World Cup 2014 Betting: Brazil looking shaky
Ganso is an archetype, and an example of the problems of Brazilian football.
Jonathan Wilson is distinctly unimpressed with this Brazil side after a slightly laboured win over Bosnia-Herzegovina, seeing a long road of hard work ahead for coach Mano Menezes in the lead up to them hosting the 2014 World Cup.
There's always need for caution when assessing 'friendlies', but the fact is that Brazil, for the next two and a bit years, will have nothing else to go on.
That's the disadvantage of holding the Copa America the year after the World Cup.
It may attract more attention than it would if it clashed with the Euros, but it also means that when a South American team hosts the World Cup, it must endure three years of largely meaningless games in preparation. Anybody who watched Tuesday's 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina, though, may think it's just as well they have so long to prepare. Certainly at this stage, the [4.6] on offer for them to be champions looks dreadfully short.
Mano Menezes's side is supposedly a Brazil returning to its roots, turning its back on the physicality and snarling midfielders of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga and embracing once again a fluid, short-passing game. The bobbly pitch in St Gallen didn't help, but this was as far from fluency as its possible to get.
There were nods to the Brazil of stereotype -- a goal from an overlapping full-back and some comically bad defending (although the idea of Brazil's inability to defend is something of a myth: they've actually conceded fewer goals per game at World Cups than (West) Germany) - but that aside, this was another stodgy, fitful performance, a win salvaged only by Sasa Papac's late own goal.
While that was unfortunate, and largely attributable to a divot, there had been a sense it had been coming, as the second-half arrival of Paulo Henrique Ganso to replace Ronaldinho shifted the game in Brazil's favour. At 22, Ganso is young and exciting, but his success brings with it a great sigh of familiarity.
For the truth is that Ganso is an archetype, and an example of the problems of Brazilian football. He suffered injuries last season, but excelled in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final as Santos beat Penarol. He went to the Copa America with the hopes of the nation of his shoulders - and did nothing. Defences that squeezed tight on him, that played a pressing game, seemed to leave him bewildered. He could not cope with the physical attention he received from - particularly - Paraguay. It would be absurd to blame him for Brazil's quarter-final exit, but not more absurd than to expect him to somehow carry Brazil to glory in two years time. "He is winning back confidence, the confidence that we always had that he could be one of the great midfield creators that Brazilian football has produced in the last few years," said Menezes.
Neymar, the Mohican-haired 20-year-old, of course is the other great young hope, another member of that Santos side. He is talented, of course, but he too could probably do with a year of toughening up in Europe before the tournament -- and he is not helped by the likes of Pele overhyping him.
"He struggled to adapt to the game, to understand how to play against opponents with those characteristics," Menezes acknowledged.
In some ways, though, the bigger problems are defensive. Lucio, at last, has been written off as too slow - something that was clear in the Copa America as he laboured to cover for the surges of Dani Alves. Thiago Silva remains arguably the best central defender in the world, but he requires a partner. On the evidence of Tuesday, it is not David Luiz, a player prone to wandering upfield at unpredictable intervals and seemingly incapable of holding a basic defensive line. Perhaps Dede, the much-hyped 23-year-old Vasco da Gama centre-back, will prove the answer.
For Bosnia, meanwhile, it was another case of crumbling at the last when something significant was in reach. A draw against Brazil is neither here nor there in the greater scheme of things, of course, but to concede an injury-time own-goal after successive play-off defeats in qualifiers begins to seem like a pattern. Drawn with Greece,
Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying, though, and with a side reaching maturity they will rarely have a better chance of reaching the finals. They are [3.4] to top their group.