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Samba & Soccer

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Watching Brazil at this year’s World Cup, something glaringly obvious becomes apparent- they’re missing the almost samba-ish rhythm which to some has come to define their style of play. But just what is samba itself? Both a musical style & form of dance, its roots are believed to lie in Bahia ( eastern Brazil), having originally been imported from Africa as part of the slave trade.

Its the distinctive sound of a nation, recognised as intrinsically part of Brazil’s heritage the world over. So why, then, do the Selecao appear to have misplaced their dancing shoes? Sure, they’re still in the hunt to win the thing but they’re lacking a certain sparkle- Neymar having carried them through for the most part until his injury. How they’ll cope without their bandleader remains to be seen!

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Even with him in the side they’ve struggled to find a tempo- their path to tonight’s clash with Germany proving difficult at times. But make it they have, largely as a one man band. Certainly ‘Big Phil’ Scolari, the arranger if you will ( to coin a musical phrase once more) has been quick to tell the remaining members of his squad that they must win for Neymar, the prodigal son forced to miss the rest of what might have been his finest hour carrying his country to glory on the biggest stage.

Without him, though, the time will come for others to step up to the plate. Can Fred repay his manager’s at times baffling faith in him by firing Brazil into a date with either Holland or Argentina & by extension destiny? Scolari will certainly be hoping so. Hulk could also take the chance to shine having as yet seemingly failed to replicate his club form in the famous yellow shirt. Make or break time for those two, & indeed their team!

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But the coach must know that in football as in music, the best passages ( whether of play or of song) require a whole team/band to be on the same wavelength. Too often it seems Brazil have looked more a collection of individuals rather than a unit, & that could work decisively against them. Get it right, of course, & they could finally show the best of themselves, bring a touch of carnival back to the pitch where it belongs just as validly as the streets, the beaches & the stands. After all, is that not the team the world knows, loves & even fears on its day?

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Burdened by a glorious past they may be, but surely the chance to throw off the shackles of expectation & just play in a more fluid, typically South American fashion is what’s called for? Some may rightly or wrongly say that the time for such has passed, but the answer to the question of whether or not attempting to replicate Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich has really worked in the manner Scolari hoped it might must be a resounding ‘ no’.

In doing so it would appear everything that made Brazil great has been taken from them- what might have flowed like this- Brasil 66- has instead been replaced by grinding out results in a similarly gritty manner to this ( Umbabarauma). While there’s no suggestion that the dressing room’s musical diet consists entirely of Sepultura tapes ( see/ hear Roots Bloody Roots) these days, it does seem that the more traditionally Brazilian elements of the Selecao have been joined by some undesirable bits & pieces from the European game. Tone that down just a little & it might be a lot more easy on the eye!

And while the image of the gaffer leading his players in a Max Cavalera-ish almost tribal growlfest before games might seem almost fitting ( here after all is a man who gave each of his 2002 squad in Japan/Korea passages from Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War to help get his ideas across), surely it might be all the more effective if his on-pitch assassins found a groove before going for the jugular?

After all if blending what might be termed ‘ traditional’ heavy metal with a little of the music of their own land can pay off for Cavalera & chums (elements of Brazilian tribal music given equal status to the thrash metal within), similar might just work for Scolari if translated into footballing terms.  So, chuck the likes of Roots- Roots- on the stereo before games alongside, lets say, a little bossa nova just to balance things out- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFyvfXVDNrs- & immediately a happy medium becomes obvious. Take that out onto the pitch & reputations might be salvaged!

Any thoughts of a German blitzkreig might then be put to rest, the men in yellow going toe to toe with Joachim Low’s men knowing its not just the conditions which could work in their favour. Dictate the rhythm & you just might control the dance, as the best exponents of samba will already know. Low will of course have prepared his troops for battle adequately.

But where Scolari deploys samba, his counterpart will be looking for a well-oiled orchestra. Perhaps a rousing blast of this before they leave the dressing room will be all the motivation they need ( Ride Of The Valkyries) to go out there & spoil the party for their hosts. But if Brazil can rediscover a little of their natural best, shot through with the obligatory dancing feet they once took for granted, the Germans can be beaten.

Whether they will is another story, but surely its time for ‘Big Phil’ & the boys to pick up the tune once more!

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