Carlos Alberto: Stylish success is Brazilian way

Alam Khan 11/06/2015
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Captain fantastic: Carlos Alberto Torres.

As Brazil prepare for Sunday’s Copa America opener against Peru, pressure, pride and prestige will fuel their attempt to claim a ninth title.

But for Carlos Alberto Torres, the Selecao still have to remain true to their footballing tradition and combine style with success.

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As captain of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side – one of the greatest national teams of all time – anything else would appear somewhat of an injustice to their proud past.

It would also help restore a reputation damaged by the 7-1 loss to Germany in last year’s World Cup semi-final. In front of an eager, expectant home crowd in Belo Horizonte, the hosts were humiliated by the eventual winners on the biggest of stages.

“It was a big surprise for everybody,” says Carlos Alberto. “We knew we had no team to play equal against Germany, but to lose 7-1 was too much. But you have to work, learn and forget the past. You have to move forward.”

Proudest moment: Alberto lifted the 1970 World Cup as captain.

It was what he and Brazil did in 1970. Having gone out at the group stage at the 1966 World Cup, they regrouped to lift the trophy in Mexico with performances that were a privilege to watch. Led by Pele, Rivelino, Gerson, Jairzinho and Tostao, for many they were ahead of their time with an innovative attack-minded philosophy. “We were perfect…just perfect,” adds Carlos Alberto.

Few would disagree. A combination of teamwork and talent proved too much for opponents, as Italy would testify when flayed 4-1 in the final 45 years ago, with the last goal from the right-back himself regarded as the epitome of footballing beauty.


“It was a nice goal,” continues the 70-year-old, somewhat modestly. “That team was special. We constructed it one year before, 1969, mainly for the physical part.

“We knew to go to the final we had to be in good physical condition, not just technical.

“We knew about the altitude in Mexico and that would affect us. It was very hot in that summer time. We worked for three months and when we got to Mexico we were in very good shape and it showed.

“The team was good because we dedicated ourselves to make that team good. We were altogether like brothers, friends, a very close group. We had a very good coach in Mario Zagallo too. He was very smart and he was close and friendly with the players.

“He gave us the ideas and encouragement to find the best way to play.

 

“Spain were a wonderful team in 2010, Germany good at the World Cup, but I don’t think any team was like Brazil 1970.

“They all have their own way to play, how to defend, to touch, touch, touch the ball to each other, but our team was only thinking about going forward and scoring all the goals. We loved to attack, we loved to win with style.”

It is what Carlos Alberto desperately wants to see with Dunga’s current Brazil side.

A run of nine successive wins in friendlies after their World Cup shame has offered hope, but the playing style has been pragmatic and mindset cautious.

“The problem is not only the coach, but we have to change the mentality of Brazilian football for the future,” says Carlos Alberto.

“Dunga has a good start, but we are not playing the real Brazilian football, we are trying to play the European way.

“If you don’t start now to change then you are going to make the same mistake.

“I like the beautiful football – even if they lose. But if you play in the right way, the beautiful football, you will never lose, never.

“You have to play the real Brazilian football, play with full-backs going forward and crossing, a midfield where one guy can have long passes as well. Now it’s touch and touch and they don’t go anywhere.

“People talk about modern football with full-backs like wingers, but I played like this 40 years ago. The players need to understand what Brazilian football means, what the supporters expect, and to improve, improvise and more dribbling.

“You don’t see this today. Only Neymar tries to dribble. What about the rest? It’s like they forget.”

Like many of his peers, such as Pele, he dreamt of a life in football as he grew up in poverty-stricken Rio.

“I was inspired by the Brazilian way,” he recalls. “Since birth you start to think about being a football player and dream of playing for Brazil. When you are young, you start to play with a small ball.

“But we had no money to buy a ball at that time so we used old socks and put papers inside to make a ball. I was always a defender, I don’t know why. Someone asked me to play full-back and that was it.

“Everyone wants to play a World Cup, to win it. I was the captain, scored the last goal and received the cup. Until today people talk about 1970 and that makes me proud.

“I didn’t go to the World Cup in 1966. I was part of the squad, but one week before they went to England they cut me.

“I don’t know why, the Brazilian people didn’t know why and of course I was disappointed. But it was a lesson and I learnt a lot about it. I understood a lot about the cut and it made me stronger.”

He now hopes Brazil can be strong again, motivated by the pain of last summer.

Carlos Alberto adds: “It’s possible they can do well at the Copa America, but we will see. There is pressure, but Brazil always have a chance in any big tournament because we are always one of the favourites and still have some great players.

“For me, Thiago Silva is the best defender in the world, a very good player.

“Neymar is special and our best hope in attack. He plays in the way we like to see. When he plays well, Brazil play well and he is getting better all the time.

“But for the next World Cup in 2018, that’s most important, and we are going to make a good team then, I’m sure, because these players will have more experience. Oscar, for example, is a good player, but will learn more and get better.

“We lost our prestige against Germany, but that game was not the real Brazilian football and is in the past. A new mentality and confidence will change this.

“It was a good lesson for our team after the 1966 World Cup and it can be same for this team now. When you lose, it can be the best lesson.”

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Pablo Zabaleta on Argentina Copa hopes

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Focused: Argentina.

Argentina and Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta shares his views on the upcoming Copa America with Sport360 ahead of the tournament’s start and how Lionel Messi can inspire his national team to glory.

