Brazilian soccer player David Luiz described the faltering national team’s relationship with its fans to that of a child who can’t always please his parents.
Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup, opens the eight-country Confederations Cup today against Japan, days after national great Pele urged his countrymen to stop jeering the team. The South American country, a record five-time World Cup champion, has fallen to No. 22 globally, its lowest standing ever, in global governing body FIFA’s rankings.
“When your kids do something bad, do you speak well with them? No, so it’s natural,” Luiz, who plays for London-based Chelsea, said in an interview after training with the national team at the $750 million Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia. “Sometimes when I’m in Chelsea, sometimes the public doesn’t like the team and shouts something bad, but that’s natural.”
Fans have jeered the national team in two of its last three games, a pair of 2-2 draws against Chile and England. In the England match, played at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was barraged with cries of “donkey” from the bleachers.
That prompted Pele, the only player to win three World Cups, to make a public plea to the nation.
“Let’s not boo the Brazil national team,” Pele said at an event to unveil the official countdown clock for the World Cup at Copacabana beach in Rio on June 12. “We are still starting, we still have one year to go. This is just the kickoff.”
On June 9, Brazil defeated 1998 world champion France 3-0 in Porto Alegre.
Games at the Confederations Cup are Brazil’s only competitive matches before it hosts the World Cup, where it will look to win on home soil and reverse memories of a defeat to Uruguay in the final game of the 1950 tournament in Rio.
Brazil’s chances to do well rest on Scolari’s ability to bring the team back to form. Scolari, the last coach to win the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, was re-hired earlier this year after the national governing body fired Mano Menezes. Scolari used his pregame news conference to call for home support.
“It’s very important to have the local pressure from the crowd,” he said. “But if we have difficulties in the beginning, don’t react well and don’t have the necessary support from the fans, then it’s bad to play at home.”
Defender Luiz, who played for Benfica in Portugal before joining Chelsea in 2011, said the tournament was particularly important for him.
“I don’t have many opportunities to play in my country in front of my public so everyone wants to win,” he said.
Victory in the Confederations Cup, where Brazil will also play Mexico and Italy in Group A, is vital to changing perceptions, goalkeeper Julio Cesar said.
Booing is “normal because, in Brazil, the fans ask too much of us,’ he said in an interview. ‘‘In this moment the team is calm and relaxed and we hope to do a good Confederations Cup and maybe if we win the situation will change.’’