Where has the Brazilian magic gone?

Brazil won the Confederations Cup on Sunday, but they were not the Brazil our man Dave Tindall can remember and he was left unimpressed.

Last Updated: 02/07/13 at 21:16 Post Comment

Neymar: Brazil's star man

Neymar: Brazil's star man

"Football seems like a better place when Brazil play like this."

"Feel like a kid again. Brazil are back."

These were just two of the comments I read on Twitter - one from a national newspaper reporter, the other from a friend - in the wake of Brazil's 3-0 win over Spain in Sunday's Confederations Cup final.

True, Felipe Scolari's men were undeniably impressive but I was baffled by these references to the past. Because the Brazil side I watched on Sunday night were a long way short of the magical ones I grew up with.

Allow me to go back in time...

It's 1982. I'm a football-mad 13-year-old and the World Cup is in Spain. Excellent. A friendly time zone and I can watch all the matches.

I'm a Liverpool fan so by this stage am very attuned to watching winning football. In fact, I've already got posters of three European Cup-winning teams on my wall. But even I will admit that watching Phil Neal and Phil Thompson pass the ball back to Ray Clemence on repeat isn't very beautiful.

The 1978 World Cup has planted a seed. The likes of Zico and a slightly ageing Rivelino can put this funny bend on the ball while a fella called Nelinho even scores with one of these banana shots.

Some time between 1978 and 1982 I learn about Brazil's astonishing 1970 World Cup team and watch all I can of them on TV. My God. It's extraordinary. All the greatest things I've ever seen on a football pitch performed by the same team in the same tournament. Pele shooting from the half-way line; his cross-over dummy on the Uruguayan goalkeeper which, for a split second, leaves Kenneth Wolstenholme more excited than he was in 1966. Even their defenders can turn it on. Look at that centre-back (I later learn it's Clodoaldo) producing a bamboozling dribble and stepover to bring the ball out of defence and begin the move which ends with Carlos Alberto smashing in Brazil's orgasmic fourth goal in the final against Italy.

I have a nagging feeling though. People are saying that the 1970 Brazil team represent the absolute peak of footballing magic and I never got to see it live.

But, in the weeks that follow, the 1982 Brazilian team leave me mesmerised. Zico is wonderful, Socrates the perfect blend of art and science while Eder is off the planet, blasting in a thunderbolt against the USSR and caressing an on-the-run floaty chip over Alan Rough in a demolition of Scotland.

They are magical. Beautiful. Beguiling.

From my silly and naive 13-year-old viewpoint, my life will be complete if they win the World Cup.

But, in the same way that I fail to get off with blonde bombshell Linda Irving (my Marilyn Monroe, if you want to continue the theme of historical comparisons), it doesn't happen. In an epic quarter-final, Paulo Rossi bangs in a poacher's hat-trick and Brazil crash out 3-2. Disaster. We're still a couple of years away from The Smiths so I haven't even got Morrissey to see me through this dreadful time.

But what 1982 did was spark a love of Brazilian football which remains to this day. That team set the standard. And although they didn't win, the sense of wonder they created in me comes flooding back whenever I see the yellow shirt (a rather Pavlovian state of affairs as I definitely don't salivate as much when they play in blue).

Since 1982 I've watched Brazil in seven World Cups. They've won it twice in that period but, perhaps more importantly, how did they perform on the magic-ometer - a word I've simply made up? (All percentage ratings are massively arbitrary).

1986 - Quarters. Still some great flashes but basically this was the 1982 side on the wane (68%).

1990 - Second round. Dreadful. Tried to turn into an uncompromising European outfit, forgot their roots and were put out of their misery by Maradona's one moment of brilliance (24%).

1994 - Winners. Part of me was thrilled but part of me felt empty. I'd craved this moment but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. A win for pragmatism over flair (48%).

1998 - Final. This was better. Cool airport advert pre-tournament and lots of sexy players, led by the wonderful Ronaldo. All went wrong in the final though, with Ronnie having a seizure just before kick-off but playing on regardless (78%).

2002 - Winners. So it could be won with flair! This was almost perfection. I'd backed them pre-tournament at 15/2, Golden Boot winner Ronaldo recovered from a career-threatening injury to dazzle alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, and Robert Carlos and Cafu were immense. Perfect mix of wizards and stoppers (88%).

2006 - Quarters. Ronaldo had ballooned and the other stars were too lazy. Some good moments though (64%).

2010 - With Dunga in charge it was never going to be a Brazilian flair-fest. Pockets of good play but the writing was on the wall when he said before the defeat to Holland that the idea of samba football was an archaic concept (61%).

And so back to Brazil's 2013 Confederation Cup winners. Where would they rate on the magic-ometer? In truth, I'd have them somewhere in the early 60s but no more.

They did some excellent things against Spain. They pressed, they hustled, they were 'up for it'. But when I watch Brazil, I want to be 13 again. I don't want to hear that they "did the dirty things well".

If this is a dreamer's attitude and, as people tell me, the game has moved on since 1982, I would simply point to Sunday's beaten opponents Spain. They - and Barcelona at club level - have shown you can still 'do a Brazil 70' and win with style at the highest level.

The idea that this Brazil side lack magic was crystallised in the final 25 minutes. They were 3-0 up and Spain were down to 10 men. "Watch the tricks and flicks come out now," said Guy Mowbray.

Except there weren't any. Brazil were too intent on holding what they had and I spent the last quarter of the match enjoying the artistry of the weaving Andres Iniesta but feeling frustrated that Brazil wouldn't let themselves off the leash.

Sure, it comes as no surprise to see a pragmatist like Scolari instructing his team to play this way and he may well have found the right recipe to succeed against a Spanish side which could be Brazil's opponents in the final of World Cup 2014.

But where is the magic? Where is the fantasy? This Brazil are not making the football world 'a better place'. They're a team afraid to gamble and lose - the antithesis of the 1982 side.

In my dreams, Brazil win the 2014 World Cup after Neymar scores from an overhead kick (set up by a back-heel from Oscar).

In reality I expect Fred to shin home the only goal of the game and a little piece of me to die.

You can follow Dave on Twitter @davetindallgolf

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