Prior to Sunday night’s Confederations Cup final against World and European champions Spain at the Maracanã, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari anticipated that victory for his team “would regain a lot of credibility and respect from our fans.”
It’s worth remembering, more so than ever in the afterglow of their astonishing 3-0 win, what state the Seleção were in as they approached the competition a month ago. Confidence wasn’t high. People around the world were sceptical about the team and its individual components.
The received wisdom was that this Brazil side wasn’t up to the high standards set by its predecessors. They had slipped to 22nd in the FIFA rankings, an imperfect and often derided metric, but an indicator nonetheless of how a country rates.
After their elimination in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup by the Netherlands, Dunga was replaced as head coach with Mano Menezes. It was supposedly a move away from a counter-attacking, un-Brazilian style of play, in which the physical appeared to take the priority over the technical, to one that was closer to their traditions of flair, seizing the initiative and entertaining the crowd.
There was a transition from one generation to another too. The old guard was more or less done away with and a new breed brought through in order to prepare them for the 2014 World Cup. So Brazil went from one extreme to the other. Many of the players weren’t ready. For the most part, they were based at home and so lacked international experience. It would take time to make the adjustment.
In the meantime, Brazil looked like a soft touch. They lost some of their aura. Paraguay knocked them out in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Copa America on penalties. Mexico beat them in the final of 2012 Olympic football tournament.
If Menezes had been sacked there and then few would have been surprised. Ironically, his dismissal came a few months later just as Brazil had started to show signs of real progress under his management. Were they shooting themselves in the foot?
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It’s the Alessandro Diamanti vs. Edinson Cavani show at Arena Fonte Nova. Both players have added special set piece markers.
And then Cavani:
Who said third place games aren’t fun? (Everyone, and they’re right)
A game that featured numerous clear cut chances for both sides ended with Spain winning 7-6 on penalties. Leonardo Bonucci, Italy’s seventh shooter skied his shot over the bar, giving Manchester City new boy Jesus Navas the chance to win it for Spain. He came through, as neither goalkeeper was able to actually stop a shot. Andrea Pirlo scored to make it 5-4 Italy. The great man was not moved by the occurrence.
As Tweets of the increasingly large protests in Brazil continue to reveal a country in turmoil, the national football sections are mostly silent. The Guardian leads with news of Arsenal signing Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain, The Daily Mail leads with news of Thiago Alcantara signing for Manchester United for £17 million, and ESPNFC has a lead editorial on the continued vilification of Fernando Torres.
This is not to blame anyone. Football sections are for football, and the reasons for the protests are becoming more and more politically diverse, as is often the pattern with national uprisings. We cannot expect soccer writers to be political scientists. For those of them not in Brazil, and for us at home, the only sense of the tournament is a static green pitch with changing teams and changing backgrounds. The stadiums are simply names, as are the cities in which they’re located. Once the game is over, it all disappears. Television separates football from geographical and cultural context.
FIFA understands this. Their interest is not in the well-being of Brazil, but in the World Cup. This is why they required the Brazilian government to override the national Fan Code of Consumer Protection to make way for FIFA’s draconian General Law of the World Cup, allowing for tax-free consumer zones and the end of provisions allowing ticket discounts for students and seniors, all to maximize profits for FIFA.
This is why people like FIFA’s general secretary Jerome Valcke have said in the recent past, “…less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup.” FIFA regards the world as a giant television studio for its lucrative product, convincing host nations to claw at each other and submit bribes to ExCo members in return for the right to sign over their economic rights and build white elephant stadiums for a month-long tournament.
They did not count of course on the nation of football worshippers to dare question their governments allegiance to the self-interested whims of an unaccountable governing body. Now, the preparatory event is in shambles, the subject of rumours of cancellations. If FIFA want the World Cup to be a celebratory event, they will need to work with the government to allow concessions to satisfy protesters that every day Brazilians will eventually see tangible benefits from the tournament. They’ll need to start right now, today.
Days after Andrea Pirlo marked his 100th cap for Italy with a scintillating goal, Diego Forlan has done the same. Number 34 for Uruguay was similar to goals of Forlan past: a punishing strike that left the keeper helpless.
Jon Obi Mikel set a dubious mark for midfielders in the EPL, going 182 games without scoring. His goal against Uruguay today proved the Nigerian still has some tricks up his sleeve. The dribbling, she’s beautiful.
It took 21-year-old Brazilian striker Neymar all of three minutes to collect the first goal of the 2013 Confederations Cup. After his one-touch volley hit the corner of the net, the home crowd in Brasilia flooded the stands with the white noise of an applauding ocean, forcing an unorchestrated wave of yellow and green shirts.
The tournament is little more than a dress rehearsal for hosting next year’s World Cup, but strikes like that – so refined as to appear natural – have a way of making fans huddled in a stadium forget about context and embrace the moment in and of itself. For the Brazilians outside the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha on Saturday, the conditions that surround their country hosting this tournament and the 2014 FIFA World Cup weren’t so easily escaped.
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