It’s not quite Coach Reeves making Salami and Thorpe do another 10 laps around the Carver gym, but the Indepedent’s James Lawton, snooping around Brazil’s training ground prior to their group match with Crotia, is suitably impressed.
A group of players, led by Lyon’s brilliantly consistent midfielder Juninho Pernambucano – men who can expect no more than a seat on the bench when Brazil launch their challenge for a sixth World Cup triumph against Croatia in Berlin tonight – are working on one of the most fundamental of tactics in the lexicon of their nation’s game.
It is keeping the ball among themselves, on this occasion while it is in the air. They are being observed by an assistant coach at some distance and, though they have a casual demeanour, they are aware of it.
Whenever the ball touches the ground, and at times the wait seems to impinge on eternity, the culprit shrugs his shoulders. And then he does 10 press-ups.
This is the statutory penalty for committing the ultimate crime in Brazilian football – giving up the ball to the opposition, needlessly.
For an English observer – sad to say, after the latest example of serially squandered possession in the opening game with Paraguay – it is a sudden, chilling look into another world of technical priorities.
For a Brazilian, of course, it a matter of religious practice. Catholics forswear meat on Fridays, orthodox Jews are fastidious about observing the sabbath, Muslims take off their shoes upon entering the mosque. Brazilians don’t give up the football. If they do, they have penance … press-ups. They have to atone, and in whatever temperature they find themselves. It is an aspect of their trade.
I realize it has become common practice to mock the analytical skills of ESPN and ABC’s commentators, but I can’t resist : Scottie Pippen is just terrible.
With a hip ailment that’s not going away, former Manchester United captain / Republic Of Ireland international Roy Keane (most recently of Celtic) declared his retirement. The Guardian’s David Lacey plays tribute to a talismanic figure/monumental dickhead (depending on who you were rooting for).
On the pitch he was Alex Ferguson’s alter ego, bringing to the team all the rage for perfection and impatience that the manager demanded. Keane’s 12 years at Old Trafford ended abruptly last November following a row with Ferguson over critical comments about the team the United captain had made on the club’s television channel, the interview being pulled by MUTV for being too inflammatory.
He had never been one to hold back where what he considered sub-standard performances were concerned but this was clearly a rave too far. In fact Keane had already announced his intention to leave Old Trafford this summer, having been sidelined by a foot injury at Liverpool last September suffered in a tackle with Steven Gerrard.
At least the storminess of Keane’s departure was in keeping with much of his playing career. He could enjoy a perfectly clean and disciplined game yet remain a brooding, intimidating presence on the field. Channelled properly this gave United’s football an invaluable influence, although when Keane flipped the outcome for an opponent could be painful and nasty.