By Suben Ravindran

If this sounds like an obituary for Ronaldo and Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho especially) maybe it is, after all this could be the demise of the Brazilian team in not keeping up with the record of winning the World Cup on on every continent they have played so far. Dunga, the national team manager, has kept out many good players including veterans like, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Diego and promising players like Hernanes of Sao Paulo. The exclusion of these players leaves many observers dumbfounded, if not Ronaldo and Hernanes..Ronaldinho should have been in the squad. The exclusion of Adriano was also a surprise to some, but with a clone of a striker in Luis Fabiano in-terms of his physical presence and style of play, Adriano was not a top priority. Adriano is also prone to mood swings and he got out of his contract with Inter Milan in Italy by refusing to play as he wanted to go back to Brazil (now plays for Flamengo) and Inter was sympathetic to him after he had marital problems. Ronaldo has had a resurrection with Corinthians and seems to enjoy his football, but this does not seem to please Dunga at all. In this case the motivation might not be enough for Ronaldo and with his unpredictable weight and knee problem, it might seem a wise choice by Dunga.

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The exclusion of Hernanes of Sao Paulo is a bit of a surprise, he is now known as the number one hot property in Brazil and Dunga has gone for European based players in his position. This lack of experience might have been his undoing plus the fact he had to challenge a certain Kaka. He might have gone to a European club earlier, but career wise Hernanes has made the right decision, “I had an offer from CSKA Moscow, but If I move it will not be to a minor footballing country” said Hernanes recently. If you look at the midfield and forward lines selected by Dunga he has gone for European based players, accept for Robinho who is now in Santos, but Robinho has a loads full of experience in European football playing for Real Madrid and Manchester City, so you can see a pattern in Dunga’s selection for South Africa. The other shocker was Pato’s exclusion, but he had bad season and his make or break moment came in the Champions League second round tie against Manchester United, where he was totally out played and outclassed by the midfield and defence of the Red Devils. His season throughout was inconsistent and the hype and most importantly excellent play in the first season when he joined Milan went missing.

Brazil could at least use Ronaldinho as a impact substitute, but some observers believe that Ronaldinho would cause problems and unsettle the camp if he was just used as a substitute. Ronaldinho gives the option for Dunga to have more flexible options in changing his formation. Either 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 or he could be used like a floater and be given a free role. The famous French sports daily L’Equipe categorised his position as a nine-and-a-half, which means he is not entirely a out and out striker, but somewhere in between. “He is not a true organiser, he is more a second attacker who can score goals and has the vision to make them,” said Zidane.

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Ronaldinho now at AC Milan has the uncanny ability to play the game at the top level and yet treat it like it is just another pick-up game with his toothy grin or smile. Brazilians are of course known to enjoy the game and handle pressure and even other players who play professionally, but the Brazilians take the cake in this and Ronaldinho notches it up another level. It is not just about his ability to smile under pressure, but he makes some audacious moves that some players would not even think twice to try it in a pick-up game. Just youtube Ronadinho and you can see all kinds of videos of him especially the one where he plays the ball with his upper back, his elastico move, his futsal style goal with no drag back against Chelsea in the Champions League a couple of years ago and many more which was all done at Barcelona when he was at the peak of his game.

Julio Baptista amazingly got a call-up from Dunga, the player known as the beast now plays for Roma and was doing well at Sevilla, but his time at Real Madrid and his loan spell at Arsenal was not successful at all. He still had takers and Roma came in for him, he is obviously not known for his technique and he survives in the football world because of his awesome physique. How Bapstista can get the nod ahead of Ronaldinho is hard to fathom, but the exclusion of Ronaldo, Adriano and Ronaldinho is no surprise if you analyse the situation further. Dunga was a defensive midfielder and he shapes his team according to his playing style and he has gone for more steel than flair. He has no time for prima donnas, while some managers will hope to nurture and milk the player further he goes for what works and what doesn’t at that moment. Dunga was a no-nonsense and take no prisoners style of a player. He would even foul a player if it meant stopping a goal, whatever for the cause.

In the 1998 World Cup Romario was not included in the World Cup finals in France and in the final, Brazil really missed him. As we all know Ronaldo was very sick on that day and a dispute broke out in the dressing room about whether he should play. Romario if present would have made a difference make no mistake. Romario was utterly dissapointed with his exclusion and even painted a grafitti of Zagallo and his assistant the famed Zico mocking them on the walls of his disco club. If Brazil find themselves in this situation they would want a player with a toothy grin to make a cheeky play in the pressure cooker environment of South Africa.

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Dunga has named a reserve pool of 7 players in-case of injury to any of the 23-man squad and Ronaldinho is in that pool. There is still an outside chance that he might get in. Fans can only hope that Brazil will not be in a position where they might say “if only Ronaldinho was here”, with Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal facing Brazil, Dunga has deprived the world of a skill contest that has left many fans’ mouth watering like Pavlov dogs, now Dunga has taken the bell away and we are still salivating in hope. Ivory Coast, North Korea and Portugal are no easy feat, but only finishing top of the group and winning the World Cup will be highlighted as success for the five-time world champions, but Brazil not having Ronaldinho is like The Doors without Jim Morrison.

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