Brazil still trying to regroup a year after 7-1 loss

SAO PAULO: Brazil is still trying to regroup a year after its worst loss ever.

On Wednesday's anniversary of its humiliating 7-1 home World Cup loss to Germany, there is no sign the Selecao are back on the right track.

Brazilian football continued to struggle after the disastrous defeat in the semifinals of its home tournament, both on and off the field.

Brazil was eliminated by Paraguay in the quarterfinals of the Copa America last month, failing in its first official tournament since the World Cup, and a vice president of the local federation was among those detained in Switzerland in connection to the FIFA corruption scandal that erupted in May.

Last week, the Brazilian confederation finally decided to seek help.

The confederation announced it wants to talk to as many people as possible to discuss ways to improve local football. It created a council that will include coaches, foreign coaches, past world champions and members of several different areas of the game, including media, health and technology professionals.

Former Brazil coaches gathered at the confederation's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro for the first meeting on Monday, and several others are expected to take place in the next few weeks. The goal is to find a way to re-establish "the identity of our football," the confederation said.

"This integration is very important at this difficult moment in Brazilian football," said former coach Paulo Roberto Falcao. "We need to help in any way we can."

Among the former coaches who attended the first meeting were Carlos Alberto Parreira, Mario Zagallo, Carlos Alberto Silva and Sebastiao Lazzaroni.

"They are honored to be able to help," said Gilmar Rinaldi, the confederation official overseeing the national team. "We made sure they understood the importance of their opinions. They came here not only to point to the problems in Brazilian football, but also to help find solutions to solve these problems, which is what we are trying to do right now."

The next step will be to bring "10 to 15 former champions" to talk about Brazilian football and the national team, Rinaldi said.

"We want to win, we want to create a winning environment in Brazilian football," said coach Dunga, who was Brazil's captain when it won the 1994 World Cup. "It's important to bring new ideas so we can discuss them together."

Parreira, Brazil's coach in 1994, said the country needs to focus on improving Brazilian domestic clubs.

"We keep trying to fix Brazilian football by fixing the national team, but it should be the other way around," he said. "We will fix the national team by improving the infrastructure at the base, at the club, which has always been the most important thing in football."

Falcao, who played in the in 1982 and 1986 World Cups, said Brazil needs to focus on the development of players, giving talented youngsters opportunities to keep growing throughout their careers.

"Brazil should be focusing on finding above-average players, not necessarily spectacular players," he said. "Germany won the World Cup without a spectacular player, but it did it with five or so players who were above average."

Brazil has a generation with few top stars and is heavily dependent on Barcelona's Neymar, who could not play in last year's semifinal against Germany because of an injury. He also missed the decisive stages of the Copa America this year, because of a suspension.

The Copa America gave Brazil its first chance to get over the humiliating World Cup elimination, but it lost to Paraguay on penalties for the second straight time. Now Brazil's next chance at redemption will come in South American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, which starts in October. Neymar won't play the first two games because of the Copa America suspension.

The problems on the field coincide with turmoil involving confederation officials. Former president Jose Maria Marin was among the FIFA officials arrested in Switzerland after a corruption investigation by U.S. authorities. There have been widespread calls for the current president to resign, and a congressional probe into the administration of local football is scheduled to start soon.

The anniversary of the 7-1 loss comes a day after Brazil defender Daniel Alves said Spaniard Pep Guardiola wanted to coach Brazil at the World Cup last year, but local officials allegedly refused to hire him because they were afraid that fans wouldn't like having a foreign coach in charge of the national team.

"The changes won't happen overnight," Parreira said. "It's an attempt to break a paradigm in Brazilian football, it will happen progressively."