Tim Vickery Column: Fitness staff a crucial aspect of World Cup campaign

The fitness levels of Neymar will be crucial to the hosts' chances this summer - Action Images
History would suggest that squad conditioning plays a very important role in the success of Brazilian sides at the tournament

As Brazil’s players gather in the hills outside Rio and begin their build up to the World Cup, the work of one man now takes on special importance.  The most important man in the country at the moment is physical preparation specialist Paulo Paixao, who now has three key tasks; evaluate the physical condition of the players, draw up individual programmes of exercises tailored to their needs, and ensure that they are ready to give their all in the World Cup, preferably hitting peak physical form around the third or fourth match.

 

When Luiz Felipe Scolari was presented as Brazil coach towards the end of 2012, the first thing he did was announce that Paixao would be working with him once more.  The duo had teamed up, to good effect, in the triumphant 2002 World Cup campaign.

 

That team, with the R squad of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho all hitting together, is often seen as a symbol of the individual genius of the Brazilian player.  And there is some truth in this – these were magnificently talented players.  But the view of the Brazil team as a collection of ‘samba stars’ is hopelessly simplistic.  True, the triumphs have invariably featured superbly skilled players using inspired moments of improvisation to tip the balance.

 

But, as I have often argued in this space, this took and takes place in a well defined context.  One of the golden rules of football is that the individual shines most brightly when the collective aspect is well organised.  This applies both to the tactical side of the game – remember that Brazil’s defensive record is and always has been far superior to that of Germany – and to the physical.  Pele was years ahead of his time in terms of the importance he placed on physical preparation.  And if he is an individual example, then the Brazil national side are a collective one.  As far back as 1958 they had a full back up staff of doctors, a dentist, physical preparation specialists and even a (premature as it turned out) experiment with a sports psychologist.  By way of comparison, England travelled to the 1962 World Cup in Chile without so much as a doctor.

 

Among the various explanations for failure in the 1966 World Cup, one of them is that the physical preparation specialist was from a background of judo, rather than football.  Four years later no such mistakes were made.  Brazil spent months preparing for the conditions of Mexico.  It was a competition played in extreme heat.  Rivelino once told me that he could not remember once coming to the touchline to drink water, a tribute to the conditioning work that had taken place.

 

More progress was made in the early 90s.  Brazil’s economy began to open up, permitting the import of sophisticated machines from the United States.  Brazil’s physical preparation specialists now had access to a world of data, and what they could measure they could manage.

 

Their role was especially important because of the cluttered calendar of Brazil’s domestic game and the economic situation of the clubs.  Squads were not as deep as in Europe, but games were more frequent.  How to keep the players fit?  Brazil’s physical preparation specialists had to learn to work at the limit.  This was perfect training for the 2002 World Cup.

 

Asia’s first World Cup, 2002 was staged a couple of weeks earlier than usual to dodge the rainy season in Japan and South Korea.  There was, therefore, less time to shake off the wearying effects of the European club season – which had just got longer with the extension of the Champions League.

 

This helps explain why 2002 was such a strange tournament, full of surprise results, high on drama but low on quality.  Those who had played through the season were out of gas.

But not those wearing the yellow of Brazil.  Cafu and Roberto Carlos were still scampering up and down the flanks.  Rivaldo, who Barcelona had said would not be fit enough to play in the competition, showed his best international form.  And there is the case of Ronaldo, the great striker struck down by knee injuries.  Many had written him off.  Inter Milan could not seem to get him fit.  But Paulo Paixao did – him and all the others.

 

He was justifiably proud of his achievement when I caught up with him a couple of weeks after the World Cup.  “I said before the World Cup that the team who had the physical and sports medicine aspect best organised would have the biggest chance of winning,” he told me, “and that’s what happened.”  He was anxious to stress, though, that this was much more than a personal triumph.  “Brazil has a number of physical trainers who could have been in my place,” he said, emphasising the collective culture that the country had developed, with specialists in different field all working together.  “In terms of methodology of work, Europe is way behind Brazil,” he affirmed twelve years ago.

 

Europe, then, has had twelve years to catch up.  Paulo Paixao’s task is the same.  Is Oscar jaded after years of non-stop football?  How has Neymar held up to his first European season?  Does Paulinho still have it in him to produce those bursts into the opposing penalty box?  Brazil’s physical training supremo will test, evaluate, draw up a programme to correct or re-enforce – and over the next few days, Paulo Paixao is the most important re-enforcement in Brazil’s quest for World Cup glory.

