the Spanish Super Cup and two Copas del Rey. We also made five appearances in the Champions League and we reached the semi-finals. When you play a part in a big turnaround like that, you learn things that help you understand what winning is all about. In those kind of situations the team has to come first, and you have to be optimistic while trying to avoid getting carried away. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. In the army they say that pessimism is tantamount to high treason, and it’s the same in football.
In the wake of Brazil’s heavy defeat to Germany, can the national team’s current situation be compared to the one in which A Seleção found itself in 1994: under fire and having gone 24 years without a world title?
The first thing I’d say is that no one overcomes adversity better than this coach. We came in for so much criticism in 1990 and Dunga was dubbed a failure. It was known as the “Dunga era” and you can compare it in a way to the 7-1 defeat to Germany. A lot of people said he wouldn’t be back, but he showed them by returning as the captain who lifted the Trophy four years later. There’s no better inspiration for this team than Dunga. It was a tough defeat to take and it’s left a mark, there’s no doubt about that. At the same time, though, it could be an opportunity. We had a huge amount of pressure on us in 94. I remember one qualifying match at the Morumbi when we got booed for the whole 90 minutes even though we were at home and we were winning (a 2-0 defeat of Ecuador on 22 August 1993). Experiences like that are all good for you. They toughen you up. They’re an inspiration for the players who’ll be in the team in Russia in 2018 and who’ll be going for the title to make up for this defeat.
Winning the world title did not stop the 1994 team from being criticised in Brazil. Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that quite a few members of that side have since gone into football management?
I’m maybe not the right person to ask because I’ve always admired everyone in that team. A lot of us have stayed involved in football. It was a very stable group and you had to be mature, analytical and responsible. It was a time when we had to sit down and really think about what we had. The team was very strong in terms of organisation and planning because we knew the assets we had. Up front we had Bebeto and Romario, with Muller, Viola and Ronaldo on the bench. We knew our front line was very strong and we adapted our tactics to that. I know we played for results, but we’d gone 24 years without the title and we were very aware of that.
What kind of state is Brazilian football in after the World Cup? Is it a case of the country’s players being less talented today?
A result like that is always going to attract people’s attention but the situation at club level in Brazil is pretty clear. We need to strengthen the championship so that we can carry on nurturing players the way we’ve always done. We’ve got huge potential, in football and other areas, but we’re not making the most of it. Why is that? I went to Europe when I was 24, but today we’re seeing 19-year-olds who want to leave. Why aren’t we in a position to create a better product, a league that players want to stay in, like the NBA, for example? I think we’ve got the ability to do that.
So the quality of the players was not the main reason for Brazil’s World Cup defeat?
To my mind, 2014 was an emotional experience more than anything else and I think that weighed heavy on people. The players felt a lot of pressure about playing at home. They’re a young side and they lacked the cool head you need. I remember arriving in the USA in 94 and when you switched on the TV or went out in the street it wasn’t all about football, the World Cup and the national team. You were able to switch off a bit. Here, you just can’t get away from it. Whether it’s a light entertainment programme, advertising or whatever, all you get is the World Cup. We saw that for ourselves whenever we got together in the qualifiers. It all came to a head before the Uruguay game, which we had to win to qualify for the finals. I remember arriving at the Santos Dumont (Rio de Janeiro Airport) and the taxi drivers swearing at us. We really went through it. It’s a bit like experiencing the pressure of the Uruguay game but for 50 straight days. You don’t have the chance to switch off mentally. People should remember that Germany didn’t win the World Cup when they hosted it, and neither did Italy.
Was there any team or tactical development that caught your eye at the World Cup?
What caught my attention was how many changes we saw, with teams trying to catch each other out. They really studied each other hard. Everyone had a plan to cancel the opposition out and because of that we saw a lot of changes in the way teams played. But for all that, there’s one thing that needs to be pointed out, and that’s the fact that Spain have won a lot of things recently by playing the same way with a core of players who’ve been together for a long time and who train all year round at Barcelona. We’ve seen the same thing with this Germany side and Bayern Munich. Given all the chopping and changing we see, I think that makes a big difference.