Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
The secret behind the mystique of beautiful Brazilian soccer
by Francis Langbein, February 28th, 2013 1:21AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  brazil

MOST COMMENTED

[MY GAME] Let's begin by thinking about U.S. soccer. Americans have called it soccer, not football, since the 1920s, to distinguish the foreign sport from the sport played with a ball made out of pigskin. If soccer is an import, maybe the U.S. style of soccer should also be learned from overseas. Acquiring German coach Jurgen Klinsmann is a good start. But a more ambitious and perhaps advantageous search for foreign tactics might begin with Brazil, a country that's pretty amazing at the sport called futébol.

Playing and watching soccer in the United States, I came to understand two styles of play: the passing game and the dribbling game. The passing game was about possession. Circulate the ball with easy passes, control the game and make the last pass into the back of the net. Many coaches focused on the passing game. Maybe because it was easy to coach or it was proven to work. Barcelona plays possession, after all. Then there was the dribbling game, for players with fancy footwork. Teams with stellar dribblers scored when a player would make a great run with the ball passed the keeper and into the goal.

I saw a combination of both styles and more when the Brazilian national team was on TV. Not only did Brazilians pass well and dribble every defender, they also made it look easy and fun. I always wanted to learn the Brazilian style, so after college, I set out for Pele’s homeland.

I found work at an English-language institute, Speaking Club, in Espera Feliz, a tiny town 10 hours north of Rio de Janeiro. Across the street from the institute was the town's soccer gymnasium, or quadra. The quadra was concrete except for a metal roof. It featured a concrete indoor soccer court, slightly smaller than a basketball court, with 6-by-8-foot goals. After six months of playing Brazilian indoor at the quadra, a small enclosure compared to an 11-on-11 field, I understood the vision behind the beautiful style. And it started with space.

I made one too many through ball passes before my teammate freaked out at me. Pickup soccer in Brazil is very similar to pickup basketball in the United States -- some guys take it too seriously. I'd slotted a pass between two defenders to my teammate who was near the goal. But the guy didn’t run for the pass. Instead threw his hands in the air with frustration and yelled something at me.

A minute later, we had a two-on-one against the goalie. Instead of passing, which had just frustrated my teammate, I took on the keeper with some dribbling. I fainted the pass, shook the keeper and scored. Still my teammate cursed and scolded me in Portuguese. He complained to his friend on the sideline when we eventually lost and had to step off the court.

I figured out my mistake while I watched the next pickup game. It wasn't about the goal, but the best opportunity to score a goal. When I'd passed to my teammate, I'd had the opportunity to simply dribble ahead and take an easy shot. But I'd passed to my teammate who had to make a more difficult one-touch finish by his defender and the keeper. When I'd dribbled instead of passed in the two-on-one, I could have just passed and my teammate would have had an open net.

In both situations, I'd been closing the space to score a goal, rather opening it. Even if I was being generous with the ball on the pass play, I'd made the window to score smaller than it would have been if I had dribbled into open space for a shot. Similarly, by taking on the goalkeeper one-on-one with a dribble, I'd closed space between the ball and the last defender and made the possibility of a goal less likely. If I'd passed off to my teammate, the window would have been wide open.

The secret behind the mystique of beautiful Brazilian soccer is to always look for the opportunity to score with the highest probability. Assuming players have a better probability of scoring when they have more space, the goal is simply to get the ball to the player with the most space. Players must be able to dribble any defender on the field and have the ability to make passes into space, not to specific players.

The move that players would try every game (and I only managed to do once in six months of playing soccer in Brazil) was what I call the reverse nutmeg. The ball handler would face one direction, pretending to be oblivious to a defender at his back. But when his defender would come at him from behind, the ball handler would gently roll the ball with the bottom of his cleat, shoe, or foot in reverse, through the legs of the defender. He’d spin around the oncoming challenger to meet the ball in the space behind the earnest challenge. This was the ultimate embarrassment for a defender and triumph for a dribbler, who gave himself ample space for the best chance to score.

American players shouldn’t focus on dribbling or possession. They need to think like Brazilians. Get the ball into space for the best chance to score, and shoot.



