Menezes: Spain have set new benchmark

Spain have surged ahead of Brazil to become the new benchmark for world football, and the only way to make up ground on the world and European champions is to follow their example and adopt a long-term approach, coach Mano Menzes told Reuters in an interview.

Menzes, however, dismissed the idea that the five-times world champions would copy Spain by playing without a recognised striker, pointing out that the number nine shirt was part of Brazilian football culture.

"It's a different type of football, they have worked on it for years and found their way of doing things," Menezes said of Spain. "Before they became successful, they prepared hard and were already winning matches.

"It's obvious that there is a distance between them and us. We have started afresh in Brazil.

"The champions are always a benchmark and Spain are outlining the way football is played in the world. They make the rules today in the way Brazil have done in the past," he added.

"Nobody can take on Spain on equal terms."

Menezes also dismissed suggestions the Spanish passing game had become dull to watch.

"If they can beat everyone playing this way, it's up to the others to find a way of overcoming it," he said

"Lots of teams have played possession-based football in the past, but in the way they do and the way that they keep the ball, nobody has done that."

Brazil have drifted away from their swaggering, attacking style over the last few years, opting for a more physical and direct approach which reached its zenith under Dunga at the last World Cup.

NEW PHILOSOPHY

Brazil's quarter-final exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2010 prompted a reaction against that type of play and Menezes decided it was time to implement a new philosophy.

"We must not copy Spain, we have to study how to play against them," said Menezes.

One aspect of Spain's game that Brazil would not be copying was the so-called "false number nine" which basically involved playing without a recognised forward.

From the lumbering Serginho Chulapa in 1982 to the clinical brilliance of Ronaldo between 1998 and 2006, the striker has always been key figure for Brazil and Menezes said it would stay that way.

"Our football has always been based on the forwards, and culturally that is the way our fans want to see the team play. I don't see why we should give up on this simply because Spain were successful.

"We have to find a way of winning with forwards."

Although Menezes talks of long-term planning, he faces a race against time with Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup.

He knows the fans will accept nothing less than a sixth world title.

Results and performance so far have been mixed, with a quarter-final exit in the Copa America last year adding to the pressure.

Menezes will also take charge of the Olympic side in London, featuring under-23 teams, and will again be under huge pressure to deliver Brazil's first gold medal.

Vanderley Luxemburgo was fired as both under-23 and senior coach after failure in Sydney and Dunga survived by the skin of his teeth after