By Paul Kennedy
Ronaldinho, the reigning World and European Player of the Year, came in for heavy criticism in the aftermath of Brazil's shocking exit from the World Cup.
O Globo and Estado de Sao Paulo, two of Brazil's biggest newspapers, ran identical headlines: "Ronaldinho was the big letdown of the Cup."
"He played badly, he didn't dribble, he didn't have a shot at goal, he misplaced passes and did not, at any moment, take responsibility," wrote Estado. "It was a portrait of his participation in the World Cup: apathetic, bureaucratic, mediocre and afraid of deciding."
Like the rest of his teammates, Ronaldinho only showed glimpses of the play that made Brazil the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup.
"It's an enormous sadness especially after a long period in which we've become used to winning all the competitions," Ronaldinho said after the 1-0 loss to France on Saturday. "I wanted to make Brazil champions."
Ronaldinho's aging teammates also came in for criticism, in particular outside backs Cafu, 36, and Roberto Carlos, 33. France completely dominated the flanks in its victory over Brazil. O Globo columnist Fernando Calazans described Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's team as "a national team dominated by big shots in decline, including Cafu and Roberto Carlos, two nullities in the World Cup."
Parreira came in for heavy criticism for Brazil's failure to play jogo bonito.
"Anyone who refuses to play the jogo bonitodeserves every punishment," influential columnist Juca Kfoura wrote in Folha de Sao Paulo. "Brazil lost playing ugly."
Added Calazans, "It was soccer without fun, without life, without joy, without personality, without the Brazilian way of playing."
Parreira said heavy media coverage created huge expectations.
"It's very difficult to work with 800 people watching," he said of the press corps that covered his team's practices.
Blatter livid over Berlin melee
FIFA is investigating the postgame free-for-all that followed Germany's shootout victory over Argentina in Berlin on Friday.
Argentine reserve defender Leandro Cufre was shown a red card at the time for kicking German defender Per Mertesacker, and FIFA is investigating Maxi Rodriguez for an apparent attack on German Bastian Schweinsteiger.
FIFA has cleared German players in the incident on the field after Germany prevailed, 4-2, on penalty kicks. But its disciplinary committee is still studying video footage of the incident and could bring charges against team officials of both teams.
FIFA President Sepp Blatterwas livid that the images of the postgame melee spoiled the dramatic ending to the quarterfinal game.
"I am furious about that and our disciplinary committee will monitor this incident," Blatter told BBC Five Live. "We will take some steps towards those who are identified as being the provocateurs of this incident. There was really no need. After 120 minutes, football is a drama, and then you have to go to penalty kicks, and then football becomes a tragedy, but one is the winner and one is the loser. What I always say is in football you learn to win, but you also have to learn to lose."