 

Read more:

> Tim Vickery: Chelsea star Oscar may be Brazil's "most important" talent
> South American correspondent Tim Vickery joins the Sambafoot team
 



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October 25, 2014
15:50FC Goa manager Zico claims midfielder Robert Pirès was punched in the face by Atlético de Kolkata Head Coach Antonio López
15:34Mumbai City manager Peter Reid pleased midfielder André Moritz managed 45 minutes in 2-0 defeat to NorthEast United
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14:13Kaká confident he can help Brazil over the short-term
13:18Leandro Damiao risks a six-match suspension
13:13Neymar congratulates Pele
13:06Assistant Toni Grande admits "it was a relief" when Diego Costa finally scored for Spain
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12:54Report: Juventus set to target Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro in January
October 23, 2014
23:25Report: Milan join race for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
23:14Head Coach Dunga refuses to confirm whether Neymar or Thiago Silva will captain Brazil
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17:34Brazil remain sixth on FIFA ranking
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May 19, 2014
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October 20, 2013
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October 17, 2013
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October 04, 2013
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September 14, 2013
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September 11, 2013
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September 07, 2013
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September 06, 2013
19:04Santos announce tour of South East Asia
18:42São Paulo slump to defeat as Rogerio Ceni misses penalty
September 05, 2013
19:17Cruzeiro go four points clear after defeating Bahia
18:43Romário and Maradona fight against CONMEBOL corruption
September 03, 2013
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20:54Réver believes Atlético Mineiro can challenge for Brazilian title
September 02, 2013
23:21São Paulo to honour Brazil legend Leonidas da Silva
October 25, 2014
15:50FC Goa manager Zico claims midfielder Robert Pirès was punched in the face by Atlético de Kolkata Head Coach Antonio López
15:34Mumbai City manager Peter Reid pleased midfielder André Moritz managed 45 minutes in 2-0 defeat to NorthEast United
15:21Lucas Leiva admits he is open to Liverpool exit and confirms there was contact with Napoli over the summer
October 24, 2014
15:17FC Goa manager Zico unhappy with Atlético de Kolkata defeat
13:06Assistant Toni Grande admits "it was a relief" when Diego Costa finally scored for Spain
12:54Report: Juventus set to target Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro in January
October 23, 2014
23:25Report: Milan join race for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
17:22Atlético de Madrid defender Guilherme Siqueira hails team-mate Koke after role in Malmö FF victory
15:44Head Coach Dunga names three debutants in Brazil squad to face Turkey and Austria next month
October 22, 2014
22:51Mário Fernandes believes CSKA Moscow's comeback against Manchester City has kept them in the Champions League
17:54David Luiz: “In every game we need to improve"
17:51Lionel Messi: “It is good that Neymar and I are in form together"
11:36Ajax manager Frank de Boer compares Lionel Messi and Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
11:27David Luiz admits Paris Saint-Germain had a "tough match" against APOEL
11:22David Luiz pleased to be back alongside Thiago Silva in Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 over APEOL
10:03Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano: "It was very special for me to score five times"
09:57Luiz Adriano thanks team-mates after five goal haul in Shakhtar Donetsk's 7-0 win over BATE Borisov
October 21, 2014
22:56Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano enjoys record breaking night in the Champions League
22:33Report: Real Madrid target to Bayern Munich's David Alaba if Marcelo leaves next summer
20:36Neymar admits he now feels more settled at Barcelona
20:30Former Santos President Luis Alvaro de Oliveira claims Neymar's father received €3 million from Barcelona
19:04Referee Gianluca Rocchi admits he could have handled Maicon penalty incident better
16:35Fernandinho hopes Manchester City can emulate Bayern Munich in "must win" tie against CSKA Moscow
16:00Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho believes empty Arena Khimki will hinder CSKA Moscow clash
October 20, 2014
18:42Chelsea manager José Mourinho bemoans Diego Costa injury
15:35Report: Internazionale latest club to join race to sign Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
15:34Chelsea manager José Mourinho hails development of "number ten" Oscar
11:53Report: Manchester United to target Torino wing-back Matteo Darmian as alternative to Barcelona's Daniel Alves
11:40Barcelona Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta expects contract talks with defender Daniel Alves
10:44Hernanes hails Internazionale character and believes he's getting back to his best
10:35Internazionale midfielder Hernanes: "The season is beginning from this moment"
10:21Brasileirão round 29: Team of the week
October 18, 2014
22:01Daniel Alves' agent Dinah Santana admits the defender looks likely to leave Barcelona next summer
12:49Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto insists he would never join rivals Juventus
12:41Goalkeeper Neto hoping to remain in Europe if Fiorentina renewal doesn't materialise
10:35FIFA agent Francois Gallardo claims Barcelona defender Daniel Alves has already agreed to join Manchester United
October 17, 2014
15:07Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock hails Chelsea duo Diego Costa and Oscar
15:00Cruzeiro forward Júlio Baptista admits Real Madrid regrets and hails Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos
13:50Júlio Baptista: Lucas Silva would "fit in very nicely at Real Madrid"
13:42Cruzeiro forward Júlio Baptista admits joining Real Madrid "would be a wise move" for team-mate Lucas Silva
13:35Santos forward Leandro Damião could be set for six match ban following "shirt pull"
October 16, 2014
23:37Celta de Vigo forward Charles willing to be patient despite lack of playing time
23:24Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva admits he would like to play for Real Madrid
15:53Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva "proud and happy" with reported Real Madrid interest
15:46Roma defender Maicon believes "referee’s mistakes did affect" 3-2 defeat to Juventus
15:40Roma defender Maicon against video replays
October 15, 2014
20:16Bayern Munich Sporting Director Matthias Sammer hopes for speedy Thiago recovery
20:08Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago "profoundly disappointed and upset" with injury setback
19:53Report: Chelsea to compete with Real Madrid for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
19:42Foot injury ends Internacional defender Juan's season
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