Luis Fabiano

Of all the match-ups, the most intriguing one (by a narrow margin) is Brazil-Holland. For one thing, they have a nearly identical tactical formation: two holding midfielders in De Yong and Van Bommel for Holland and Melo (or Ramires) and Silva for Brazil, a linking attacking midfielder in Kaka (Brazil) and Sneijder (Holland), four in the back, and a single man up top (Van Persie and Luis Fabiano) supported by pacey wingers.

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You play soccer. You have a team, some decent players. You’re ambitious. Good for you. Now, attempt the following: When the whistle blows and the match begins, jog around the pitch slowly, laconically, grinning the entire time. Your body language should express an indifference to the game itself. In fact, let your opponent control the pace, let them have possession, let them think they’re in charge. When you do get the ball, pass it around a little, just to see how it feels. Isn’t the stadium pretty under the lights? Smile. Mostly, though, wait. Be patient.

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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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