Busy life, living in London and no football on TV: the story of how Brazilfooty drifted into the wilderness. But after a four-year absence, Brazilfooty is back. What have you missed and what’s in store?
The big event since I last wrote, of course, was the 2014 World Cup. Good times. I think it’s fair to say that overall the tournament was a success. Before a ball was kicked in anger there were concerns about crime, inadequate infrastructure and stadiums that were not complete. There were also massive street protests (for more check out my story), which some feared might continue during the event, and spoil it.
But Brazil found a way in the end, as it usually does; the protests died down, security was good, the infrastructure did its job (including a temporary stand in the Itaquerão stadium in São Paulo!) and most foreign fans that I spoke to had a great time. The organisation was far from perfect, but in the end, Brazil, left a pretty good impression of itself to the world.
By the time I arrived in Brazil, England had already lost two matches and were out of the competition. Unfortunately for me that meant that the England v Costa Rica match that I was going to would be a dead rubber. Dead rubbers are dead rubbers. But took dead rubbers to a new level: 0 – 0 final score.
One of the themes of the early games was how well the Latin American teams were doing. Uruguay fell into that category until Luis Suarez decided to bite his opponent and was suspended for the second-round match against Colombia, which they lost. I enjoyed that result and was fortunate to be sat behind the goal where James Rodriguez turned and fired in the goal of the tournament. The Brazilians enjoyed that since Uruguay were the opponents that spoiled their World Cup party at the Maracanã some 64 years earlier, by beating them in the 1950 World Cup final. The Brazil fans were also happy because earlier that day they had beaten Chile to qualify for the next round.
Although Brazil were progressing, they weren’t really firing on all cylinders. Especially since Fred (and the piano on his back) was leading the line, and coming in for some serious criticism. Tim Cahill and Robin Van Persie were busy lighting up the tournament with great goals. I felt that the atmosphere at the tournament was great and everybody seemed to be having a good time, including Betsi de Koe, global mascot superstar.
My schedule was very busy and I was cramming in the games and local travel. Also, thanks to my Portuguese language skills and local knowledge I ended up playing tour guide for my friends. Travelling and tour guide commitments aside, my routine was turning into something like this: wake up (feeling a little bit groggy from the previous night’s exertions), go to a game, watch the game, drink a beer at the game, leave the stadium, find a bar, watch a game at the bar, drink another beer, eat some food, watch another game, finish the beer, go out. It was a great two weeks that flew by in a flash. Before I knew it I was boarding a plane and heading back to London.
I left at about just the right time. Because not long after I landed back home in England, the party abruptly stopped: Brazil 1 Germany 7. One of the greatest shocks and incredible results in World Cup history. Utter humiliation. Sadness. Anger. Tears. Busses burned. Recriminations. It all kicked off.
The scars left by that day will never properly be fully healed. (Before that, Brazilians were still complaining about the loss to Uruguay 64 years earlier). But that defeat does feels like a long time ago now and Brazil’s Olympic football gold medal win, won at the Maracanã partially eases the pain of that memory. Since then, the Seleção have also qualified for next year’s World Cup (the first team other than the hosts Russia to do so) and are once again the top ranked team in the world by FIFA.
What I didn’t like during the World Cup was the attitude of some Brazilians: that Brazil had a right to win the World Cup; that Brazil needed to win to World Cup. I didn’t enjoy their humiliation against Germany, but I was glad that the defeat would shut those people up. My hope was that the loss might force some perspective: that there are more important things in life than football! Football is a sport and that no team has a divine right to win. And I know that there are many Brazilians that will agree with that, including many of the people that took to the streets to protest before the tournament began. The message from the peaceful protesters to Brazil’s corrupt and not-very-good politicians; there are more important things in life than football and we deserve better than we are getting from you.
I’m not if attitudes changed following the defeat to Germany. The attitudes of some didn’t: some Brazilians booed their opponents during the Olympics and before the football final, I prominent pundits spoke about Brazil’s ‘obligation’ to win.
Whatever you think about that, the fact is that by winning Olympic football gold for the first time in their history, on home soil, at the Maracanã, Brazil laid some of the 1950 and 2014 demons to rest. Well done to them. And well done especially to Neymar, who missed the 7 – 1 defeat to Germany through injury, but who showed his star quality and proved that he is the man. He pulled Brazil through that tournament and fittingly, scoring a free kick and the winning penalty in the final.
On the domestic club football front, the teams from Belo Horizonte dominated 2013 and 2014: Cruzeiro won the Série A in both years, while Atlético Mineiro won the 2013 Libertadores and 2014 Brazilian Cup. The teams from São Paulo dominated the last few years: Corinthians, in their new stadium, won the league in 2015 and Palmeiras (with Gabriel Jesus in their ranks) won it in 2016, also in a new stadium. The 2015 Brazilian Cup winners were Palmeiras, while Grêmio (in a new stadium too) won that competition last year. The secret has been revealed. Want success? Build a new stadium! In the Copa Libertadores, the last Brazilian team to reach the final was Atlético Mineiro in 2013.
Tragedy struck late last year when the aircraft carrying the Chapecoense team to their Copa Sul-Americana final in Colombia crashed into the jungle. It was a horrible story, especially since it could and should have been avoided. The details of the tragedy have been well documented so I won’t go into any more details. Since the tragedy struck, Chapecoense were awarded a win in the final (graciously proposed by their would-be opponents in the final, Atético Nacional from Colombia), and subsequently qualified for this year’s Copa Libertadores. They have assembled a new team and seem to be doing okay.
The 2017 season is well under way with the second legs of the state championship finals are taking place this weekend (6th and 7th of May). The Série A begins the following weekend. The Libertadores is also well under way and roughly half way through the group stage. There are eight Brazilian teams in the competition this year and most of them look like qualifying for the knockout phase. I will be posting results and standing for this competition and other competitions here on the blog, soon. For more, check out the about the Libertadores and dedicated Libertadores pages on the site.
Corinthians beat Ponte Preta 3 – 0 in the first leg of the São Paulo state championship final. Until that game Ponte Preta were looking very strong and had knocked out Palmeiras and Santos in earlier rounds. Basically, they’ve done a Monaco: brilliant throughout the competition, but choked near the end. Flamengo are favourites to win the Rio state championships after winning 1 – 0 away at Fluminense in the first leg of the final there. In the other states, the usual suspects are the ones that are doing the businesses. For more on the state championships, see the about state championships section. I have also updated the about this blog and about Brazilian football pages on the site. If you haven’t already seen them and want to know what this is all about, I highly recommend them.
That’s all for today. With the Série A season kicking off next weekend, look out for my Série A preview and predictions next week – in that I’ll give a lowdown on the best teams and players to look out for. Its good to be back. And good to have you back.
Leave a comment below – join the debate!