Dunga on the hot seat
The Brazilian coach has every reason to take the Confederations Cup seriously.
Brazilian national team coach Dunga surprised few pundits when he named a full-strength side that included the likes of Kaka and Robinho for this month's FIFA Confederations Cup.
The Selecao are, after all, the defending champions, and Dunga has stated he would like nothing more than to help Brazil retain the title, but there are plenty of other reasons why the former Brazilian captain is bringing his 'A' team to South Africa.
"It's clear he's taking it very seriously, mostly [because of] the reconnaissance importance of the tournament, of going to South Africa and having a look at the conditions at which the 2010 World Cup will be played," Tim Vickery, a Rio-based journalist and South American soccer expert, told CBCSports.ca.
"It also gives him a month to spend with his players, between the recent World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup, to work with his players … and try to form a more cohesive group."
Self-preservation on Dunga's mind
Self-preservation was also likely on Dunga's mind, according to Vickery, when he was deciding which players would be on the plane to South Africa, remembering how one of his predecessors lost his job following a disastrous run at the 2001 Confederations Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Brazil was expected to reach the final eight years ago, but instead was shockingly held to scoreless draws by Canada and Japan in the first round, before losing to France in the knockout stage. The final humiliation came in a 1-0 loss to Australia in the third-place match and coach Emerson Leao was immediately fired.
"Leao was told beforehand that there was no need to take the competition seriously," recalled Vickery. "He picked a third-rate squad, Brazil did poorly and at the airport before the flight on the way back to Brazil, he was fired. He was replaced by Luis Felipe Scolari and Brazil won the World Cup next year."
With Scolari still out of work after being let go by Chelsea in February, Dunga is under pressure to deliver positive results in South Africa and can ill afford a major setback.
"If you're in the hot seat as the Brazilian coach, you don't want to give an opportunity to someone who can take it away from you, especially with Scolari free again," Vickery said.
"There's always that chance of the job being taken away, due to public pressure and media pressure. That's another reason why Dunga has resisted the temptation to bring an experimental side to the Confederations Cup. He knows if they were to do really badly, he might lose his job."
Still, there is the danger of misreading results and gaining a false sense of security by winning the Confederations Cup.
Lessons learned from 2005
Led by the attacking foursome (Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo and Adriano) that was dubbed the Magic Quartet, Brazil cruised to a 4-1 victory over Argentina in the final, confirming then coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's hunch that he was on the right path toward World Cup glory.
But the victory against the Argentines turned out to be a false dawn for the Selecao, as Brazil's midfield lacked cohesion and the team sputtered in Germany, meekly bowing out to the French in the quarter-finals.
"Brazil went to Confederations Cup and in the final they slaughtered Argentina, and that victory rubber-stamped it, that myth that they were going to win the World Cup with the Magic Quartet," Vickery said.
"But that game was so atypical and not at all competitive like World Cup games. Once we saw the Magic Quartet in Germany, we saw that they didn’t give Brazil any consistency in midfield at all.
"Victory can always be a problem. Today's defeat can sow the seeds for tomorrow's victory, and vice versa, and I think that victory in 2005 was the beginning of Brazil's downfall."
Dunga has been forewarned.