Friday, August 1, 2014


In FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil was the loser in the match for the third place and ended up in the fourth place. After their World Cup victory in 2002, this is the first time they went to the semi-final stage. In 2006 and 2010 they were the losing quarter-finalists. Fourth place in the World cup Finals can hardly be the cause for mourning, even when the team was a pre-match favourite of many to win the World Cup. Yet Brazil mourned, as did its millions of fans all over the world. And for good reason.

At the Group stage this year, 2014, Brazil had led the group, and at the pre-quarter final stage it had defeated Chile (by penalty shoot-out) and at the quarter final stage, Columbia, somewhat more convincingly than it had Chile. Both Columbia and Chile played superb football and each had a World Cup the memories of which should inspire them to reach greater heights in future. With such a record up to the semi-final stage, Brazil became the joker of the pack in the semi-final, surprising everyone, including Germany, who defeated it 7-1. In the history of World Cup no team had lost this badly at that stage. It lost again, in the third place match to Holland 3-0. No team in the history of World Cup had conceded as many goals at that stage as Brazil. For a sincere fan like me, who has been an ardent admirer of Brazil ever since I read about its 1970 World Cup victory, Brazil’s performance in these two matches were too silly, too ridiculous for any strong emotion. I recall how terribly upset I was when Brazil lost its pre-quarter final match to Argentina in 1900; in the next three days I watched the match as many times, almost hoping that I had seen Brazil lose in some other tournament, not World Cup, 1900. This time I had no such feeling. As I said, the loss was too silly to evoke any worthwhile feeling such as anger or sorrow. Those twenty nine or thirty minutes during which Brazil conceded five goals, for a fan like me, it was just farcical. I agree with Maradona who said that with that semi-final defeat Brazil lost face. Pele said Brazil would forget the disaster. We will win the sixth title in the next edition of the World Cup, he is reported to have said. I do not know whether he really believes it will, but even if it does, Brazil is unlikely to recover the image it lost on July 8, 2014. For years to come Brazil will be associated with the semi-final 7-1 defeat; hopefully people will not forget the 4-1 victory in the final in 1970. But like bad ideas in the world of academics, miserable failures have a longer life than spectacular successes.

Brazil’s performance at the Group stage over a period of at least twenty four years or so has been rather subdued, and this year it was no exception. But the team played well enough all these years to top the group. This year one could see that its defence was porous and vulnerable, and would be in trouble in the absence of careful and intelligent planning. Its attack heavily depended on Neymar for both creativity and punch. However Brazil’s defence improved after the group stage and it played well enough in the quarter-final for its supporters to feel somewhat assured that the team would go far. In fact till then quite a few, including sports journalists had thought and some of them hoped, that the final would be between Brazil and Argentina. 

What happened in the final minutes in the match against Columbia everyone knows: Neymar’s injury which ended his World Cup 2014 and yellow card to the in-form defender and captain Silva for a foolish offence. Now most believed that Brazil’s progress would end at the semi-final against Germany, but no one had imagined that the team would disintegrate the way it did. Although Neymar was the inspiring figure in the team, no one had imagined that the team was suffering from Neymardependency so acutely. One would think that Brazil’s shameful show was only a symptom, the cause being its pathetic lack of character.

The Brazilians in a show of solidarity had vowed to play for Neymar in that semi-final match and they ensured that neither Neymar nor the supporters of Brazil, both in that country and outside, would ever forget that match.

Think of the way Germany had handled the absence of Ballack, their inspirational player, in the 2002 final because of a yellow card. Germany played the way a World Cup finalist is expected to play. Incidentally Brazil’s “someone-or-the-otherdependency” problem is not new; it is just that this time it was very alarming. In 1998, most were never in doubt that Brazil would win the World Cup. They had had a great tournament till the final, in contrast to France who had only a good tournament that far - nothing to write home about though - with an excellent defence but an attacking line that had fared poorly. Shortly before the match Ronaldo, the “original one” in Mourinho’s unforgettable terminology, fell sick but the team was doomed to play him for the full duration of the match for reportedly marketing reasons, as was widely believed. In the final one saw a demoralized, disinterested team, which had lost the match before it started. It played with ten men and one unfit man, but even then its performance was not unworthy of a World Cup final in objective terms. The 3-0 score line did not reflect the proceedings.

Quite a few sports journalists have suggested that Brazil suffered because of its arrogance, but such comments were made after the defeat. Brazil was the pre-tournament favourites or one of the two favourites, the other being Argentina for some and Germany for the others. But being the pre-tournament favourite is nothing new for Brazil. This time they were one of the strong favourites partly because of the expectations of strong home crowd support, partly because of their success in the Confederations Cup held in Brazil the previous year. They had defeated Spain, considered then to be undoubtedly the best in the world, by a convincing margin 3-0. In my opinion the two Confederation Cup finalists suffered in the World Cup 2014 for different reasons:  Brazil for taking their success in that tournament too seriously, and Spain, for taking their failure too lightly. Talking about arrogance, both showed arrogance because not taking failure seriously and being complacent constitute a form of arrogance.

Brazil has gone back to Dunga. I hope Dunga will create a better team. At least a team that will not embarrass us again, the steadfast fans of Brazil.