A World Cup at any level without Brazil often feels like a half effort. Its like birthdays without cake or summer holiday’s without the sun. But whilst the senior team gets ready to play host to the world next June, Brazil’s junior teams are struggling to make the grade. It comes at a time when Brazil has failed to qualify for the under 20 world cup in Turkey after finishing bottom of their group, ringing alarm bells across Brazilian football. Failure to qualify for the event, which Brazil are current champions, has been seen as a disgrace by the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) who launched an immediate investigation, with several people losing their jobs.
Former Brazil striker Bebeto, who starred alongside Romario in Brazil’s USA 1994 World Cup winning side, who was parachuted in by the CBF during January to oversee the transformation of the youth system, sensationally quit last month after only two months in charge stating that he didn’t have enough time to dedicate to the job. The former player is currently one of the three members on the local organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup that will be held in Brazil, as well as a state legislator in Rio de Janeiro. But many believe that Bebeto was unaware of the state of the youth game and the work needed to overhaul the setup from the ground up. The CBF itself has taken some heat over the Bebeto appointment, which was seen as a panic move as a reaction to the country’s poor showing in the South American U-20 Championship, the gateway to the Under 20 World Cup. Most blame the Brazilian FA entirely for the poor showing, stating that the CBF have been neglecting the U-20 side somewhat over recent years, but has been getting away with it thanks to some superb generations of talent
The issue is not around the production of new talented Brazilian youngsters but instead it’s a deployment problem with a lack of fresh ideas and forward direction. When Mano Menezes was brought in as the senior team national coach in 2010, he pinpointed the under 20 side as a problem. He appointed Ney Franco to the job who immediately began reorganising all levels of the junior game, its structure and coaching methods. But Franco’s departure to coach Sao Paolo in 2012 led to Under 17 manager Emerson Avila being promoted to the role and a reversion back to old habits and philosophies. Proper preparation time and training have fallen by the way side as the general approach changed with many believing that the team was good enough to qualify without it. Granted the team still possess some genuine talent in the form of Fluminense duo Wallace and Marcos Júnior, plus Sao Paolo’s Ademilson and even the star of Bebeto’s famous goal celebration, rocking the baby, his son Mattheus, is part of the squad. The team has skill and ability throughout but without direction and a winning formula the Brazil Under 20 team are a disorganised group, with little to offer. Evidence of this was seen during the South American U-20 Championship where Brazil let teams score weak goals against them and failed to create anything in return.
Emerson Avila was quick to blame the players for a lack of commitment which was shot down by former Brazilian internationalists like Ronaldo and Tostao as being a poor excuse. Emerson was quickly fired and replaced by Bebeto but with the former striker now leaving the role, its back to square one for the CBF. Bebeto’s only act during his time in charge was to appoint Alexandre Gallo from Nautico as new boss of the under-20. Gallo, a former defensive midfielder, is seen as one of Brazil’s new generation of coaches with new ideas and visions but will face an uphill struggle as boss if he doesn’t get the appropriate backing from the CBF. Now that the man who appointed him has left, Gallo will be concerned that his new boss (to be appointed) may have different plans which he doesn’t fit into. If this is the case, Gallo could be looking for new work before he has really had a chance to influence the team or its structure. The situation comes at the worst time for the CBF who are struggling to be ready for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, with stadiums half completed and infrastructure issues still a worry. The only silver lining for Brazil in this whole situation is that rivals Argentina are facing similar problems with their youth setup after also failing to qualify for the World Cup in Turkey but that will hold little favour with A Seleção (the selection, a nickname for the Under 20 team) fans. Whoever is brought in to replace Bebeto faces a tough task to get Brazil’s youth teams back on track and once again become the team that no one wants to face.
*Credit given to World Soccer Magazine’s Tim Vickery for elements of this article.