Menezes under pressure as countdown to 2014 continues
Published: 06.11.12 / Written by: David Gold
With Europe’s elite now fully into the swing of their campaigns to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the one nation whose spot is guaranteed are perhaps the ones with the most uncertainty hanging over them.
Brazil’s squad may never have been, and probably will never be, under as much pressure as they will be in two years’ time on home territory. No one knows that better than Mano Menezes. The last time Brazil hosted the World Cup, they missed out on the title to Uruguay. At that World Cup, in 1950, there was no knock out – it was a group stage style tournament and Brazil went into their final game of the competition needing to beat Uruguay to finish above them in the final group. The whole country was convinced that victory was not so much a question of ‘if’, but by how much. The squad were proclaimed World Champions on the eve of the match.
So they lost, 2-1, in what became known as the Maracanazo (the Maracana disaster). That defeat has left an indelible scar on Brazil’s football psyche, and so it was rather poetic that the man charged with banishing that memory by leading Brazil to World Cup glory in 2014 – Mano Menezes – should lose this summer’s Olympic football final to Mexico, also 2-1.
That defeat could end up proving decisive for Menezes. Despite helping Brazil progress from the dour, defensive unit of Dunga, Menezes’ Brazil have not fulfilled the promise they have shown in some friendly games in competitive football. The Copa America last year saw them beaten on penalties by Paraguay in the quarter finals. The tournament failed to live up to their expectations – Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso unable to shine and prove the difference many had expected them to be.
This summer’s Olympics represented the chance to win the one major international title Brazil has never won. They swept through the competition in style, scoring on average three goals a game on the way to Wembley for the final with Mexico. Again, they were seemingly destined for gold. Only to have it snatched away again.
In that context, Menezes is fast being seen as inadequate for the role of taking Brazil into a home tournament of the magnitude of the World Cup. They will have just one more competitive practise for the World Cup – next year’s Confederations Cup, which they will begin as holders. They must retain that competition for Menezes to stay in charge, and even then it may not be enough - he also may not even still be in charge by then.
Waiting in the shadows is Luiz Felipe Scolari, who Brazil fans recently chanted for to return in a recent friendly with Argentina in the self proclaimed ‘Super Clasico of the Americas’. Scolari, having led Brazil to the World Cup in 2002, could be the ideal replacement for Menezes. So could Pep Guardiola, whom Catalan daily Sport recently claimed had been offered the Brazil job this summer. He is on a one year sabattical after leaving Barcelona. If, by the time of next year’s Confederations Cup, he is ready for a comeback and fancies an exotic challenge away from the cut and thrust of the club game, he could be an outside bet to lead Brazil to the World Cup.
Either way, the pressure is really building on Menezes now. His position is under threat, and it may now only be a case of when, rather than if.