Whatever happened to the great Brazilian striker?

So ……. that happened. I am amazed it got a wikipedia page so soon. It certainly deserves one. Like a company meeting presentation would go, here are some salient features:

  • First time Brasil have conceded 7 goals in a match.
  • Equals their heaviest defeat ever.
  • First time a team conceded 7 goals in a WC semifinal.
  • First time a team conceded 5 goals in 18 minutes. This wasn’t managed by Zaire and El Salvador who managed to concede 9 & 10 goals respectively.
  • Most goals conceded by a team in the WC finals since Saudi Arabia let in 8 goals against Germany.
  • The Confederations cup curse continues. Brasil have managed to do this 4 times now!!!!

I could go on but you get my drift. Its easy for an arm chair critic to say this but Gene Hackman did a horrawful, to quote the “quotatious” Shaq, job in getting both the starting lineup and the tactics right. Even before “Mineirazo”, this Brasil was the most tactically indisciplined un-Scolari like Brasil side since probably forever. I have seen Somasundaram XI and Elliots Beach XI defend better. Time and time again, goof-ups were cleaned up the brilliant Thiago Silva, probably the only player who understood what the manager was trying to say. Out of the 4 goals conceded earlier, 3 were terrible mistakes by the full backs Alves and Marcelo. No wonder Scolari replaced Alves against the most attacking team in the cup until then. I am sure he would have replaced Marcelo if he had a better leftback too (maybe he should have played Ibra’s best friend instead). Having said all that the thing that most disappointed me was the lack of strikers in the Brasilian squad. The three strikers in the squad were, once again in ppt style:

  • Fred: A once upon at time decent striker who hasn’t been good enough for Europe for 5 years.
  • Jo: Was terrible everywhere in Europe except in Russia.
  • Hulk: Has managed just a goal every other game in the inferior leagues of Portugal and Russia.
The old saying beggars cannot be choosers couldn’t have been more apt for Brasil. These were the only strikers available. That is how horrible Brasil have been in producing strikers in the last decade. Absolutely no striker who would be chased by clubs like Madrid, Barca, Milan etc. There has not been a single goalscorer who was a force of nature like Adriano Leite was at the start of the noughties before he drank himself to retirement. From mid to late 80s to early noughties Brasil had an embarrassment of riches in strikers. The absolute peak was probably between 93 and 99 when Romario (Is there a better finisher than this guy? No offence Der Bomber), Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo leading the first tier of Brasilian strikers and guys like Mario Jardel, Sonny Anderson, Giovanni rounding up the bench. At the start of the millennium, Adriano was probably the only striker who could lay claim to that group but there were still workman strikers like Julio “the beast” Baptista, Luis Fabiano, young Fred who banged in the goals wherever they went. It was so difficult for strikers to get into the Selecao that the trio of Jardel/Anderson/Giovanni managed a total of just 37 caps between them. Baptista/Fabiano/Fred were certainly inferior to the aforementioned trio but they have managed 129 caps between them. Is there is a dearth of talent in Brasil or have strikers been made obsolete by the present tactical cycle? Is there a direct correlation between having the best strikers in the world and winning trophies for Brasil? Clearly, Brasil have 2 golden eras of success. First one was from 1958-1970 and the second from 1994-2004. In the first era, Brasil won 3 World Cups out of 4 and exited in the group stages in the other. They did not win any Copa Americas. To be fair, no one in Brasil really cared about the Copa America and the tournament was as organized as a bull in a china shop. From 1994-2004, Brasil have arguably had more success than before. They won 2 World cups, were finalists in the other (I still believe Brasil would have won had Ronaldo been fully fit), won 3 Copa Americas (the last one in 04 with virtually the 2nd string squad) and lost one other CA on penalties. The two sides were chalk and cheese in terms of their styles. Though fairly solid in defence, the Brasil of Pele were as attacking as anyone could be. They won the three finals alone by scores of 5-2, 3-1 and 4-1. Who the hell wins like that? In complete contrast, the Brasil of the 90s won by being very solid in defence. But one thing in common to both teams was their super striker force. The front-line was lead by Pele/Vava/Zagallo/Garrincha in the 60s and Romario/Bebeto first then Ri/Ro next in the 90s. All the aforementioned players are amongst the highest goalscorers for Brasil. Am I imagining things or is it making sense? Is it possible that Brasil go the way West Indies went after the 90s? Cricket fans will know, how really good fast bowlers like Sylvester Clarke and Franklyn Stephenson never got a decent run with the Windies (Stephenson never played Test Cricket) because Roberts/Garner/Holding hogged the limelight. Marshall carried the mantle once Garner and Holding retired and Walsh/Ambrose continued to keep the West Indies competitive till the late 90s. The fast bowlers never really came in the 90s and West Indies kept going from bad to worse to worst to …. well you get the point. Will this 7-1 be Brasil’s Maracanazo’s ashes from which the phoenix of Pele/Garrincha rose or Steve Waugh’s knockout punch in Jamaica from which West Indies have never recovered?

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