Brazil's abominable World Cup soccer display against Spain last Saturday has kindled a furor.
In the most significant repercussions, Adm. Heleno Nunes, head of the Brazilian delegation, has taken closer command of his team's play on the field.
Rumors persist that Nunes has fired Coach Claudio Coutinho and replaced him with Ruben Minelli, an Argentinian who is a leading club coach in Brazil.
Minelli watched the recent game at the behest of the Brazilian federation and made a detailed analysis of the team.
Whether Nunes retains Coutinho or hires Minelli, he intends to call the shots.
One feels a little sorry for Coutinho, whose head was in danger months ago, before the Brazilians made their moderately successful tour of Europe. It is humiliating to be fired amidst a World Cup. In truth, though, he has produced a flaccid, inert and demoralized team.
Nunes apparently has demanded exclusion of four players; Edino Edinho, the overphysical left back, Antonio Cerezo and Zico from the midfield, and Jose Reinaldo, 21-year-old center-forward, who has scored Brazil's only tournament goal. Cerezo and Zico entered the tournament as two of the most acclaimed young players in the world. Reinaldo seemed one of the most gifted center-forwards.
I can scarcely remember a Brazilian team that played with less flair and imagination than the one that labored to a draw on the abominable field of Mar del Plata. Only an astonishing miss in the second half by Spain's Julio Cardenosa let Brazil off the hook. The Spanish midfielder didn't have the goalie to beat. He delayed so long that Joao Amaral scampered across to block his shot brilliantly on the line.
Whether Nunes can rekindle Brazilian joy remains to be seen. The team will play tomorrow in Mar del Plata against the surprising Austrians, conquerors of both Spain and Sweden.
Migueli, the big, blond Spanish centerback said charitably that though the Brazilians played poorly, the miserable state of the field hindered them. The ground, with its divots, isn't expected to be any better tomorrow.
The Austrians have four points and have qualified. Their play has been a delight, recalling the old Vienna school of soccer in waltz time. Such play seemed to disappear after the Austrians took third place in the 1954 World Cup. Their interesting formation has Hans Krankl, opportunist in chief, lying wide out on the left rather than in the middle, leaving abundant space for midfielders to burst through from deep positions.
The repercussions of Argentina's unimpressive victory over France have yet to die down. Even the Argentinian press freely admits that its team benefited from a dubious penalty kick. Argentinians also admit that France should have had a penalty when Didier Six was brought down. Referees have favored Argentina.So the Argentinians play Italy today and must win if they are to win the group and play the next round in Buenos Airies rather than Rosario. A draw wouldn't be good enough, given the Italians' superior goal difference. And Argentina won't have Leopoldo Luque, that fine striker who is injured.
How the Italians will approach the game is uncertain. Their coach, Enzo Bearzot is nervous. He snapped angrily at an Italian journalist who asked whether they might prefer to lose, thus playing in Rosario.
Significantly perhaps, he evoked the analogy of West Germany's strategy in the 1954 World Cup. The Germans virtually threw their first match in Switzerland against Hungary, losing 8-3, because they knew they were as good as qualified. In the final, they beat the Hungarians, 3-2.
There are those who believe that even if Argentina finishes second, with Italy first, the organizing committee will reconsider and let Argentina play in Buenos Aires, where the capacity of the River Plate Stadium is 30,000 greater than in Rosario.
The Argentinians are worried about their back four and midfield. Bearzot has observed that the Argentinians essentially are an attacking team, throwing players forward and therefore taking risks. He smiled. "Whether you're prepared to run few risks or big risks," he said, "is another matter."