Criticized in 1990 then world champion in 1994 – explore the rise of the Selecao's old friend, who replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari on Tuesday
Controversial and with a short fuse, he’s a warrior. And above all else, a winner. Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri was confirmed on Tuesday as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s successor and immediately vowed to erase the memories of his feuds with members of the press and the fall-out from World Cup 2010. The Selecao have gone back to an old friend as they look to a brighter future, to Russia 2018, which is set to be their new coach’s fourth World Cup adventure.
A tough-tackling defensive midfielder in his playing days, Dunga – nicknamed after Dopey from the Brazilian version of the seven dwarfs – made his first World Cup appearance in 1990 when the Selecao were knocked out by Argentina and accused of blasphemy against the virtues of Jogo Bonito. Dunga was singled out amid criticism that he didn’t possess the technical ability demanded by the Brazil national team. But whatever he lacked in skill, he most certainly made up for in tactical intelligence and an uncompromising commitment to winning.
But he was one of the most outstanding players in the USA. The consummate leader, his fearless approach and tight marking was key to finding the stability which allowed the likes of Romario and Bebeto to run riot further up the field.
Born a Gaucho in the Southern region of Rio Grande do Sul, Dunga began a glittering career with Internacional before spells with Vasco, Corinthians, Santos, Pisa, Fiorentina, Pescara, Stuttgart and Jubilo Iwata in Japan. He appeared 91 times for his country and was a South American and world champion at U-20 level. He helped the senior side to two Copa America titles and a Confederations Cup.
He may not be an idol in the guise of Pele, Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, but he remains a symbol of importance of the collective, of the launch pad from which Brazil’s endless supply of mercurial talents can shoot for the stars. And he is once again ready to prove his doubters wrong.
"Nelson Mandela had everything against him and changed the way people think by showing patience,” he said at his presentation on Tuesday. “Hopefully, I can have just one percent of his patience. I do not think of myself, I think the team. If the team is right, I'll be happy. It will take a lot of sacrifice, but that only makes joy and satisfaction of victory that much greater."
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Forging a mentality as strong as his own will be his first task back in the hot-seat as Brazil looks to recover from the disappointment of World Cup 2014. Mental strength was key to his success in his previous spell as Brazil coach between 2006 and 2010, in what was his first ever coaching role. During that period he won 42 and lost just six of 60 games in charge during what was a period of real success until a World Cup quarterfinal defeat to the Netherlands in South Africa.
Held up as a symbol of the defensive-minded, physical approach that Brazilian football took around the time he broke into the side, he channeled the negative energy into a thirst for victory. And he will ask his players to do exactly the same, to play with discipline and honor the famous yellow jersey.
"My first thing asked of me [in 2006] was to restore the reputation of the Selecao, the shirt and to get results,” he said. “We managed exactly that by winning. Now I have a second opportunity to prepare the national team for the 2018 World Cup.
“I will not sell a dream, I'll sell a reality. And reality requires a lot of work.”
Nobody knows that more than Dunga.