USA vs. Brazil: 2 soccer nations, one common philosophy
LANDOVER, Md. — The world of soccer never thought it would see the day, but, yes, a US national team manager was recently in Brazil instructing the best Brazilians how to play modern soccer.
US national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann was invited by former New York manager Carlos Alberto Parreira to participate in a coaching seminar last December featuring all the coaches of the Brazilian first and second divisions, as well as Mano Menezes, Klinsmann's national team counterpart.
The discussion revolved around how the footballing giants could evolve to keep up with the times: cling to the traditional Brazilian panache to win or adopt the two-way soccer of current days?
"They have to realize that over the last couple of years they’ve kind of missed the train," Klinsmann said about Brazil in his pregame press conference ahead of the match against the South American giants on Wednesday night (8 pm ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). "Spain dictates the tempo in the world of soccer. So [the Brazilian coaches were asking], 'What have we done wrong the last couple of years in Brazil?'"
Klinsmann pointed out how Menezes has already adopted the modern high-pressure system that seeks to win the ball back immediately, preferably in the opponent's half. Brazil employed it to perfection in last weekend's 3-1 win over Denmark when the Samba Boys didn't let the Danes "breathe a second in their own half" on their way to an early 2-0 lead.
What might be hard to fathom is that the current transformation underway in Brazilian soccer adopts the same principles that the former German great is attempting to implement with the US. Ironically, it's the same system that the US will try to use to beat the No. 6-ranked team in the world on Wednesday.
No wonder American forward Jozy Altidore predicts that the match at FedEx Field is going to be "high tempo and back-and-forth" between the two sides.
"It’s something very difficult for us Brazilians to assimilate, because we became accustomed to winning a certain way," Menezes told media in his pregame press conference on Tuesday. "In our estimation, that [old] way is not going to take us to the next World Cup title in 2014. It’s necessary we go through this change. We need the ability to pressure the ball more and do it in the opponent's half more than we've historically done.
"Brazil has always had great quality on the ball and a lot of creativity, but the team always waited for the opponent in [Brazil's] own half and then started to build its attack," continued Menezes. "But our opponents are not giving up the ball as easily as they did in the past. If we don’t pressure and have tighter marking, we’re not going to get the change we are trying to achieve."
Menezes, whose first game in charge of the Seleção came in New Jersey last summer against Bob Bradley's USA, and Klinsmann shared lunch during that December visit by the US manager. But they share more than that today: the same soccer philosophy and the same soccer mission.
Klinsmann went as far as imploring that the Brazilian media and the country's fans support Menezes through the process of guiding the team to the 2014 World Cup which will be hosted by the South American nation. He backed Menezes in December and he reiterated his support once again on Tuesday.
"I wish Klinsmann would come more often to Brazil, because it’s not that often that people come there to say good things about the national coach," Menezes said. "I’m glad to see someone coming and saying good things.
"He's a gentleman," Menezes said about Klinsmann. "He's very knowledgeable and he made history as a player and now he's making history as a coach. I’m very glad that it's him coaching the US and it's me coaching Brazil."