Brazil’s performance in this week’s friendly match against Italy gave Dunga, a manager under fire some breathing room. But it had the opposite affect on Mark Hughes, bringing into his ability to manage a cosmopolitan squad. Elano and Robinho both scored goals in Dunga decidedly un-Joga Bonito Brazilian setup.
Dunga had many of the same questions surround him in the South American media and his selection of Elano for Copa America 2007 was a definitive attempt to break the mold of previous Brazil squads and to place a more defensive and possession oriented stamp on the national team.
Mark Hughes had three Brazilian players from September through December. Each at times seemed unsettled and uncommitted to the club. But Brazil’s national team had been similarly unsettled for a long period of time following Dunga’s ascension. The thinking in much of the press that Hughes somehow cannot mold a cosmopolitan squad may or may not be valid.
Somehow Brazilian football is evolving to resemble more of a continental European style and less of a traditional Latin one. That’s why Sven Goran Eriksson whose tactics always contain a continental flavor (as evidenced by Eriksson’s total mismanagement of the Mexican National Team whose players are used to playing a completely different way: to counter this Sven has accelerated the naturalization process for a number of foreigners currently playing club football in Mexico who fit his style) went out of his way to acquire Elano.
Hughes has stated openly that Elano now understands his role at City. But given Elano’s central role with one of the top national teams on the planet, will he accept Hughes tactics? The failure of Jo at City coupled with the players roraring early success under David Moyes at Everton raises more questions about Hughes. Is this another case of Hughes not being tactically flexible enough to build a setup around a strong Brazilian striker? Or was Jo simply not prepared for Premiership football when at Eastlands?
Questions about Hughes will continue to persist going forward. One thing is for certain though: despite all of the flux and circus atmosphere surrounding the team this season, City still have an opportunity for their best ever Premier League finish. That at least is to Mark Hughes credit.