It is always dangerous to place too much importance on the results of international friendlies but that does not make them meaningless.
In a global calendar squeezed by the demands of the club game, it is always interesting for the international coach to get together with his players. After all, football is a game of ideas, and he needs to make as much use as possible of every game, every training session, every chat with his squad, in order to get his concepts across.
The evidence would seem to be indicating Brazil coach Mano Menezes is moving in the right direction.
The task he took on some two years ago was never going to be an easy one. His predecessor, World Cup winning captain Dunga had left him with little legacy. Brazil had taken an old side to South Africa 2010, where it was eliminated in the quarter-finals.
A substantial rebuilding operation would have to take place before 2014, when as World Cup host Brazil will face a level of pressure the like of which few teams have ever experienced.
This rebuilding work would have to take place in an intolerant atmosphere – when Brazil disappoints, the bulk of the blame is invariably reserved for the coach – and with a dearth of competitive fixtures along the way.
The more simple-minded thought that the reconstruction of the side was merely a case of replacing one generation with another – kick out the old guard, bring in the Santos wonderkids Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso and everything will be fine.
Last year's Copa America, where Brazil disappointed once more, showed emphatically that this is not the case.
Menezes was always aware of this. Right from the start, from his very first press conference, he made it clear that there would have to be a change of ideas.
He stated that the excessive dependence on the counter-attack would have to end. There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, on home ground in 2014 Brazil will surely come up against cautious opponents, unlikely to leave themselves open to the Brazilian counter-attack. The opponent, as he said, has every right to play this way. Instead of getting frustrated, Brazil had to find the solution.
The second reason he gave for the change of direction was the need to make full use of home advantage by giving the Brazilian public a style of play more in tune with its traditional taste. But what did this mean in practice? What was this 'traditional Brazilian football' and where were the players capable of carrying it out?
This issues became all the clearer after Santos – Neymar, Ganso and all – spent six months preparing to play Barcelona in the final of the 2011 Club World Cup, and then come the day was swept aside with contemptuous ease.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola stuck an elegant stiletto into the wound, in the post-match press conference, when he said that his side treated the ball in the way that his father and grandfather told him that Brazil used to do.
Brazil cannot instantly turn itself into Barcelona. It is no co-incidence that the Catalan side can count on the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta – these are players whose characteristics fit the club's playing philosophy.
The Brazilian game, meanwhile, had been following a different route, one where such small players and a possession-based game had given way to a bulking up and a philosophy of play based on the fast break.
But Menezes had his idea, and two years of work is starting to bear fruit.
In February of last year his team lost 1-0 away to France, a deserved defeat, especially after midfielder Hernanes was sent off before half time. Despite the scoreline there was a highly interesting aspect to Brazil's performance in the early stages – it pressed high, seeking to win possession in France's half of the field.
This is not a traditional Brazilian characteristic.
One of the key ideas of the great 1970 side, for example, was to drop deep when it lost possession, with all bar centre forward Tostao behind the line of the ball.
Now, 44 years later, on the evidence of a couple of recent friendlies, Menezes has his team carrying out his instructions, with his young attacking players snapping at the heels of opponents.
The 3-1 win over Denmark and the 4-1 triumph against the United States were both marked by this kind of move. Goals were scored and opportunities created by pressing high, winning possession and breaking at speed.
And with the collective idea in place, the team and its identity are starting to look clearer. Its interpretation of 4-2-3-1 is making sense.
Slight little Oscar has been the revelation in the number ten shirt, both working and stinging like a busy bee. His club link with centre forward Leandro Damiao (they both play for Internacional in the south of Brazil) is looking interesting.
Either side are wide strikers, with the power of Hulk and the sinuous talent of Neymar.
Attacking full backs offer the possibility of two against one situations down the flanks, and the duo of Sandro and Romulo in the centre are both combative and more fluid in possession than recent Brazil midfields.
This is still a work in progress, and much more will be learned in the two friendlies against Mexico and Argentina.
In the USA game it was a shame Brazil was gifted an early goal because of a ludicrous penalty decision. It would have been more interesting to see it have to work much harder for the breakthrough.
The definitive truth about any team only emerges when it goes behind. Hopefully either Mexico or Argentina will score the first goal, allowing us to observe the Brazilian reaction to adversity.
The World Cup is cruel – one bad twenty minutes, one red card at the wrong time and the campaign can be all over.
There is no preparation for that kind of pressure. The best Brazil can do is take full advantage of its friendlies – not getting carried away or despondent with the results, but focusing on honing that collective idea so that every player is well aware of what he is supposed to be doing.
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