Dunga returns, but can he handle it?
Brazil have responded to that disastrous World Cup semifinal performance with a curious choice of new coach. They have gone back to the future in reappointing Dunga, who was in charge of the team from 2006 to 2010.
Eight years ago, the former World Cup-winning captain had no previous coaching experience. He has had very little since -- a few months last year in charge of Internacional of Porto Alegre. It is, then, nothing short of extraordinary that this man could have been chosen twice to command his country's national team -- and it is perhaps even more extraordinary that he has been seen as the man to lead them at this delicate moment.
Many were hoping for a great leap forward, expecting that the crushing 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany might lead to a serious rethink in Brazilian football. There seems little chance of that now.
Dunga arrives with his talk of the importance of "commitment," pointing to the statistics of his previous spell in charge when there were many more victories than defeats.
Two considerations might be made. The first is the question of "how."
At their most effective, Dunga's 2006-10 Brazil side were a brutally quick counterattacking machine, the type of team likely to regard a corner for the opposition as a goal-scoring opportunity for themselves. They were never particularly easy on the eye. Dunga went as far as to claim that the desire to see Brazil re-embrace their 1982 style of midfield passing was nothing other than a European plot to try to undermine their chances of winning -- a declaration that seems out of sorts with the possession-based football played with such success in recent times by Spain and, now, Germany.
The second consideration is that, as he is surely aware, all those stats count for little. Everything was preamble to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where an unimpressive and unloved Brazil fell to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals -- a defeat that had a great deal to do with the personality of the coach.
Dunga was always fueled by anger. He is the one World Cup-winning captain in history who transformed the act of lifting the trophy from one of celebration to one of revenge; he poured out his contempt for those who had doubted him and his team as he held aloft the cup after USA '94.
To operate on such a fuse as a player, even as team captain, is one thing. In the position of coach, it is quite another. There were times during the 2010 campaign when it was clear that Dunga was entirely out of his emotional depth. In one postmatch press conference he tangled with an entirely inoffensive Brazilian journalist, spending his time on the podium muttering swearwords under his breath.
The clear impression was that he was unable to control himself. How, then, could he control a team? Was it really a surprise when Brazil suffered an emotional collapse in the second half against the Dutch while Dunga lost his temper on the sidelines and kept hitting the dugout?
"We need to show emotional balance," he said in Tuesday's press conference, without making it clear whether he was being critical of his past conduct -- or whether he was attacking the river of tears cried by the 2014 team.
Perhaps now the tears will be cried by those who hoped for something more idealistic from the country seen by many as the spiritual guardian of the beautiful game.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC.