Changing the game (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday December 11, 2007 11:36AM; Updated: Tuesday December 11, 2007 2:10PM
This had obliged teams to select a third center back, thus increasing the space in the midfield, which would then have to be filled by players with lung power or defensive awareness. Mineiro and Gilberto Silva were never mentioned, but their shadows hung over the debate, with Luxemburgo frequently referring to Clodoaldo and Gérson, and marveling at what players they would be if their technical ability could be augmented with modern methods of physical preparation.
Former Brazil great Júnior added that nowadays, players with their ability are no longer selected in these two central midfield positions -- volantes, as they are known locally. Instead they have become meias, attacking midfielders who play most of their soccer in the final third of the field.
So today's volantes lack ability on the ball. The consequence, of course, is that the vital first pass out of defense is often not played with sufficient quality, and that the team has problems dictating the rhythm of the game from midfield.
There has been a promising development in this past season's Brazilian championship. Some young, more versatile volantes have been coming though -- especially Hernanes of champion São Paulo, who bases his game on that of Andrea Pirlo of AC Milan, perhaps the most influential player in Italy's '06 World Cup win.
Some more surprising news has come from across the Atlantic, eagerly debated by the panel at the coaches' conference. To the astonishment of his compatriots, Anderson has settled down in style to the position of volante at Manchester United.
It isn't a role he ever filled in Brazil, nor one those back home could ever imagine him filling. At the start of his junior career at Grêmio, Anderson played at fullback, but thereafter he was always an attacking midfielder, a meia, either operating from the right, allowing him to cut inside onto his stronger left foot, or featuring high up the field on the left.
But now, Alex Ferguson has transformed a meia into a volante. It may have been an emergency measure to cover the injury to Paul Scholes. But Anderson has carried out the task so well that he has been keeping Michael Carrick -- an England international who is a specialist in the position -- out of the starting lineup.
As a result, this opens up the prospect of Anderson appearing for the national team in his new function, thus ensuring that the ball is circulated with much more quality than when the old firm of Gilberto Silva and Mineiro are in the lineup.
And with Lucas at Liverpool and Denílson at Arsenal, the Premiership has an important role to play in grooming the next generation of Brazilian midfield talent.
But that's the globalized nature of the contemporary game. Few could possibly have predicted it, but English soccer is helping put the Brazilian game back in touch with its own essence.
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