From hero of the Rio Olympics to a sacking after the South American Championships, the past few months have been up and down for Rogério Micale
Rogério Micale made history last August by becoming the first manager to win gold for Brazil at the Olympic football tournament. A couple of months later and he finds himself sacked by the governing body of Brazilian football, following the national team’s disastrous campaign in the South American U-20 championships. Did Micale earn the right for another chance, or did he end up getting the punishment he deserved?
Official figures confirmed that the Rio final between Brazil and Germany was the most watched event by Brazilians during the whole 2016 Olympics. The historic triumph was celebrated all over the country, with local press emphasizing its importance. However, the atmosphere at the start of the campaign was very different, as Brazil only managed two goalless draws with South Africa and Iraq.
The results were seen as a catastrophe, and people were already suggesting that this team will bring shame just like “the 7-1 generation” from the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, Brazil’s women were doing far better, and reactionary fans quickly replaced Neymar’s shirt with Marta’s.
However, everything changed when newly-appointed senior national team coach Tite, visited the group ahead of the decisive third group stage game against Denmark. It was the turning point, where Micale changed his tactics and results improved up until the final.
What was the secret for this quick rise in performance? Several outlets in Brazil confirmed that Micale received tactical advice from Tite, and that the latter was the real brain behind the revolution. But, there is no evidence that proves or denies this. In the first two games, Micale forced Gabriel Jesus to sit in the box and wait for endless crosses, while being surrounded by four defenders, stronger and taller than him.
Brazil’s tactical plan was so old-school, and was never going to work. When Micale switched formations from 4-1-4-1 to a fluid 4-2-4, the front-four gained more freedom and were able to swap positions on a regular basis, which made the side less predictable and more creative.
Brazil ended as champions and the players and technical staff went from villains to heroes, in the blink of an eye as is the culture in Brazil. Therefore, it was no surprise that Micale was dismissed from his duties last week following his first big failure at the recent South American U-20 Championships where Brazil finished fifth. Former supporters turned on the coach, suggesting that Tite, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar’s heroics delivered Olympic gold.
With Brazil U-20, Rogério Micale’s squad was far from the best in the competition. At the same time, his tactics were questionable. Micale insisted on using Felipe Vizeu as a static striker. The Flamengo attacker offered close to nothing and relied on a couple of clutch moments to score a tap in here, and a tap in there.
His strike that sealed victory against Venezuela was his only impressive moment. Otherwise, he was the equivalent of Fred in World Cup 2014. It was frustrating for anyone who followed the games, to understand why Micale insisted on making the whole team play with a lone striker, just like he had done by forcing Gabriel Jesus to operate as a classical target man, in the first two games of the Olympics.
As a matter of fact, Micale also used Cruzeiro’s Judivan as a target man in the U-20 World Cup in 2015, and relied on him up until he injured his ligament so was replaced by necessity.
In Micale’s favor, he did reach the World Cup final with Brazil’s under-20 side, then conquered Olympic gold. In other words, he does have the results to back his philosophy, but Brazil’s performances were so awful in the Sud-Americano that a viewer would be reaching for the television off-button before half-time.
Is Micale the real hero of the Olympics, and as a result deserved another opportunity, or was he lucky to have Neymar by his side, and got exposed when he had an average squad under his disposal? The discussion will go on for some time in the living rooms and bars of Brazil.