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Not like watching Brazil

neymar

“Just like watching Brazil” is a common chant by football crowds to compliment their team.  The problem is that at the 2014 World Cup, watching Brazil, is not like watching Brazil. For those of us brought up on the free-flowing football of the 1970 World Cup winning team of Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Gerson, Rivelino and Pele, the 2014 Brazilians look pretty ordinary.

Neymar is the talisman of the 2014 team.  But when he blatantly elbowed a Croatian player in the face in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, he lost a lot of respect.  The injury in the quarter-final, which ended his World Cup was a great shame but his stock had already fallen. Then in that opening game with Croatia, there was Fred’s outrageous dive to con the referee into awarding the penalty which enabled Brazil to gain an undeserved victory.

In the first knock-out game, Brazil could only beat Chile on penalties thanks to two excellent saves by the veteran keeper, Julio Caesar. In the quarter-final Brazil committed 31 fouls in beating Colombia 2-1 with a strategic that seemed more intent on stopping Colombia from playing, than playing themselves.  And goalkeeper Caesar was extremely fortunate to escape with a yellow card when he brought down a Colombian player who was through on goal.

The fanaticism for the national team in Brazil has to be seen to be believed. There is a public holiday (at least a half day) every time Brazil plays. Horns, fire-works and fire-crackers greet every goal and the final whistle and not just in the city where the game is being played.

Some Brazilians I spoke to were happy to acknowledge that the 2014 team is unworthy even to lace the boots of the great 1958, 1962 and 1970 teams.  Others see the fault in everyone else, accusing, for example, Colombia of trying to rough up Brazil – even though the FIFA statistics show that Brazil committed - by some distance - the majority of the fouls.

The truth is undoubtedly somewhere in the middle and as John Motson, likes to say, “Football is a game of opinions”.  And if Brazil lifts the trophy on 13 July, few Brazilians will worry about the manner of the victory.

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