18 comments
  1. Kent James
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 7:55 a.m.
    While your assessment of the Brazilian game, playing percentage soccer, is great advice for any soccer player who wants to win, I disagree that this is the essence of Brazilian soccer. I think Brazilians derive pleasure from ball skills, whether they win or not (their ball skills are normally so good that they win anyway, but that's not the obsession of the players). Your example of the reverse nutmeg demonstrates this. It is a joy for Brazilians to do this precisely because it is a low percentage play, so that makes success all the sweeter. Brazilians, more than any other group I've ever played with, have more fun with the journey than just getting to the destination.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 8:52 a.m.
    Great article, and I do agree with Kent. The way Brazil plays soccer is very close to how black people play basketball in USA. With style, creativity, flare. Who are the best in the 1v1 situations in basketball?? They just have a different approach to the game. It's about how good it looks to take on someone and score. Therefore, the most exiting individuals to watch play in both sports. No question. Agreed with the author that we should to some extent think like the Brazilians. That would mean to let players figure out these situations by attacking constantly with numbers and moving into all the spaces. No bunkering in the back like we do all too much.

  1. Jamie Nicewander
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
    A combination of hard work ethics and a childlike enjoyment of the game is what many of the greats have. This can be seen in many countries but it seems that some countries develop this type of player more effectively then others.

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.
    The quadra you referred belongs to a CIEP, no? In many cases, the only one around. In many cases, their daily playground. The game you referred is called FUTSAL. Was the ball a heavy ball, the Futsal ball? Or they were playing with the old soccer ball? Or even a small 'dente de leite' ball? You pretty much described a bit what we call 'playing soccer'! We play for fun, to socialize and we all dream we will be a soccer famous/rich player one day! But what you experienced in there, as you described, you were playing and being part of the local pick up games. Free of charge. You are welcome if you can hang! You are welcome if you can add up! You are welcome if you help the team win games, so we can stay in the court as long as we can possibly win! We play for fun, right? But even at pick up fun games, we don't want, we don't like to lose! I am sure their frustrations over your through passes might have been for three reasons: you took to long to pass, he didn't make the run and expected to feet or your pass was totally off. He probably said, "porra", "caralho, muito ruim" "presta atencao, olha, caralho" "solta a bola mais rapido, porra" "Porra, que gringo ruim de bola" We dribble anywhere in the field. Dribbling is not something you can't do! We dribble growing up playing streetsoccer and futsal daily, and we only understand we can't dribble so much anymore when we go play on soccer fields and start to understand the tactics, when we can dribble and when we should not be dribbling. We dribble because we are comfortable doing it. We dribble to take pressure away! We dribble to mess up the defenders! We dribble to better set ourselves and others whether is to start a counter attack, to put us in a better position to score.

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.
    Streetsoccer and Futsal teaches anyone that growing up anywhere in Brazil. Quick precise passes, broad vision findig the open lonely man, unpredictable dribbling and lots of shots on goal. The game is so intense you have no time for crying about the chances you missed but only celebrate the chances you made them right...having an organized fun in a brutal serious environment. Or you can hang or you will be out no matter what level you play! That's the mystery of Brazilian soccer. You have to have all elements, shape and passion the game requires you to have. Competition is very high even inside the CIEPs you experienced one. Competition is even more brutal when you jump on what we call club soccer! The network you build along the years will separate those who play club soccer and those who really never had a chance! You also mention Americans need to think like the Brazilians play the ball into space rather than feet! That's a great point. But this is what we call chemistry! We don't need to talk, we don't need to see, we have been playing so much, there are things we do without even meeting the person before. We simply play the game without fears! We meet a Brazilian on the field, we click right the way. We know when, how and where to put the ball in all different scenarios the game exposes us to. So many variables, so many little things we do there and yet you don't find in the USA...we all play soccer! According to what they believe is right to do under the environment they have been creating, they are accomplishing a lot already! What is done throughout the phases, the environment itself and the quality of players and coaches, you simply can't understand how, what and when we do in Brazil unless you spend some time down there and see/feel it with your own eyes...Scouting the Brazilians when they pay us to come over here and play US players of any level or watching them from TV will never be enough! You save that money bringing them over and start traveling to Brazil yourselves!...just like you did!!!

  1. Efrahim Fernandez
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.
    I am a strong proponent of futsal(Street Soccer) it is impart a big reason why Brazil and lately Spain which adopted it in there youth programs years back know play with such style and flair and success. The speed of the game in futsal requires tight control of ball and skilled creativity to break defense's down. Until Futsal becomes apart of the frame work in development we will with our England friends be lacking in the creative player. At the National level perhaps Dempsey and maybe Torres and Bradley could play futsal well? How about England perhaps Rooney and Wilshire ? Now think about Brazil , Spain or even Mexico how many of them on one team would excel on a futsal court. It is an over simplification but you get my point !

