There is still no final episode in the great Brazilian soap opera, entitled “Who is going to be the next coach of the national team?”
Federation boss Ednaldo Rodrigues insists that Carlo Ancelotti remains his Plan A and hopes that there will be a resolution by the end of the month. But it is not clear what this might mean. Ancelotti is under contract with Real Madrid for another year and says that he wants to stay. Los Blancos, as yet, have shown no sign of wanting to get rid of him.
Does that mean, as some in the Brazilian media are speculating, that Brazil will wait until mid-2024 for their man? Rodrigues does not seem to be denying it. Until then, Brazil will play six rounds of World Cup qualifiers, high profile friendlies against European opposition next March and will have prepared for the Copa America in the United States. Plus, of course, the two friendlies in this month’s FIFA dates. Can they really leave a caretaker boss in charge for all of this?
That would not be an easy sell. Current caretaker Ramon Meneses lacks experience and, perhaps even more to the point, he lacks results. His main function is to coach the under-20 team. Elimination by Israel in the recent U20 World Cup at that level hardly makes a convincing case for stepping up to Brazil’s senior side. And back in March, in his first game in charge, he led Brazil to their first-ever defeat against Morocco.
But he is the man picking the team for two more games against African opposition, as Brazil face Guinea in Barcelona this Saturday followed by a meeting with Senegal in Lisbon on Tuesday. So while Rodrigues is caught up with shuttle diplomacy with Ancelotti, while also taking soundings from the players about possible alternatives, Meneses will hope to maintain everyone’s focus on the pitch.
These, then, are end of season friendlies under a caretaker coach who is unlikely to stay long in the position. In purely sporting terms they may not come across as being particularly important, but the Brazilian FA have found a justifiable way to make them relevant — especially the first one.
Taking on an African opponent in Spain has given Brazil the opportunity to make a valid point while also offering support to star man Vinicius Junior. This, of course, is the country where Vinicius plays his club football for Real Madrid, where he has repeatedly been the target of racist abuse and where the authorities have been so slow (and even apparently reluctant) to do anything about it.
The game against Guinea takes on a meaning far wider than that of sport: it is intended as a celebration of anti-racism. For the first time in their history, Brazil will take the field in black shirts, switching to the traditional yellow in the second half. So a potentially meaningless end of season friendly takes on an important diplomatic and social context, but there are concerns. Marcelo Carvalho runs the Observatorio da Discriminacao Racial no Futebol, a Brazilian equivalent to the United Kingdom’s “Kick It Out” organisation.
“I support this game,” he said recently when I asked him about it on Brazil’s SporTV. “But I don’t support it 100%. I have misgivings.”
The biggest potential worry is: Should there be acts of racism in the crowd, what will happen? Is a protocol in place to deal with the situation, to interrupt the game and take the players off the field, for example?
Hopefully everything goes off smoothly and the point is forcefully made that racist behaviour inside football stadiums is not acceptable. Rodrigues revealed recently that he sent a message to Ancelotti to thank him for the support he has given to Vinicius during the course of a tough season. It is not only his long list of titles, but also Ancelotti’s sensibility and capacity to manage the group of players that have convinced Brazil that he is the man for the job. But how long are they prepared to wait?
Source : ESPN