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Brazil – The Myth about Dunga and the Two Defensive Midfielders

Dunga, the manager of the Brazilian football team, was once a defensive anchorman who rarely ventured into the attacking third of the pitch. His super-ego has resulted in Brazil employing two defensive midfielders, to the detriment of the game and the team as most Brazilian nationals will no doubt tell you. Only it isn’t quite the fault of Dunga’s super-ego. Dunga is merely doing the responsible thing. The typical thing. Two defensive midfielders? This is not Dunga.  This is the Brazilian way.

After defeating Chile so comfortably on Monday and advancing to the last eight, Dunga is being applauded as a tactical genius. The idea, using two defensive midfielders – two of Melo, G.Silva and Ramires, a roaming playmaking centre back – Lucio, and two advancing full backs, Maicon and Bastos, to supplement the attack is nothing new. There is the occasional difference which has developed because of the need to accomodate particular individuals but the system varies little to that which Brazil used in their victorious World Cup campaign of 2002. Edmilson, then, was the playmaking centre back, R.Carlos and Cafu the advancing full backs, and G.Silva and Kleberson anchored the midfield. Even in 1994, Dunga himself partnered the incredible M.Silva, Mauro is no relation to the current incumbent of the position Gilberto, in defensive midfield. Brazil won the tournament in 1994 too. A team with two defensive midfielders is a typically Brazilian side.

Strangely, this makes it more difficult for Brazil to win. This Brazil side has lost only once in three years but they drew seven of their World Cup qualifiers. Dismal performances, and draws, with Colombia, Equador and Peru are part of the reason why Dunga is so disliked as a coach. He has always responded with the same type of remark. Dunga insists ‘pretty football doesn’t win tournaments’. The style might not be the most fluid, attacking or the type we like to associate with Brazil but it is the typical Brazilian style of the last decade. It is succesful in torunaments even if uninspiring to watch during qualification. Brazil have consistently used two defensive midfielders for almost two decades now and it has resulted in three final appearances in four World Cup tournaments, with two victories. It is not Dunga’s creation but it is the Brazilian way.