Brazil excuses unlikely to cut much ice

DURBAN - Brazil coach Dunga trotted out the same old excuses after his team's dismal goalless draw with Portugal but his familiar complaints about over-cautious opponents are unlikely to cut much ice with the critics.

The famously grumpy Brazil coach effectively accused Portugal of being spoilsports for packing their defence and challenging Brazil to find a way through. Brazil failed and the result was a petulant, scrappy goalless draw.

"It was a difficult game, the Portuguese put everyone behind the halfway line," Dunga said. "Portugal's tactics were normal. Everyone takes extra precautions when they play Brazil."

Goalkeeper Julio Cesar echoed his coach's sentiments.

"It's turning into a tradition," he said. "All the teams who face Brazil shut up shop and try to exploit the counter-attack, because they know that our football culture is always to take the initiative."

Those comments had a familiar ring about them.

Dunga took almost exactly the same line when his team struggled to breakdown a stubborn North Korea defence in their opening game, which they eventually won 2-1.

Critics, however, say it's Dunga's own fault for packing his squad with midfield spoilers and refusing to take risks.

Under Dunga, Brazil themselves are much happier playing on the counter-attack and it seems a bit much for him to complain when their opponents try to do the same.

Dunga's team are extremely difficult to beat - they have won 18 of their last 21 matches - but depend on isolated moments of individual brilliance to win matches.

They do not attack continually and numbers in the same way as Argentina, Chile or Spain, the most adventurous teams in South Africa, and when the inspiration dries up as it did on Friday, the result can be 90 minutes of unrelenting tedium.

Although Dunga's team generally have an excellent record, some of Brazil's worst-ever performances -- including goalless home draws against Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela in the World Cup qualifiers -- have come under his watch.

Monday's second round match against Chile offers an more encouraging panorama.

Chile are a team who like to pour forward, leaving plenty of spaces for Brazil's counter-attacking game.

Brazil have met their fellow South Americans five times under Dunga's leadership, winning them all.

Brazil will also welcome back playmaker Kaka, suspended against the Portuguese, and Robinho, who was rested.

They are the only two players will real spark in the Brazil squad and Kaka's absence especially was badly felt on Friday, especially by target man Luis Fabiano, whose supply lines dried up and was only noticed when he picked up a yellow card for a late tackle.

Former World Player of the Year Kaka, who had an unhappy debut season with Real Madrid, has shown signs that he could be returning to his best and Brazil will need him to continue his revival against on Monday.

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