Much has been written in the past around the ability of Brazilian players to adapt to life in the Premier League. It’s difficult to pontificate on the subject without lapsing into cliché – a challenge Rob Brown met manfully at the outset of this series. Rob was correct to point out cultural differences between the two countries. The punctuality of the Premier League training regime is at odds for a country for whom ‘antes tarda do que nunca‘ (‘better late than never’) is an ingrained cliché. I attended a graduation ball in Minas Gerais back in July and I was already yawning by the time we arrived at the event shortly before 1am.
Football is more of an art than a science in Brazil and its national league, Brasileirão, bears those traits for better and for worse. The league is temperamental to say the least. Not simply because of the amount of yellow and red cards you can expect to see, but the league table is capable of turning itself upside down from season to season. Most clubs are basket cases financially, which prevents any one team from dominating. Teams are generally very evenly matched; one or two astute signings can see you leap up the table. Cruzeiro, who have ostensibly fought relegation in the last 3 seasons, currently lead Serie A by 12 points.
The appointment of Marcelo de Oliveira Santos as coach and canny additions such as Dede and Everton Ribeiro has been enough to catapult them to champions elect. Yet it’s likely that Cruzeiro’s promising players will be picked off soon enough and they will have to start again. Meanwhile, Fluminense (1st in 2012) and Vasco da Gama (5th) are all in a relegation battle in 2013 due to tumultuous club politics. Again, without wishing to stereotype, the Brazilian game tends to be honed ‘na rua’ (‘in the street’) which isn’t necessarily conducive to the tactical rigidity often required in the Premier League.
Consequently, Brasileirão contains a fair sample of players who have tried their hand in the Premier League. It’s far too simplistic to say that Brazilians don’t “do” tactics, this is a nation with five World Cups after all. In truth, Brazil’s last two World Cup triumphs, in 1994 and 2002, weren’t achieved with anything close to the flair of the 1970 squad, who still leave a deep imprint on the popular perception of Seleção. Brazil has always been renowned for the flair that they have given the game. “Futebol art” and “jogo bonito” are football clichés applied to the nation. Yet Brazil are not as renowned as they ought to be for the quality of their “volantes” the Brazilian term for defensive midfielders. “O volante” literally means “the steering wheel.” Continue reading