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Last time Brazil tried to fit four flair attackers into a World Cup side it didn’t end well

Brazil's 'magic square' looked good on paper but failed to deliver at the 2006 World Cup

Let’s be honest, we’re all here for the goals.

Tactical masterclasses between two equally balanced sides leading to perfect 0-0 draws are great and all, but we’d rather see a 6-6 display of chaos.

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira took that approach at the 2006 World Cup.


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‘Just pass to Ronaldinho’

Reuters
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‘Just pass to Ronaldinho’

In truth, Parreira had little choice.

Unlike in 2002, when the holy trinity of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo were streets ahead of the other attacking talents in Brazil’s squad, in 2006 Parreira was blessed with options.

Ronaldinho and Ronaldo were still putting smiles on faces and defenders on arses.

Rivaldo had retired from international duty in 2003, although he’d go on to play club football for another 12 years.

But Parreira had a ready made replacement in Kaka, who was coming off the back of a season in which he’d scored 19 goals in all competitions for AC Milan.

Someone’s played the XXL shirt trick on Kaka again

AP:Associated Press
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Someone’s played the XXL shirt trick on Kaka again

Add a 24-year-old Adriano and a 22-year-old Robinho into the mix and it really starts getting interesting.

Is there such a thing as too much flair? Let’s not forget Juninho Pernambucano, who was dispatching free-kick like penalties at Lyon.

So how do you fit all that talent into one team?

Parreira settled on a 4-2-2-2 formation, complete with a ‘magic square’ of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Ronaldo.

Slightly defensive?

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Slightly defensive?

He’d trialled the tactic at the 2005 Confederations Cup tournament with success, although he was denied the talents of Ronaldo after the Real Madrid forward declined an invitation to travel with the squad.

You do what you want when you’re R9.

Parreira also left starters Carlos and Cafu at home in order to test out the inexperienced duo of Cicinho and Leo.

Brazil did just fine without them, lifting the trophy thanks to five goals from an inspired Adriano.

Actually getting to the 2006 World Cup wasn’t as smooth, but it never is when you’ve got to go through South America’s aggressively competitive qualification process.

Brazil topped their group on goal difference despite winning one less game than Argentina, who finished second.

A record of eight wins from 19 qualifiers was hardly emphatic, but there was a tantalising glimpse of the magic square’s attacking potential during a 5-0 home win against Chile.

The simplest way to describe the goal is that Adriano, Ronaldo and Kaka all touched the ball before Robinho tapped home. But that hardly does it justice.

In typically Brazilian fashion the move started with a Cruyff turn from centre-back Juan on his own goal-line. Watch the clip below. You won’t be disappointed.

As holders, Brazil were clear favourites with the bookies by the time the tournament rolled around.

Parreira’s side did nothing to dampen the hype, easing through their group- containing Japan, Australia and Croatia- with three wins.

Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Adriano started the first two matches before Robinho came in for the latter in the final group game against Japan.

With three group games played only Ronaldinho had failed to find the back of the net. The magic square hadn’t quite hit the heights, but they were rumbling. Think David Blaine, Plexiglas box era.

Expensive cargo

EPA
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Expensive cargo

Then came the first knockout game against Ghana. All the talk heading into the match was of Ronaldo breaking Gerd Muller’s record of 14 World Cup goals.

Nerves? What nerves? Ronaldo took just five minutes to get the record. Kaka started the move when he picked the ball up ten yards inside his own half.

He strode elegantly towards Ghana’s goal and then slipped a pass behind the defence that no one inside the stadium, aside from Ronaldo, could see.

From there it was all about Ronaldo’s composure. He sat Richard Kingson down with a vintage stepover and slotted home. Poetry in motion.

Four out of four for the magic square. Up next came France in the quarter-finals.

In short, Brazil were Zidane’d.

Zizou put on one of the best individual displays ever to grace a World Cup game to help France overcome Brazil 1-0. Every touch, flick and pirouette was footballing perfection.

And that was it. Despite signs of promise, the magic square had been unable to take Brazil all the way.

The band didn’t last much longer. Four years later only Kaka and Robinho made Dunga’s 2010 World Cup squad. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Adriano were all shadows of their former selves.

But the story might not end there.

Tite’s current quartet of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Willian have got some thinking back to 2006.

They couldn’t, could they?