Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Dunga and McClaren Face Similar Selection Worries Ahead of Crucial Games

England manager Steve McClaren goes into tonight's qualifier against Russia considering whether to shuffle his team around to accommodate both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in his starting lineup, despite the excellent results achieved without Lampard in the side.

Brazil coach Dunga faces a similar problem, having already switched around the Copa America winning side, bringing Ronaldinho and Kaka into the starting eleven to less than great effect in the draw against Colombia.

Despite failing to produce the scintillating football for which the Brazilians are renowned, Dunga's side won the Copa America without either of their two star attacking midfielders in the squad, both of them deciding to rest rather than play in the tournament. The lack of these two seemed to liberate Robinho, who took on the extra responsibility and performed excellently throughout the competition. The rest of the side galvanised around the young Real Madrid player and their victory was very much a team effort.

Fast forward to Sunday's game against Colombia and Brazil looked anything but a cohesive team unit. Ronaldinho and Kaka drifted around the pitch, rarely getting involved in the final third and Robinho seemed to revert back into his shell, hardly looking likely to trouble the Colombian defence at any point during the match. Despite the inept performance, Dunga looks likely to stick with the same eleven at home to Ecuador tonight.

It would be a very brave decision to drop one of them and if so, which one would go?

In the England team, Steve McClaren had the fortune of Frank Lampard being unavailable for a couple of games, making the decision for him. In those games, Gareth Barry has proved to be a perfect foil for Gerrard in central midfield and the results achieved with that partnership at the heart of the England team have negated any need to bring Lampard back into the team.

As strange as it sounds, Dunga may be hoping for a similar slice of misfortune for one of his two attacking midfielders, just so he can try something different with the team. With his side returning to the Maracana for the first time in seven years tonight, expectation is high, with the fans likely to get on the players' backs if they do not make a good start to the match.

If Brazil fail to win, the writing could be on the wall for Dunga. One cannot help but feel that his reluctance to breakup the Ronaldinho and Kaka partnership may have contributed heavily to his downfall.

On the other hand, Steve McClaren will be grateful for the opportunity he received to change his team, as the results gained without Gerrard and Lampard together in midfield have probably saved him his job.

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