Brazil coach Dunga will revisit the site of one of his greatest disappointments when he leads out his side against France at the Stade de France in Paris on Thursday.
He was the Brazil captain in 1998 when his side were surpassed by a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France in the World Cup final.
And as the World Cup winner from 1994 as a player bids now as coach to reconstruct the team so humiliated on home soil at last year’s World Cup, he will be aiming to banish three sets of demons.
First will be his own personal anguish from a final in which Zidane’s brace helped the hosts to a 3-0 victory and their first World Cup success.
And then there will be the demons of a country reeling from a 7-1 semi-final humbling at the hands of eventual champions Germany, not to mention the final nail in the coffin as the Netherlands trumped them 3-0 in the third-place play-off.
Luis Felipe Scolari — who led Brazil to victory at the 2002 World Cup — was fired following the tournament with Dunga reinstated to a post he’d held from 2006-2010.
There too is another demon for him to exorcise as, despite winning the 2007 Copa America, he was dismissed after Brazil’s quarter-final exit to the Netherlands at the World Cup in South Africa.
– Incomparable –
While all that may be on Dunga’s mind, one of his main tasks will be trying to get the best out of Neymar, widely seen as Brazil’s sole world class talent.
He may be the third top scorer in Spain’s La Liga behind the incomparable duo, Barcelona team-mate Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, but Neymar has been struggling for goals these past two months.
He has netted just three in his last nine games, and that while Barca have been in free-scoring form on a run of 18 wins from their last 19 matches.
Neymar will likely be glad to join up with the national team as he has scored seven goals in his last six Brazil matches — including four in one match against Japan.
His tally of 42 international goals at just 23 suggests he could one day threaten legend Pele’s mark of 77.
But while he has to share the limelight at Barca alongside Messi and now Luis Suarez, with Brazil the whole team is built around him, making him the focal point of the attack.
He is also the Selecao’s captain, something Dunga believes will help him develop as a player.
“The more responsibilities he has, the more he will progress,” Dunga said recently.
Stopping Neymar, though, isn’t France coach Didier Deschamps’s primary concern as he tries to build a side to compete for glory on home soil at next year’s European Championships.
Deschamps’s current dilemma is who to play up front, with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud of Arsenal and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Greizmann all in fine club form.
Not to mention that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette is top scorer in Ligue 1 while there are also his clubmate Nabil Fekir, Marseille’s Dimitri Payet and Mathieu Valbuena of Dynamo Moscow vying for roles in attacking positions.
It’s a nice problem to have but a plethora of attacking options does not automatically translate into goals, as France’s last two friendly results attest: a 1-1 draw with Albania and 1-0 win over Sweden.
Even so, with both sides concentrating on their own attacking forces, from a fan’s point of view it could make for a thoroughly entertaining game. – Agence France-Presse