Everyone expected a yellow massacre in La Plata on Sunday. It was the first official match that Brazil would play after elimination in South Africa last year. The opposition was the weakest team in South America. The favorites had a brand new generation that already gets offers by giants as the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan and Chelsea. When the whistle was blown, the football display turned out to be real tough. Tough to watch, some might say. So tough that the biggest highlight of Brazil 0 - 0 Venezuela came during half time, when coach Cesar Farias ran after starlet Neymar and got pushed around by Seleçao players.
On the field, Brazil hit the bar once in an awkward shot by Alexandre Pato in the first half. And that was pretty much it. Venezuela offered no risk to Brazil’s Julio Cesar, but their middle marking was so effective that even Seleçao’s defender Thiago Silva dared instructing his team’s attackers. “We should try getting in from the sides”, he said after the first 45 minutes – as if it weren’t obvious. Well, it seems it really wasn’t, because in the second half he tried to show it himself at times. Robinho, Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso didn’t seem to get it. They preferred to dribble a couple of Venezuelans in the middle so they could lose the ball to the third one – who most often was a player that couldn’t do anything with the ball anyway.
Not that Brazilians actually care about this competition – they only celebrate world titles – but if Menezes loses the trophy, there will be a bumpy ride for him until London 2012.
All the flair promised by the generation that wants to take Brazil to its sixth World Cup title was far from reality. “We were too slow and too obvious”, said coach Mano Menezes. His team was booed after the poor performance – alright, there were thousands of Argentinians there, but the guys in yellow really deserved it this time. Venezuelan keeper Renny “calamity” Vega barely touched the ball all match long and wasn’t even shot on by long distance. “They wanted to dribble until they reached our net. They will have more respect next time”, said coach Farias, who leads a team with five players from the club his brother works and none from Deportivo Táchira, the main force of local football in the oil drilling nation.
That result forces Brazil to win at least one of the two next matches to qualify for the next round. First comes Paraguay and then, Ecuador – two teams that also had a goalless draw on Sunday, but recently did something Venezuela never could: play in a World Cup. First and second places of each group will be in the next phase. The best two out of the three third places will also go through. Copa America is an important test to coach Menezes, who has a limited international experience and no great display to brag about since he took the job from Dunga. Not that Brazilians actually care about this competition – they only celebrate world titles – but if Menezes loses the trophy, there will be a bumpy ride for him until London 2012.
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