Mano Menezes currently has a form of 15 wins, 5 draws and 5 losses since he started as Brazil’s manager in 2010. It’d give him a 60% winning rate; good for league clubs and mid-to-low tier national squads, but not so good for a country which is deemed the best at putting balls past a goal post.
He started his career with 3 win against mid-ranked teams (USA, Iran and Ukraine) and 2 consecutive losses to top-tier ones (Argentina and France), leading to 2 wins and 1 bore draw in a run of 3 friendlies before Copa América, played at Argentina last year.
Brazil was terrible, only obtaining a spot at knockout rounds after beating a poor Equator side 4-2. Elimination to Paraguay after a disastrous 0-0 draw and a series of missed spot kicks made Mano hang on a line. Brazil’s 2-3 loss to Germany made it worse, but the squad turned a corner and made a run of 10 unbeaten games (9 wins and 1 draw) before falling upon Mexico and Argentina.
We usually see national squads, at least top tier ones, with a manager to each young squad. Brazil’s got one for U20 sides at Ney Franco (who just got out to take the reigns over at São Paulo), but Mano decided to overtake U23’s leading the Olympics after the disaster that was Copa América. And many believe his fate will be decided by Brazil’s performance with youngsters that probably won’t feature in first team plans at 2014 World Cup.
Mano saw his move as a necessity not only to hang on his job, but also to show how he could also manage a young side, something CBF and its board were looking for after the 2010 WC. But he will only have one side of his defensive core, his midfield is still a mystery at the main side, and the attack is far from done.
Breaking down the Olympics list (* = player over 23 years old):
Rafael (Santos) and Neto (Fiorentina)
– Rafael is the current starter, and unless inflicted by injury I doubt he loses his position. Brazil’s main squad also has problems with this position, so Rafael could cement a place there as well.
Alex Sandro (Porto), Danilo (Porto), Marcelo* (Real Madrid) and Rafael (Manchester United)
– Alex Sandro was unreliable at the left side in the last matches, usually leaving too much space when Brazil was attacking, so Marcelo was brought. But the right lane was also troublesome. Danilo was shy and also made some mistakes; IIRC, we could fault Mexico’s 1st goal at the last friendly on him. And Daniel Alves is currently injured, so Mano will have to stick with Danilo and Rafael. Danilo is currently the starter, but it could easily change.
Bruno Uvini (São Paulo), Thiago Silva* (Milan) and Juan (Inter Milan)
– David Luiz was expected to be Mano’s 3rd call, but seems like his injury kept him out of it. Thiago Silva is to many the best defender in the world, while some call it rubbish and denote how Milan’s system benefits him. I won’t dispute that, but in my opinion without Thiago Silva Mano would be doomed. There was a point in the last game against Argentina where Thiago Silva had to be substituted due to a minor injury and Brazil’s backfield featured Bruno Uvini and Juan, the latter started with Thiago Silva. And it was an atrocity. Brazil fans must cross their fingers and hope for the best.
Rômulo (Spartak Moscow) and Sandro (Tottenham)
– Rômulo just transfer to Russia from Vasco, and scored a goal against Argentina. He has been solid as well as Sandro in their call-ups, but Mano still hasn’t found a good set-up for the midfield. Maybe they could mount to be starters in the main squad, just like Rafael at the goalkeeping job.
Ganso (Santos), Lucas (São Paulo) and Oscar (Internacional)
– That will be a good fight to keep an eye on. Ganso missed the recent call-ups due to injury, and a bit due to poor form. He wasn’t pretty good at Santos’ games as well as with Brazil, and Oscar emerged as one of – if not the – best players in Brazil’s last friendlies. If Mano is wise, he’ll start Oscar and let them compete for the job. Lucas is in a worrisome situation: he’s talented, but Mano seems not to like or to know how to use him tactically. He would be a starter in many top-tier squads, but when you’re not what your manager looks for in your position, waste is what happens.
Alexandre Pato (Milan), Leandro Damião (Internacional), Neymar (Santos) and Hulk* (Porto)
– Hulk was the “surprise” pick, even though he was solid in his few opportunities with Brazil. In his first caps Mano was putting him as a Centre Forward, which made him (reportedly) uncomfortable. He plays as an AMR at Porto, cutting from inside to shoot or pass, and is pretty much one of the best currently at that job. He scored 2 goals against Denmark, made a few key passes against USA, wasn’t so solid against Mexico but got a goal from a corner against Argentina. Dani Alves and David Luiz injuries certainly helped him in getting this spot, and sooner or later he’ll be main choice at AMR in the main squad as well. As for the left lane, Neymar is a keeper, even though I see it as a waste. Neymar should start centrally and be given freedom. Mano should see that soon, as Neymar could end up saving his job once again. And the CF position isn’t much set, because Leandro Damião hasn’t been steaming like in 2011, and Pato went back from injury willing to get back his starting spot. I’d favor Pato in this dispute, as he is more fit in Mano’s tactics.
It’ll be a rough ride for Mano. And we can only watch if he’ll succeed in the mission of bringing the only title Brazil doesn’t have in its winning history: an Olympics gold medal. If he fails, well… It’s the end of an era. And I’m not sure if we will miss him.