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Dunga punished with unfair axe

By | 5th July 2010

Five-time world champions Brazil have acted quickly to relieve head coach Dunga of his duties. Perhaps this will go down as one of the most inexplicable of all sackings once all is said and done in South Africa this summer, but back in Brazil, only celebrations will follow Dunga’s departure. Despite the former Brazil captain’s efforts to create a mentality that prioritized results over everything else, the supporters have never been pleased with the way the team has stopped playing the Joga Bonito brand of football under his leadership.

When Zinedine Zidane’s brilliance humbled a highly fancied Brazilian squad in 2006, the management at the time was overhauled to make way for Dunga. Although he was initially considered by many to be too inexperienced to lead a squad of Brazil’s stature, it was clear from the moment go that the man knew the dressing room inside out. Having been a successful player at the highest level not too long ago, he could relate to players and communicate with them a lot more effectively than his predecessors.

Therefore, it came as no surprise when the Brazilians lifted the Copa America in 2007, merely a year into Dunga’s managerial reign. That wasn’t enough for Brazilian fans to fully embrace him, though. Throughout the qualification phases of this summer’s World Cup, they remained critical of his conservative strategies and accused him of taking entertainment out of Brazilian football. Dunga stayed unphased, though. The team he was leading had traveled way past Ronaldinho’s dribbling sensation and Adriano’s magical shooting.

He wasn’t afraid to keep bringing in fresh faces who would give their all to get Brazil past the finishing line, regardless of the manner in which they did so. Take the final of last summer’s Confederations Cup, for example. The Brazilians did not look pretty en route to winning that trophy. In fact, after falling behind 2-0 to the United States at half-time, the team had to come from behind to grind out a 3-2 result. That night, Dunga proved that to this new Brazil squad, results were all that mattered.

The Samba Kings had to battle their way towards qualification for the World Cup and throughout that journey, fans chose to distance themselves away their coach. Rather than noticing how players like Maicon, Elano, and Felipe Melo (yes, even after that fiasco against the Netherlands) contributed to the new-found toughness of a Brazilian side that has traditionally lacked physicality, most supporters just waited to tear him apart at the rare occasion when the team disappointed. Why blame anything else when Dunga is the perfect scapegoat, right? Well, that was precisely the mentality of most Brazilians.

My respect for Dunga’s no-nonsense mentality should not be mistaken for bias, though. If one thinks carefully about Brazil’s performance in this World Cup, it should become clear right away that Dunga’s team played with a lot more passion, confidence, and poise than the team that was dismantled by over-confidence as well as Zidane’s heroics in 2006. The CONMEBOL giants took care of business by winning their group and then won 3-0 in an emphatic fashion against South American rivals Chile. How much more can Dunga entertain? I mean, after all, the other teams are competing too and this is the best he can do in a results-oriented environment.

The single result that didn’t go the Brazilian way in South Africa was the aforementioned quarterfinal against Holland. Remember, though, that even in that fixture Dunga’s men led 1-0 at half-time through Robinho’s first-half strike. For their opponents to pull off a famous win, it took a stunning Wesley Sneijder-inspired comeback (as well as an awful night from Melo). Some may call it an upset but any informed football fan knows that Holland is capable of beating just about anyone on their day. Unfortunately, when it came to evaluating Dunga, his fate was sealed thanks to a shallow decision-making process.

Consider the circumstances of his fellow coaches, such as England’s Fabio Capello. Unlike Brazil, the Three Lions actually had a terrible showing in South Africa but even the usually judgmental FA chose to sit on this one. With veteran England internationals like Gary Neville urging England to retain the experienced Italian coach, Capello was granted another chance to prove his credentials a few days ago. Dunga, having done a lot better with Brazil, was not afforded any such priveleges.

As a result of receiving no benefit of the doubt, the talented young coach now finds himself joining the likes of Marcello Lippi and Raymond Domenech (whose teams were humiliated in the World Cup this summer) out the national team door. If it makes Dunga and his proponents feel any better, though, there are certainly great things lined up in his future. A man who strives to bring an effective mentality to his team should never have a hard time finding any suitors!

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