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 11:59 a.m.
    THERE ISN'T A DEFENSIVE SYSTEM OUT THERE THAT CAN STOP ANYONE FROM DRIBBLING THROUGH...UNLESS YOU FOUL THE PLAYER FAST OR EVEN ANTICIPATING THAT CRUCIAL PASS TO THE OUTSTANDING FAST DRIBBLER, YOU CAN'T STOP ANYONE FROM DRIBBLING! YOU'VE GOTTA DRIBBLE BY THE FINAL ATTACKING THIRD!IT WILL MIX EVERYBODY UP AND EVENTUALLY THE DRIBBLING PLAYER WILL BE KICKED, HE WILL BE LET GO AND DRIBBLE THROUGH OR EVEN HE WILL PASS TO SOMEONE ELSE IN BETTER POSITION TO SCORE, IF HE DOES NOT SCORE HIMSELF. IF MESSI IS HAVING A GREAT DAY DRIBBLING THROUGH OR GETTING MANY FOULS, BARCELONA HAS A GREAT CHANCE TO SCORE. HE IS THE ONE ALONG WITH XAVI AND INIESTA WITH FREEDOM TO DRIBBLE THROUGH AFTER THEY CROSS THE HALF LINE...THEY DRIBBLE AND PASS, PASS AND DRIBBLE EFFECTIVELY, THEY CREATE LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES TO SCORE, AND THE QUALITY OF PLAYERS THEY HAVE EVENTUALLY BARCELONA WINS! IF NOT, THEY WILL LOSE LIKE ANY OTHER TEAM OUT THERE! ACCURATE FAST PASSES, DRIBBLING GOING TOWARDS THE GOAL AND SHOOT PRECISELY AWAY FROM THE KEEPER, THESE ELEMENTS WILL DEFINITELY AND MOST LIKELY BRING YOU TO GOALS...AND THAT'S WHY YOU SEE NOW WORLDWIDE CLUB TEAMS TAKING THE BRAZILIANS OUT OF BRAZIL TO GO PLAY AND DO THOSE THINGS FOR THEM!!!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.
    Interesting Luis, Please keep posting. This is all common sense but we need to keep this fresh in our heads and change our overall approach.

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 12:46 p.m.
    Efrahim, you got it! USA is adopting many sports like Futsal, Beach Soccer, and society (5v5 to 8v8)versions of soccer. However, they are being sold in form of tournaments!!! People and players have no clue how the game is actually played and the players are being thrown to those events as an extra fun activity. Many of them get embarrassed and don't even want to deal with those games anymore...Here you do the inverted process. You take soccer players to go play those sports when the true of the matter is, they are already solid individual sports in Brazil with local, state, regional and national championships!!! From early ages we choose the sport and we stick with it 120%...Streetsoccer is streetsoccer. Futsal is Futsal. Beach Soccer is Beach Soccer. Footvolley is Footvolley. Society is Society...each one of them with their unique tricks, shapes and demands!

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 1 p.m.
    Arreola, since I came to Southern California, I have been exposing all games I used to play in Rio de Janeiro to my players in Southern California. However, I get them too far behind or too far ahead the soccer process. They don't follow the same path I followed. They are not as passionate, as I still am. They don't do as much as I did...The biggest problem in America is how the system is set up! The ones who truly love the game, have the skills and awareness to play the game, don't have money to pay to play! Most of the time, don't have the family structure! Spend so much to get so little in return! Coaches totally unprepared to deal with kids, understand the true path these kids need to take and when they finally wake up, too late! I watched USA BU14 x Chivas USA BU16, all USA BU14 boys none of them would have a chance to even play in a club in Brazil! The defenders with space and freedom, passed the ball around, but when a forward challenged them, the forward passed by like he was not even there. US playmaker didn't create a thing. There was one there who kicked three times to the goal and the technique was poor as an AYSO player would not do in some cases. How did that boy got to the USA team? The forwards, none of them created anything unpredictable. USA team looked more organized, passing, passing, passing without pressure, pressure came, lost the ball. A lucky break through, scored 1 x 0, and 20 minutes later, Chivas was winning 3 x 1...three goals by one single player dribbling through three-five US defenders and scored!!! Saw enough, left at 25 minutes first half!!! Too cold to see that...

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.
    I spent an entire day watching Galaxy Academy BU12 to the Galaxy Pro...Do you know what they all had in common? No skills, no creativity, lack of quick thinking and precise decision/skills making! When they thought and did something fast, the skills didn't follow or vice-versa. No creativity, no plan B, C or even D while dealing with adversity. Is Plan A or nothing! Look like a bunch of robots playing soccer! How they can change? The women's are on top and the guys are winning teams they never won before they might say!!! Since I am not in control, I can only talk to let some out...

