A thumbs down: Parriera and Zagalo should resign
Soccerblog has been on record being critical of Alberto Parriera much before the World Cup began. In fact, our criticism stems from the way that the1994 World Cup was won in the ugliest final in the ugliest possible way. Brazil beat Italy in a penalty shootout in one of the dreariest matches in history after being scoreless at the end of extra-time.
The coach was Alberto Parriera and the player that embodied his new philosophy to win at any cost, was Dunga. A player who famously said that the “day of e jogo bonito were over.” Dunga was an enforcer, a player who cared very little of the quality of play, but was in charge of carrying out the new Parriera and Zagalo policy. In his days players were actually punished by being benched if they showed their brilliance in soccer skills . The new change in philosophy was a consequence of the losing Tele Santana Brazil teams of 1982 and 1986, possibly one of the best Brazilian squads to have never won the World Cup with players like Zico, Socrates, Eder, Falcao, who brought a joie vivre to their game with their attacking flair but were also susceptible to the defensive breakdowns. Santana’s mantra was the it was better to lose playing attractive soccer than win at all.
The change brought to an end the days of personality driven activist coaches like Santana and Joao Saldanha, who as a member of the Brazilian Communist party, famously included players that the the military junta in power opposed in the 1970 squad. Saldanha was replaced by Mario Zagalo, an establishment man. That squad went onto win the World Cup, and is considered the best soccer team in history, with players like Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele, and Gerson. In his 1977 autobiography, Pele writes that Zagallo initially restricted his team from playing their attacking game at the 1970 World Cup. Based on a chess format, Zagallo organized a sophisticated method, which he ultimately had to abandon due to player complaints.
The pressure to bring back the World Cup was enormous after having last won it in 1970. The changes that Parriera and Zagalo brought was on display in 1994. It was boring but effective soccer as the Brazilians were content to score the minimum number of goals. The Italians in the final were flabbergasted to see this new version of Brazil in the finals, playing just like them, on the lookout for that one goal. and then falling back on defense. Except that the Brazilians beat the Italians at their game, playing stifling defense led by Dunga, Roberto Carlos, and Cafu. The
In 1998, the French outplayed Brazil in the final 3-0, with Mario Zagalo as coach. Ronaldo had a mysterious fit the night before in the hotel and it showed in the final where a listless Brazilian attack was held off by a resurgent French defense led by Lillian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit, and Marcel Desailly.
There is a theme through all of these matches that Brazil has lost; a play safe, unambitious, and ultimately ineffective attack that has let them down. The big change was brought in for the 2002 WC, when Felipao Scolari was brought in and in 4 years, nurtured the three R’s; (Rivaldo, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho). With his strong personality, he demanded a lot of autonomy as a coach in his choice as players. The same way we see him with the Portugese players, encouraging talents like Cristiano Ronaldo, Miguel, Deco, Tiago, and Simao. The 2002 world Cup saw exhilarating play by Ronaldinho and Ronaldo and they won against Germany (albeit a Ballack-less one and with Oliver Kahn’s bad judgement)
The result of 2006 really should not be a surprise. The duo that has succeeded in devoiding the Brazilians of any meaningul attack or flair were back again. Parriera and Zagalo. They have been suspicious of new talent (Robinho and Giberto Silva) up front. A Brazilian attack that had only one shot on goal in the 90+ minutes tells its story. An attack led by a pedestrian Ronaldinho who looked short of ideas and innovation. The same was true for Kaka and Juninho as they just seemed a step slow. Roberto Carlos and Ze Roberto were content blasting the ball upfield with no other idea other than getting lucky, like a hail Mary.
The 1994, 1998, and 2006 World Cups. The years that the Brazilian attack did not perform and the years that the Parriera- Zagalo combine were their coach. Will we even remember any of these squads with any affection or awe?
The Tele Santana inspired days might have not seen Brazil win their World Cups but their squads elicit a great deal of awe and reverence in those who treasure the way soccer is supposed to be played. If it is the Germans or the next Ghana or Cameroun that we are now looking to play like Brazil, then the days of soccer ahead of us are dark indeed. It is time to bring back the beautiful in Brazilian soccer and not leave it to the Joga ads.