Spain the new benchmark, says Brazil’s Menezes
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 13 — Spain have surged ahead of Brazil to become the new benchmark for world football, and the only way to make up ground on the world and European champions is to follow their example and adopt a long-term approach, coach Mano Menzes told Reuters in an interview.
Menzes, however, dismissed the idea that the five-times world champions would copy Spain by playing without a recognised striker, pointing out that the number nine shirt was part of Brazilian football culture.
“It's a different type of football, they have worked on it for years and found their way of doing things,” Menezes said of Spain. “Before they became successful, they prepared hard and were already winning matches.
“It's obvious that there is a distance between them and us. We have started afresh in Brazil.
“The champions are always a benchmark and Spain are outlining the way football is played in the world. They make the rules today in the way Brazil have done in the past,” he added.
“Nobody can take on Spain on equal terms.”
Menezes also dismissed suggestions the Spanish passing game had become dull to watch.
“If they can beat everyone playing this way, it's up to the others to find a way of overcoming it,” he said
“Lots of teams have played possession-based football in the past, but in the way they do and the way that they keep the ball, nobody has done that.”
Brazil have drifted away from their swaggering, attacking style over the last few years, opting for a more physical and direct approach which reached its zenith under Dunga at the last World Cup.
Brazil's quarter-final exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2010 prompted a reaction against that type of play and Menezes decided it was time to implement a new philosophy.
“We mustn't copy Spain, we have to study how to play against them,” said Menezes.
One aspect of Spain's game that Brazil would not be copying was the so-called “false number nine” which basically involved playing without a recognised forward.
From the lumbering Serginho Chulapa in 1982 to the clinical brilliance of Ronaldo between 1998 and 2006, the striker has always been key figure for Brazil and Menezes said it would stay that way.
“Our football has always been based on the forwards, and culturally that is the way our fans want to see the team play. I don't see why we should give up on this simply because Spain were successful.
“We have to find a way of winning with forwards.”
Although Menezes talks of long-term planning, he faces a race against time with Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup.
He knows the fans will accept nothing less than a sixth world title.
Results and performance so far have been mixed, with a quarter-final exit in the Copa America last year adding to the pressure.
Menezes will also take charge of the Olympic side in London, featuring under-23 teams, and will again be under huge pressure to deliver Brazil's first gold medal.
Vanderley Luxemburgo was fired as both under-23 and senior coach after failure in Sydney and Dunga survived by the skin of his teeth after Brazil failed to bring home the gold in Beijing.
“There is always a pressure for results with Brazil, we can't live under the illusion that we can lose matches and that nothing will happen,” said Menezes.
“We cannot build a Brazilian national team by losing”.
Players such as Neymar, Alexandre Pato and Thiago Silva make Brazil strong title contenders but Menezes said that past experience showed nothing could be taken for granted.
“We have never won the Olympic Games and if you take a look back and look at the list of players who have taken part in the Olympics, we can see that it's not easy.
“The worst mistake we can make is to think we are favourites before we have played, that's the first step on the way to not winning.”
Menezes hoped that playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, a hugely promising but injury-prone playmaker of the type which Brazil have struggled to produce, could finally shine at a major event.
“What we want for Ganso, and what he wants as well, is that this period is different from the one we've had in the past,” said Menezes. — Reuters