It’s been a long time since Argentina won the Copa America and, of course, it’s not good enough. So this tournament is another great opportunity for us to achieve something special for our country, we all know that.

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It’s also a great chance after losing the World Cup in the final last year. We came so close and that was disappointing for all of us.

The World Cup is on another level, the biggest tournament, but the Copa America is still a great competition. The standard of South American teams is really high and we will face very tough teams, many of our rivals, so it’s going to be tough to win it. You have Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico, really good teams with good players.

Four years ago, we lost to Uruguay on penalties in the quarter finals when it was played at home, but we are a big team, the expectations are high, and we are an ambitious country.

We all know what we are playing for. We will be trying to reach the final again and will try to win it. It’s also important for us to win it because we want a big title as a national team.

We have had the youth World Cup and the Olympics, but you always want more trophies. It’s been disappointing this season, for me personally, not to win anything with Manchester City and you look at the players we have got in the team and you expect to win something. It’s the same with the national team. 

But football is like that sometimes and it happens. Not everything is perfect. Football is about momentum and we have some of the main players, like Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, doing really well for their clubs and hope they can do the same with the national team.

What more can you say about Messi? I’m not surprised by how well he has done this season for Barcelona. I’ve known him a long time and he’s a special player. He has got back to his best form, back to the Messi we have seen before.

Last season he struggled with the injuries, muscle problems, but we did not have any doubt about his quality. We know how good Messi is, but you need to be well physically and mentally to compete at the top level and when Messi is good in those areas, he is the best.

Sergio has also finished so well for City and has gone to a really high level this season. The golden boot as the Premier League’s top scorer was well deserved because he has been working hard for that. It was just a shame not to celebrate that with a title.

But he’s one of the top strikers in the world at the moment, confident and in great form and I hope he can continue like that in the Copa America. 

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Chile aim to end 99 years of frustration at Copa America

Alam Khan 11/06/2015
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Home hero: Alexis.

As hosts, it was clear the burden of expectation weighed heavily on Brazil at last year’s World Cup. So much so that they enter the 44th edition of the Copa America with doubts over whether they have fully recovered from the 7-1 semi-final humiliation at the hands of Germany on home soil despite winning friendlies to repair a fragile confidence.

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Now it is Chile who take centre stage with lofty ambitions and a nation urging them to create history.

In the inaugural tournament 99 years ago they finished fourth, and have been runners-up on four occasions. But they still seek that elusive first success.

A strong team ethic, spirit and the mercurial Alexis Sanchez up front offers hope, though, that this could be their moment.

“This group can win the Copa America,” said the Arsenal frontman. “The time has come to achieve big things.”

But Sanchez and Chile will have to back up their words with big performances as they will not be alone in their quest to be crowned kings of South America.

History could perhaps provide a pointer. On the past four occasions Chile has hosted the 12-team tournament, Argentina have been triumphant. And how Gerardo Martino’s men yearn for a repeat of wins in 1941, 1945, 1955 and 1991.

Widely regarded as the best team in the Americas, and with the best player in the world in the shape of Lionel Messi, Argentina’s ‘golden generation’ have failed to sparkle and vastly under-achieved. Having lost the final to Germany, their last World Cup title remains back in 1986, and their last Copa in 1993.

Gold in the 2008 Olympics cannot gloss over the senior side’s failure on football’s biggest stages, and so too Messi, who will lead the Albiceleste’s bid for a 15th Copa, matching the haul of defending champions Uruguay.

Brilliant for Barcelona, he has yet to achieve the same standards for Argentina and was jeered by fans four years ago when hosts Argentina lost on penalties to Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

To be lauded above Pele or his compatriot Diego Maradona as the greatest, Messi has to inspire his country to their first Copa in 22 years, when they overcame Mexico 2-1.

Few will argue they have the best squad and coach Martino admits: “This group of players cannot finish their cycle with the national team without winning a title.”

Brazil will, of course, have a point to prove and a potential meeting between the arch-rivals in the semi-finals could be significant.

Head coach Dunga has rung the changes to take them forward, giving chances to Al Ahli midfielder Everton Ribeiro and Robinho among others, but has yet to win over fans with an approach that focuses on not conceding goals than scoring them.

Hopes of a fifth Copa, out of the last seven, will rest on the slender shoulders of Neymar and all eyes will be on the 23-year-old to see if he can overshadow his club teammate Messi.

The other member of Barca’s fearsome frontline threesome, Luis Suarez, will be a notable absentee as he serves his international ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup. That could leave Uruguay toothless in attack and others could also fall short in their challenge.

Colombia could threaten, especially with strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez trying to impress potential suitors married to the wizardry of James Rodriguez.

With third-placed teams getting a shot at the quarter-finals, Mexico, despite being shorn of big names due to the Gold Cup, Ecuador, Paraguay and two-time winners Peru will look to upset more fancied opponents in a knockout tie.

Jamaica, whose captain and star man Rodolph Austin is without a club, should enjoy their invitation to the top table and the experience.

Coach Winfried Schaefer, who led Al Ahli to the UAE championship in 2006 and was a President’s Cup and Emirates Cup winner with Al Ain, will have his work cut out, though, to avoid them being embarrassed.

Bolivia were winners in 1963, but they and Venezuela will also be playing for pride.

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