BRASILIA – Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo gave Brazilian fans a taste of what they were missing as he marked his 100th international appearance by orchestrating his side’s 2-1 win against Mexico in the Confederations Cup on Sunday.
Report by Supersport.
The notoriously difficult to please Maracana crowd was united in its adulation of the 34-year-old, appreciating the sort of player their own country has struggled to produce and even shunned.
Pirlo’s role as a deep-lying playmaker is an alien concept in Brazil, where any midfielder who sits just in front of the defence is expected to perform a purely destructive role.
Most Brazilian teams, including the national side, field two “guard dogs” in front of the back four, whose job is to snuff out danger and stop anything that moves, by fair means or foul. Tactical fouls, such as a tug of shirt or sneaky trip, are considered perfectly acceptable by such players, while venturing forward and helping the attack remains taboo. At the 2010 World Cup, coach Dunga used the brute force of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo in the centre of midfield, which gave plenty of protection to the defence but limited Brazil’s creative options, putting most of the burden on a half-fit Kaka.
Mano Menezes, who took over after the tournament, was more adventurous, and encouraged all his midfielders to attack but when he was sacked and replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari in November, there was a quick return to the old approach.
“I don’t go with this story that the defensive midfielders have to go forward all the time and try and score goals,” Scolari said shortly after taking over. “What we have to do is not concede goals.
“I don’t want my central defenders to be left in one-to-one situations, I’m not going to let it happen.” Brazilian critics believe that Chelsea midfielder Ramires has been left out of the Confederations Cup because he likes to charge forward, while Lazio’s Hernanes has been relegated to the substitutes bench for the same reason.