This appears in the Monday, July 14, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
Fall Brazil 2014
by rick olivares pic by ueslei marcelino/reuters
Fall or autumn in Brazil happens around March of every year. Unfortunately, it feels that way now for the world’s fifth most populous country.
Thesackrace.com, a football website dedicated to tracking managerial movements worldwide wrote this: “Brazil are now at a very important juncture in their history with the next appointment absolutely crucial bearing in mind what is coming up for them over the next four years.”
“Brazil will demand a successful team playing an attractive brand of football, any new manager taking charge will be under immense pressure from the start and will need to start winning games immediately.”
Incredibly, that was written in 2010 after being sent off by the Dutch in the quarterfinals of South Africa, 2-1, wherein embattled coach, Dunga, resigned.
Dunga changed the way the Selecao played, fitting in a more defensive brand of football that was contrary to the traditional free-flowing and attractive style they espoused all through the years. Dunga, who captained Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning side defiantly said that he believes that it doesn’t matter what the style of play is as long as the team goes home a winner.”
Unfortunately, he couldn’t back it up as Brazil was sent packing.
And four years earlier when they were also sent crashing out of the tournament with a 1-nil quarterfinals loss to France, it must have galled Brazilians everywhere that Les Bleus’ midfielder Zinedine Zidane repeatedly danced around the Selecao playing and dominating the game with a lot of flair that he seemed more Brazilian than the native Brazilians.
In the wake of the national disaster that befell Brazil in this World Cup, the aforementioned statement stings like a prophecy with painful validity.
Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring record has been broken.
They were humbled by one of the worst and most unlikely of scores.
The home team suffered its first home loss since 1975 and first back-to-back losses since 1940.
Even worse, karma has come back to bite them in a manner Luis Suarez could not have dreamed of.
The home team has been the beneficiary of spotty calls against opponents while receiving leniency when they shouldn’t. Against Colombia, they paid the ultimate price as Neymar was injured by a reckless tackle and captain Thiago Silva was cautioned for a poor foul.
In the battle for third place, while much was previously made about Silva’s absence, he disproved any argument of his steadfastness on defense when he dragged down Arjen Robben on a clear breakaway although outside the box. It should have been a red card instead of a yellow and it should have been a free kick rather than a penalty kick.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot and whatever air of support the fans had for their team evaporated as soon as Robin Van Persie scored to make it 1-nil.
The defensive reputations of Silva and Luiz so sterling prior to the quarterfinals are now in tatters. I actually wonder what shape Luiz will be in when he heads over to Paris in a few days to join his new club, Paris St. Germain.
The mantle of invincibility and the fear that gripped opponents even before they stepped on the pitch against the team of one-name wunderkinds has now disappeared.
I wonder if this is karma for all the perfidy of former Confederacao Brasileira de Futbol (CBF) President Ricadro Teixeira who was named in a Swiss prosecutor’s report of pocketing more than $41 million in bribes for World Cup marketing rights.
Brazil football legend Romario told the New York Times in 2013 (on the eve of the World Cup year) that Teixeira has been “directly a part of everything that has been evil in Brazilian football for the last 10 years.”
Teixeira, who lambasted his foes in Brazilian football and media in a profanity-laced tirade in piaui, a local magazine, eventually resigned amidst the public scandal and following a public campaign to oust him that gained traction on the social media site, Twitter (#foraricardoteixeira).
Romario reacted with glee – as did the public – when Teixeira resigned – “we are extirpating a cancer from Brazil football” he remarked. “Now we need a thorough clean up of the CBF.”
With the way this World Cup ended for the home side, it looks like they will need more than a cleanup.
If the Selecao went home from South Africa in search of a coach who can bring back their traditional style of play, now they are in search of their soul.
As painful as it is, maybe this is what’s best for Brazilian football that is in its nadir.
Because like Germany in 2000, they get to build it up again – the right way. And in this most chilling of Brazilian footballing seasons, spring will eventually come.