Brazil’s World Cup Dreams Dismantled by Consecutive FlopsAnna Edgerton, David Biller and Mario Sergio Lima
Brazil began the World Cup on home soil as the soccer tournament’s only five-time winner. It left after giving up 10 goals in two games, its star player injured on the sidelines and head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s future in doubt.
The country where soccer is called “the beautiful game” will have to rebuild its national team after yesterday’s 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in the tourney’s consolation match. President Dilma Rousseff, who skipped the team’s final game, said the squad needs to be “renewed” and called on players to stay in the country instead of leaving for teams abroad.
The five goals Brazil gave up in the first half of the July 8 Germany game were more than it allowed in the entire tournament since 1998. The 7-1 loss was the country’s most lopsided since a 6-0 defeat to Uruguay in 1920. Brazil entered the semifinal unbeaten in 62 consecutive competitive home games, with a 43-0-19 record over that span dating back to 1975.
“Defeat will bring about change that’s needed in Brazilian soccer,” said Carlos Langoni, a former central bank chief who serves on the board of CR Flamengo, Brazil’s most popular club. “Brazil used to have the best soccer in the world. If we want to become competitive in the global market we must invest, renovate ourselves, innovate in tactics and formation and training.”
Adding to the national team’s embarrassment is rival Argentina’s success in reaching today’s final with Germany.
Scolari, who called Brazil’s defeat to Germany the worst day of his life, said the country’s soccer federation can decide if he stays or goes. His contract expired with the end of the World Cup. After yesterday’s loss, he deflected criticism of the coaching staff and players.
“One year ago we won the Confederations Cup and now we are in the top four,” Scolari told reporters. “Our team is too young. The players have my confidence. If we continue this job we will have a much better team in 2018.”
The tournament threatened to be a political liability for Rousseff starting a year ago, when protesters took to the streets across the country during the Confederations Cup in anger over a range of issues, including the public cost of the World Cup and 2016 Olympics, health care and corruption. Rousseff, who faces re-election in October, was jeered by the crowd at the World Cup’s opening game June 12.
Rousseff’s support ahead of the vote jumped four percentage points, to 38 percent, following three straight drops this year, according to a Datafolha poll conducted July 1-2. The same poll showed 63 percent of people support the World Cup, up from 48 percent in April. The poll of 2,857 people had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
Rousseff sent an open letter to the national team today, congratulating their efforts and the “moments of joy” they brought the country while saying the tournament has taught lessons on how to improve Brazilian soccer.
Brazil has a history of undertaking a national soul-searching over the performance of its soccer teams. After a 3-0 loss to France in the 1998 World Cup final, the Brazilian Senate convened an inquiry to find out, among other things, if team sponsors exerted too much control over the squad. The 1994 World Cup team was criticized by national media for playing too defensively when they defeated Italy with penalty kicks in the championship game.
“These two games stained what we did in the tournament,” Brazilian national team player Dani Alves said after yesterday’s loss. “We have to accept the criticism because that’s how soccer works.”
This year’s performance was the furthest Brazil got in the quadrennial tournament since its 2002 title. That was little consolation for the team’s players and fans, who started the tournament hoping for a “hexa,” or sixth world title. Prior to the tourney, Brazilian soccer federation chief Jose Maria Marin said “we will all go to hell” if the team didn’t win.
“Soccer isn’t everything, I know, but this was the greatest shame in our history,” former national team defender Juninho Pernambucano said on his Twitter account.
Striker Joao Alves de Assis Silva, known as Jo, signaled a note of optimism after the game even as he said the tournament had taken a personal toll.
“Of course it’s been difficult,” he said. “Life goes on. After everyone cools their heads off, each player will think about what he could have done better.”