Sunday, 25 November 2012

Samba Quest to Meet Expectations

Brazil is soon to become the centre of the world. Thriving amid a scintillating economic boom, and experiencing a cultural renaissance of sun and sand, the samba nation will soon play host to the two biggest sporting events on the globe. Not only will the FIFA World Cup arrive upon its golden shores in two years time, but the Olympics & Paralympics will follow in 2016. All would appear well, then. However, beneath the lyrical veneer of confidence, we see a nation struggling to meet the bloated expectations of a waiting world.

That much was evident in the recent sacking of Mano Menezes as Head Coach of the national football team. Despite overseeing a vast style overhaul in his two years at the helm, including the successful incorporation of Neymar into the national set-up, Menezes was unceremoniously sacked from his position earlier in the week; the national federation citing a need for "new methods" as its rationale. Such a knee-jerk move is indicative of the pressure being felt by many high-ranking sporting officials in Brazil, who, under pressure to succeed in the forthcoming home championships, are making moves that do not need to be made.

Menezes has already introduces "new methods" to Brazil. Inheriting a bedraggled, aging side in the aftermath of a dismal 2010 World Cup, Menezes' remit involved not only a changing of the faces, but also a fundamental adaption of style. Tweaking the more counter-attacking predominant ethos of predecessor Dunga, Menezes began an extended period of transition projected to last for the four-year period up to the 2014 World Cup. For many, it was clear that Brazil were on course to meet those objectives in the allocated time; hence the surprise at Menezes premature departure.

The former coach of Corinthians and Gremio, Menezes changed the Brazilian demographic more substantially than any manager in living memory; entrusting more home-based players within his squad, rather than high-status veterans plying their trade abroad. In this regard, players such as Neymar, Lucas Moura, and Jadson have become more prominent within the national set-up. With this accent on youthful, home-based prospects, it is clear that Menezes was working well towards his objective of a Brazilian paradigm-shift, but perhaps not with enough rapidity to satisfy a nation growing exponentially beyond its own comprehension.

This new-look Brazil ventured to the 2012 London Olympics with more purpose than any nation, determining to claim gold as a measure of development. With very few competitive fixtures to come over the next two-year period, and with the added burden of being the next host nation of the Olympics, Brazil approached the tournament with a refreshing desire. However, when trumped by an inspired Mexico in the Wembley Final, question were asked of Menezes. In Brazil, the manner of the Brazilian failure (with routinely average performances against relatively weak opposition), was of more pertinence than the brute failure itself. A Brazilian nation with increasing expectations, burgeoning dreams, growing desires would see this as more than a mid-term blip for the Menezes establishment.

Ultimately, it was the straw which broke the camels back. Despite success over Argentina in the Superclasico de las Americas this week, Menezes was relieved of his duties. With just under two years to go until the World Cup arrives, national officials are now staggering to find the correct appointment who, no doubt, will be charged with the same remit as Menezes. Rather like the whirlwind evolution of its economy, politics and culture over the past decade, Brazil takes a win-now approach with its football, the sacking of Menezes resting as an outward manifestation of an inward struggle. This sporting nation is increasingly burdened by the growing attention of an excited world.

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