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.
    We were at ID2 in Phoenix in December. There were 2 players picked from PDA to go to Spain Trip. I checked past trips. The only club to send 2 players every year is PDA. The coach running this ID2 Camps coincidentally runs PDA. There were 9 already National Pool Players there. ID2 is supposed to "Identify" Players to reccommend to the National Teams. Instead they picked all of these players already "Identified" by the USSF. My son was there and had 5 assists and 1 goal in 3 games. 2 of those games he sat 1 1/2 in each. I would like to send you a video of my son who is a U14 as well. He has been invited to 6 USSF Camps where he always scores vs 98/99's. He is getting offers to top High Schools and to Europe for the following year. I would like your honest opinion about him. How can I reach you??

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 2:26 p.m.
    Sorry, I meant he has scored vs the top 98/97's in our Region.

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.
    KIFUTSAL@YAHOO.COM

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: February 28, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.
    Frankly, it's been a long time since the Brazil national team played the beautiful game. 1970. There were some moments in '82 and '86, but since then, there has been very little beautiful soccer played by Brazil. The wins in '94 and '02 were more due to hard work, lots of running, and solid defense than anything else. Brazil of Pele and Falcao had become Brazil of Dunga.

  1. Luis P. KIFUTSAL
    commented on: March 1, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
    David, you made a great point! But winning the WC today brings lots of money and way bigger status to anyone involved but fans. Very stressful 7 games month long tournament! Moreover, look at how the other teams play Brazil lately, Chelsea style! Can't compared how the game was played 10 years ago and now...Teams are paid to win and not to put a show, entertain like they used to doing almost free compared to the money flow of today's worldwide soccer...

  1. David Parsons
    commented on: March 1, 2013 at 2 a.m.
    Good conversation everyone. I am the son of a Brazilian woman and Midwest American Man. I am coaching 11 year olds and am trying to teach the right way. It is difficult without money, and I wish I could pay for it all myself. We have been doing futsal for 1 year and hope to do much more as time goes on. It is the best way the USA will develop to challenge the world. I/we must create the true American style of Latin skill mixed with American power and athleticism. Our own style to win the world is what we must strive for.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.
    David, I agree but to do that we must learn from the very best and pick the style that best suits our culture and what we like to see. Americnas love high scores. That is proven. They idolize the Jordan's, Allen Iverson's, guys that scored. Babe Ruth. Gretzky. Payton. But when it comes to soccer we bunker to win. Why? Coincidentally, we have a hard time getting USA National team viewers or fans to be majority in stadiums. Why are we following this influence when it is historically proven we love to scoore and put on a show??? Brazilian soccer is our kind of show. Thats what we will want to watch. So why arent we looking for a Brazilian influence yet turning it into an American style?? We have a great influence of Hispanics in USA that love soccer as theri frist spot. Why are we following the English style ? Why do we play l;ike Chelsea?


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
2014 NPSL All-League Team    
[AWARDS] Two players each from the NPSL finalists New York Red Bulls U-23s (Victor Manosalvas and ...
U.S. women to face Mexico twice in September    
[DATEBOOK] The U.S. women's national team has scheduled its second and third pre-Women's World Cup qualifying ...
MLS: Three games to watch    
[PREVIEW: Week 21] The MLS weekend schedule, which again includes a Friday night special (Philadelphia-Sporting Kansas ...
Bayern edges Chivas without World Cup stars    
[INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES] Peruvian Claudio Pizarro scored in the 10th minute to give German champion Bayern Munich ...
Quakes make investment in Argentine Perez Garcia    
[MLS: Thursday] In need of an offensive spark, the San Jose Earthquakes have signed 29-year-old Argentine ...
U.S. U-17s earn first win in Denmark    
[OPEN NORDIC TOURNAMENT] After losing its first two games to host Denmark and Norway, the U.S. ...
Kiss on the Neck: Sportsmanship taken to new level?    
[VIDEO PICK: Off the Post] After a pair of players clashed in a Copa do Brazil ...
Super Solo Effort in FA Women's Super League    
[VIDEO PICK: Golazo] Manchester City’s 17-year-old midfielder, Natasha Flint, took the ball in our own half, ...
Women's World Cup dress rehearsal begins Tuesday    
[COUNTDOWN: Canada 2014] Twelve years after hosting the first FIFA youth championship for women, Canada will ...
ESPN will broadcast 17 U-20 Women's World Cup matches    
[SOCCER ON THE AIR] In its last FIFA world championship before rights revert to Fox next ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives