A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

Brazil going through the motions

Posted by ssbg on June 18, 2006


Posted by Mark Bechtel

MUNICH, Germany — After his side fell to Brazil 2-0, Australia coach Guus Hiddink noted that the Brazilians had to sit back and rely on the counterattack. He didn't seem to think it was a conscious decision on the part of the defending champs. "We made them play like that," Hiddink said. "We forced the World Cup winners to counterattack, which is [usually] the other way around."

He was right. For the second straight game, the Brazilians didn't play like a favorite, let alone a 5-2 favorite. Hiddink's Socceroos pressed them in the midfield, defended very well (especially Lucas Neill, who made several outstanding tackles at the back) and generally gave them a headache worse than one gets sitting in the middle of the raucous Brazil cheering section, as I was. The final scoreline flattered Brazil; it easily could have been beaten, but Australia lacked that one final killer touch. Most of Australia's shots were of the long-range variety, the kind that would inspire much pointing and shrieking "Oh my god! Did you see that?" were they to find the net.

Once again, Ronaldo looked a little — how shall we put it? — pleasantly plump for his own good. True, he summoned the energy to string together a handful of stopovers before slotting a square ball to Adriano for the first goal, but his once-clinical finishing seems to have disappeared (like so many mallomars from his pantry, one would guess by the look of him). The only time he put the ball in the net he ended up getting booked; referee Markus Merk (who's apparently polished his stainless steely glaze in hopes of inheriting Pierluigi Collina's mantel as the most intense ref on this or any other planet) had whistled the play dead and was only too happy to brandish his yellow card. (By the way, the final foul count was Australia 25, Brazil 9. Do with that what you will.)

The one thing Brazil did do very well — other than get fouled, or act like it did — was defend. Australia pushed the Brazilians and controlled large chunks of the game, but when it pushed forward it couldn't breach the backline anchored by Juan and Lucio.

After Spain's rout of the Ukraine and Argentina's dissection of Serbia and Montenegro, it became clear that there are a few other teams with a shot at winning this. You could write off Brazil's uninspiring 1-0 win over Croatia as a bad day. But two in a row? Suddenly winning Group E isn't the do-or-die proposition we all thought it would be for Italy and the Czechs — because the Aussies look almost as scary as the Brazilians.

So what do you make of it? Is Brazil just getting some bad play out of its system? Are the Brazilians making sure they have gas left in the tank for the knockout stages? Is there a better mononym than Fred? Are they so hell-bent on not showing their hand that they are dogging it against teams they know they can handle? Or are they really in trouble?



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