Mockery of the Beautiful Game

For so many in the world, Brazil means the beautiful game, or "Joga Bonito." The thought of Brazil brings a smile to the face of many. The names of the great players like Pele, Garrincha, Ronaldo, and Romario, as well as highlight reel goals and tricks come to mind, but the fact of the matter is, Brazil is no longer that team, and hasn't been for many, many years.

When Brazil lost to Italy 3-2 in the second group phase of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Zico called it "the day football died," and for Brazil, he is right. Since then, Brazil has never come close to the side that dazzled so many.

Brilliant passing midfielders like Socrates, Falcao, and Zico were slowly replaced by big, physical holding players like Dunga and Gilberto Silva. Although the Brazilians have won the World Cup twice since "football died," they were uninspired performances that saw defensive tactics and anti-futbol prevail.

At the semifinal of France 1998, Brazil played Holland, the true owners of "Joga Bonito" who tried to play football, while Brazil simply knocked long balls to Ronaldo, who nipped a goal and Brazil ultimately won in a penalty shootout. In the 2002 World Cup, ridiculous play-acting by Rivaldo and scrappy victories of the likes of Turkey was anything but ideal for the Brazilians.

At Germany 2006, Brazil looked like they could become Brazil again with a star-studded line up featuring Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, and Adriano. Instead of wowing the world with their brilliance, the players were too egotistical and more concerned with partying and personal accolades than winning the World Cup.

Enter Dunga as coach, and now any remnants of what Brazil was are gone. The former Fiorentina midfielder instilled a defensive line up with two robust holding midfield players in order to play a counter-attacking style.

In the 2007 Copa America Final, Dunga and his men personified anti-futbol as they hacked Argentine stars Juan Roman Riquelme and Lionel Messi and counter-attacked to a 3-0 win. Now at the World Cup, Dunga has deprived Brazilians and the fans of their team of the joy they once had watching the team.

There was no room for Ronaldinho in the squad despite a resurgence at AC Milan, while the boss also left out the brilliant young Neymar simply to defy public desire. Surely it is Dunga's job to win football matches and he can play as he likes and select any 23 players he wants, but in Brazil it has been seen as an abomination, as many star players such as Socrates have come out to blast Dunga as his men.

On Sunday, during a 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast, the whole world saw what Brazil has become. Dunga acted as a petulant child on the touchline demanding cards for the opposing team and berating the referee at every chance. Brazilian players dove at the slightest touches from the African players, with Maicon and Kaka as the biggest culprits. In the second half, the game became a farce as Luis Fabiano scored a goal in which he handled the ball twice before being seen laughing with the referee about the incident afterwards.

For years, conspiracy theorists have ranted about the amount of fortuitous refereeing decisions and easy groups in Brazil's favor, and Fabiano's amicable moment with Stephane Lannoy over a clear act of cheating seen by millions will do nothing to quash such speculation.

Surely the Ivory Coast players were not without guilt either, with Ismael Tiote guilty of rough house tackling, while Kader Keita grabbed his face after Kaka elbowed him in the chest, resulting in a second yellow for the Real Madrid man.

The question is, what does this game say about the state of football? The stakes are so high that many teams are determined to do anything in order to win a match, such as negative tactics, diving, cheating, and repetitive fouling.

For many years, Argentina was the team known for wanting to win too much, and doing anything in order to achieve three points, but in recent years, that has changed. Argentina has provided the world with a 24-pass goal from Esteban Cambiasso against Serbia, a wonder goal to beat Mexico in extra time, and of course the best player in the world: Lionel Messi.

At Euro 2008 we saw a victory for football when Spain won the competition in style, and now at the first World Cup on African soil, we need another fancied side to go all the way again.

The African sides were once known for attacking football, but with European mercenaries like Eriksson at Ivory Coast and Lars Lagerbak at Nigeria, we have seen these teams become more organized, but practically unbearable to watch.

Diego, football needs you more than ever. Please show us that the beautiful games does indeed exist.

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