Dunga

A curious thing has happened to Brazil and Germany over the last decade: they have become each other. After losing the 1998 final, Brazil decided–quite consciously, some insist–that jogo bonito had to become jogo para ganhar. They eventually hired Dunga, who always did play the sort of strong football, with some technical flair, usually seen in Munich and not in Rio. It’s been a long time since Brazil has had a truly magical player. Ronaldo could certainly be amazing. I once asked Rafael Márquez what it was like to try to defend against Ronaldo in his prime.

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In his post about Dunga, Frank notes, “the popular conception of Brazil (the country, as well as the national soccer team) is at odds with its history.” In one way, though, Dunga’s 2010 squad reflects one of the most important trends in modern Brazilian history: the explosion of evangelical Protestantism. As the Washington Post noted a few years ago: “The number of those who identified themselves as evangelicals in national census counts doubled, to more than 26 million people in this country of about 185 million.”   Evangelicals have also risen to prominence in the national team.

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The World Cup is but a couple of weeks away, and, if you are not trembling with anticipation, now is the time to start. There has never been a World Cup like the one about to take place in nine South African cities: For the first time ever, the greatest soccer tournament is being held in Africa.

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Alex has launched a wonderfully entertaining all-out assault on Brazil. I had planned on issuing a rebuttal and intend to return to the subject soon. In the meantime, I want to recommend this insightful (if somewhat meandering) post from the blogger santapelota. No country's game has been as sentimentalized as Brazil's--and santapelota does a nice job of parsing the reality of joga bonito from its hype.   To be fair, the fatuous Nikeisation of Brazil's footballing image in recent years has done much to support his argument against ball-juggling, irresponsible street entertainers.

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Anyone But Brazil

Hello everyone. It's nice to be back and thank you, Frank, for the invitation to join this merry throng once again. You ask: Who will win this thing? The sensible answer, I suppose, is to say that either Spain or Brazil will carry the trophy home. On paper they are comfortably the two most accomplished squads in the tournament. But, as the television pundits always remind us, soccer ain’t played on paper.  Nevertheless, should it be a Brazil-Spain final, I very much hope that Spain will prevail. I am, you see and I am afraid, bored of Brazil.

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