Reda Maher

How Big Phil’s functional class of 2014 trump Brazil’s 1982 icons

Reda Maher

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On Thursday,'s Laurent Vergne spoke to Brazilian football expert Gustavo Roman about the team of 1982, rated as one of Brazil's greatest but unable to win the World Cup.

After that conversation, the transcript of which was kindly provided by my French colleague, I've sought to contextualise the free-flowing, aesthetically-pleasing, but ultimately failed team with the one that will face Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.


Brazil's 1982 vintage was regarded as one of the best teams to don the gold jersey. But, at that summer's World Cup in Spain, they lost 3-2 to Italy and were eliminated at the second-round group stage.

The nation, expecting the likes of Falcao, Zico and Socrates to win the tournament, remains shocked to this day. But Roman, who studied that team in detail, was less surprised.

"The team was great with the ball, but had its issues, as every team has," Roman told Laurent. "There is no such thing as a perfect team, and we were shown then.

"If I had to put it in four words, I would say 'great team, poor tactics'. It started the conversation that we would have in 1994 and 2002 - do we play beautifully and lose, or ugly and win?"

That conversation is being had right now, with Luiz Felipe Scolari's side not the most entertaining Brazil but still squeezing out results, including Friday's 2-1 quarter-final win against the free-flowing Colombians, whose wonderful style has earned many admirers at this World Cup.

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Despite having stars like Socrates in the team, Brazil failed in 1982

Roman has written a book about Sarria, where that fateful Italy match was played, where some Brazilians claim football 'died'. The focus of his books - including 'Seleccao 1982' - is what exactly was going on with that Brazil team, and why they lost when everyone expected them to win easily.

"The way they passed the ball, played the game, it was beautiful. If you watch it not as an analyst, but as a football fan, it's really delightful.

"And everybody has a 'selective memory' that means you only remember the good things and forget about everything that went wrong.

"That's where the book Sarria comes in. To remind them that despite being great with the ball, the team had problems that weren't solved in the two years they had to work together (before the World Cup)."

And this current Brazil team does exactly that - it works.

Despite being accused of lacking that romantic, attacking quality, tonight Brazil is enveloped by joy after Felipao's functional Seleccao battled through in Fortaleza.

While undoubtedly blessed with fine players such as Neymar and the irresistible defender/midfielder/forward [delete as applicable] David Luiz, the team has been criticised for a lack of creative spark in midfield.

But against the Colombians, Brazil's more workmanlike outfit cut off the supply at source, with James Rodriguez - the star of this World Cup - stifled by the likes of Paulinho. They also created plenty of chances, particularly in a frantic first half that should have seen them three up by the break.

And the much-maligned Fred gave Brazil the physical presence they needed up front - although him and Hulk should have scored.

After Colombia pulled one back, Brazil were hanging on in the end, but they got through - which is more than can be said for the classic side of '82.

"After the defeat in 1982, the whole country was devastated. It was a time when we did not have the kind of knowledge about all the other teams that we do today. Besides, we had great players in our team and we were playing well, especially in 1981.

"The TV station that had rights for the World Cup also made everyone believe that the team was invincible. You can imagine what happened after the defeat.

"Search on google images for the Correio da Tarde of July 6. The first image is a photo of a boy crying. That's how the country felt."

Not tonight.

Interview by Laurent Vergne - follow on Twitter, read his articles on (French)

Edited by Reda Maher - follow on Twitter, read all his blog posts here

Eurosport's Laurent and Reda are both in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

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