Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Always the Favorites

Somehow, I managed to bet on Chile yesterday:
Playing against Brazil is an absolute nightmare. I can’t think of a score in my favor at which I’d begin to relax: 5-0, 7-0? Let’s be honest—most teams see that canary yellow jersey and quietly shit themselves. At last year’s Confederations Cup, the U.S. was up two goals at the half, and promptly gave the game away. For their part, Brazil never appeared too concerned, and the final score could hardly have been less surprising. It was, in fact, nothing less than the same old story. My entire life, I’ve been watching Brazil play poorly and win consistently. They are the rare team that never seems to be in control of the game, though they always are. The truth is they’re not playing the same game as their opponents. They’re playing something else, a sport related to soccer, but entirely different. In their version of the sport the rest of us know, if they score one on you, they’ll score three. Once you’re forced to chase the game—as Chile was today—they’re more than happy to tear you to pieces.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile, to their credit, were not afraid. They played the same attractive, attacking style they’ve shown all tournament long; but unfortunately for them, they also displayed the same goal-scoring futility that plagued them in the group stage. (Chile got this far on the strength of only two goals.) You can’t beat Brazil squandering opportunities. You have to score early, and often. You have to make them come to you. You have to force their defenders to play defense full time, without giving them a chance to make those lethal runs up the wings. And most importantly, you have to beat them for a solid ninety minutes. How many times have I seen Brazil be thoroughly dominated for eighty-five minutes, and walk off the pitch smiling and victorious, as if they found the entire spectacle amusing?
On the plus side for those of us who like some variety in our champions, the Netherlands has had some big wins over the Brazilians through the years.

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