Tim Vickery Column: Why David Luiz is evidence that Brazilian football has drifted away from the sound concepts of how the game should be played
It is a choice that is beyond belief. I have to confess that in all my time watching football I have never seen a worse performance from a top level player in a big game than that of David Luiz in the semi final against Germany.
Thiago Silva, of course, was suspended. David Luiz took over the captaincy. It was a day when he would have to reign in every reckless instinct in his body. He was now the leader of the team and the organiser of the defensive line – in theory.
In practice it appeared that these tasks were too mundane for him, insufficiently glamorous. After a bright start, Brazil gave away a silly goal from a corner after 10 minutes – it seems that David Luiz was at fault with the marking. It happens. No need to panic. The team still had 80 minutes to play themselves into the game. It was a time for cool headed leadership – not rushing around all over the place.
David Luiz is a very talented footballer and comes across as intelligent and articulate. He played an important role in the Confederations Cup, when he was the first of the players to talk about the wave of protests that were taking place. He helped build a bridge between the team and the fans.
A player whose career had nearly entirely taken place abroad, he now became one of the most popular members of the team, second only to Neymar. This proved a dangerous process. He started playing to the crowd, and ended up losing his priorities. All through the Germany match he gave the impression of wanting to show that he cared – crazy runs upfield, and then, towards the end, violent lunge tackles. The best way to care, though, was to carry out his function, quietly and without fuss.
After letting down his team-mates in such a staggering way, it beggars belief that he was selected for the third place play off match against Holland – where, confidence shot, his defensive deficiencies were exposed once more.
But even more worrying than his selection for the Holland match is his selection in the SporTV team of the tournament.
The problem here is that Brazilian football finds itself at a crossroads. It needs to rethink itself and its values. As the great Tostao commented recently, the Brazilian game has forgotten how to play collectively. It has become a football of moments, of counter attacks and set pieces. The national team has won tournaments using these methods, because there have been enough gifted individuals to keep coming up with those moments. At club level, in the absence of the stars, the most highly prized asset has become drive and determination. It is what the crowd keep calling for – and when they get it they celebrate the fact that their players are a team of warriors.
Concepts of football have been lost in all of this. It might be too much to expect the fans to chant ‘we want midfield triangulations and an intelligent circulation of the ball.’ But these concepts of the game should be much more highly valued than they are at present.
The proof of all this is the choice of David Luiz in the team of the tournament. He did not obey the concepts of good, collective football. He did not carry out the role that his team so badly needed. But he showed drive and determination – and although this was misdirected and even exceptionally selfish, and certainly counter-productive, some of my colleagues have been fooled. The selection of David Luiz is a sad piece of evidence for the view that Brazilian football has drifted away from sound concepts of how the game should be played.