South American Football - Brazil's suspect temperament exposed in Swiss defeat

Brazil's shock defeat by Switzerland exposed the same temperamental weaknesses that led to their downfall at the 2010 World Cup and could undermine their bid to win a sixth title on home soil next year.

Reuters
South American Football - Brazil's suspect temperament exposed in Swiss defeat
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Switzerland's Valon Behrami (R) challenges Brazil's Lucas Fernando (2nd R) during their international friendly soccer match at the St. Jakob-Park stadium in Basel August 14, 2013 (Reuters)

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari brushed aside Wednesday's 1-0 loss, putting it down to a lack of preparation time at the start of the season, but the match's apparent lack of importance made Brazil's petulant behaviour all the more noticeable.

Brazil forward Neymar tangled with Stephan Lichtsteiner early in the game and retaliated by kicking the Swiss full back from behind in the 23rd minute, leading to an unseemly scuffle on the touchline in which Brazil full back Marcelo appeared to push Lichtsteiner in the face.

Minutes later, Marcelo hacked down Xherdan Shaqiri with the sort of ugly challenge which, although unpunished on Wednesday, could easily have earned a red card in a competitive match with a less tolerant referee.

Fellow defender Dante then went thumping into Hans Seferovic, generating more Swiss protests.

Neymar, jeered several times when he fell down and failed to win a free kick, complained about Swiss rougharm tactics after the game in what seemed an unfair accusation against the hosts.

"Switzerland are a team who kick a lot, and stay back in defence," he told Brazilian television. "It's difficult to play against that sort of team."

Bizarrely, it was some cheeky skills from some of the Swiss players, in particular the impish Shaqiri, which really appeared to rile Brazil, rather than rough tackling.

The Brazilian players were clearly irritated at being on the receiving end of the sort of trickery they usually enjoy subjecting their opponents to.

Brazil should by now have learned the importance of keeping their cool.

The World Cup, with a group stage followed by a knockout contest, can be a cruel competition where a single slip-up or loss of temper can undo all the previous good work.

That was more or less what happened to Brazil three years ago. They powered through their group and round of 16 match and looked in little danger at halftime in their quarter-final against Netherlands as they led 1-0 after dominating the game.

But they collapsed after a defensive mix-up allowed the Dutch to equalise and went on to lose 2-1, with midfielder Felipe Melo sent off for petulantly stamping on Arjen Robben.

Brazil completely lost their composure with coach Dunga one of the worst offenders as he spent the second half ranting against the referee.

It was a similar story at the Olympic final against Mexico in 2012, where Brazil never pulled themselves together after conceding an early goal and went on to lose 2-1.

Even their usually unflappable coach Mano Menezes, who had preached about the virtues of patience, spent most of the game ranting at the referee and demanding yellow cards for the Mexican players.

Scolari, who led Brazil to a World Cup win in 2002 and Portugal to the Euro 2004 final, is a master in the arts of gamesmanship and getting the best out of his players.

But he needs to make sure his players channel their aggression in the right direction if he is to lead his side to another world title next year.

If Brazil cannot keep calm in a season-opening friendly against the usually placid Swiss, their nerves are unlikely to withstand the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a World Cup knockout game.

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