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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July 21, 2014
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15:32Manchester United full-back Rafael da Silva relishing opportunity to work with Louis van Gaal
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08:30Andre Santos attacked by supporter after Flamengo thumped by Internacional
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18:32Brasileirão: Grêmio slip up as Vitoria and Santos grab victories
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October 06, 2013
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October 04, 2013
23:52Internacional manager Dunga sacked
September 14, 2013
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September 11, 2013
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September 03, 2013
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September 02, 2013
23:21São Paulo to honour Brazil legend Leonidas da Silva
July 21, 2014
23:53Report: Barcelona to target São Paulo defender Rodrigo Caio
23:47La Liga newcomers Córdoba confirm the loan signing of forward Ryder Matos from Fiorentina
23:42Serie B newcomers Perugia sign veteran midfielder Rodrigo Taddei on a free transfer from Roma
23:352014 Brasileirão Round 11 summary: Internacional thump struggling Flamengo
July 19, 2014
23:01Report: Hellas Verona to target Cagliari forward Nenê
09:30Report: Chelsea set to move for Atlético de Madrid defender Miranda after completing deal for Filipe Luís
July 18, 2014
22:42Udinese complete the signing of midfielder Guilherme from Corinthians
22:34Robinho representative suggests temporary switch to Brazil is likely
22:31Representative confirms negotiations between Milan and Orlando City over Robinho
22:27Report: Livorno striker Paulinho set to join Al Arabi
17:542014 Brasileirão Round 10 summary: Newly promoted Sport Recife shock Botafogo
10:51Report: Genoa set to sign defender Edenílson on loan from Udinese
July 17, 2014
22:58Report: Sunderland forward Ignacio Scocco can't return to Newell's Old Boys until payment is settled with Internacional
22:53Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale bemoans lack of a second goalkeeper for Fluminense test
22:49Exeter City Manager Paul Tisdale expecting stern test against Fluminense
22:42Santos Head Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira hopeful for Robinho return
22:37Former Croatia international Eduardo signs for Flamengo
22:33New Flamengo signing Eduardo retires from international football
July 16, 2014
23:07Daniel Alves defends new Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez
23:02Daniel Alves wants Barcelona stay
22:57Report: Robinho to Santos before joining Kaka at Orlando City
22:52Livorno forward Paulinho considering a number of offers
July 14, 2014
23:52Hellas Verona confirm signing of Romulo from Fiorentina
23:12Cafu expects former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole to succeed at Roma
23:12Maicon wants a new deal at Roma
July 12, 2014
23:39Dodo hails Walter Mazzarri influence in Internazionale move
July 11, 2014
23:01Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani hails capture of Brazilian defender Alex
22:58Internazionale defender Juan Jesus talks Nemanja Vidic and Alexandre Pato
22:54Internazionale defender Juan Jesus thankful for fans support after long injury layoff
22:46Rodrigo Taddei open to Fiorentina switch
July 09, 2014
23:59Goalkeeper Diego Alves signs a new five year deal with Valencia
23:36Dodo thanks Roma fans after agreeing Internazionale move
July 07, 2014
22:16Report: Roma defender Dodo set to join Internazionale on loan
22:11Report: Alexandre Pato's wage demands are holding up potential Internazionale move
22:01Maicon confident he will win the Scudetto with Roma
July 02, 2014
22:21Kaka expects Robinho to join him in Major League Soccer
July 01, 2014
23:14Ethics committee confirms claims of match fixing against Cameroon will be investigated
23:13Angel Di Maria believes Argentina deserved to beat Switzerland
23:12Chelsea confirm signing of Atlético Madrid forward Diego Costa
June 30, 2014
16:40Agent Tadeu Cruz denies that Kaka has left Milan for family reasons
16:34Agent Tadeu Cruz confirms that Kaka is likely to join Sao Paulo before moving on to Orlando City
June 28, 2014
21:16Chievo Verona sign defender Edimar from CFR Cluj on a free transfer
11:39Neymar hails role of Santos President Luis Álvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro and Pelé in decision to snub Chelsea in 2010
June 27, 2014
23:17Kaka expects to be at Milan for the start of pre-season
14:28Play-maker Paulo Henrique Ganso hopes to have the opportunity to play alongside Kaká at São Paulo
11:46Brazil forward Fred feels four month ban handed to Liverpool's Luis Suárez is “a bit too severe"
June 26, 2014
23:59Al-Ain goalkeeper Waleed Salem hails Palmeiras play-maker Jorge Valdivia
22:03Brazilian forward Neto Berola vows to "give everything I have" after joining Al Wasl on loan from Atlético Mineiro
15:59FIFA suspend Uruguay forward Luis Suárez for nine matches plus four months without any football related activity
13:09Report: Bahia President Fernando Schmitt in Italy to negotiate for Parma forward Amauri
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