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World Cup 2014 : A Brazillion problems - Glorious past, embarrassing present and a bleak future

Reuters   July 13, 2014
First Published: 05:16 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 07:03 IST(13/7/2014)

Brazil came into the World Cup expecting nothing less than victory but tactical naivety, a lack of emotional preparation and an inability to overcome the loss of two leading players cost them the chance of winning a sixth title.

Having gone 39 years without a competitive home defeat, they suffered two in five days, the 7-1 semi-final loss by Germany their heaviest ever at the World Cup.

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They followed up with a feeble 3-0 defeat by the Netherlands in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

"After the 7-1 today's game was very difficult psychologically," captain Thiago Silva said after the Dutch game.

"But we need to look at what we did wrong so we don't make the same mistakes again. Especially when we lose a goal it's like the world has ended and that's not the way it should be. Football changes every minute and you can't fall apart when you lose goals. That's normal, it's natural in football."

The Dutch defeat was bad but it was the humiliation by Germany that will forever scar the Brazilian players and their memories of this World Cup, the first to be played in the country since 1950.

The defence was all at sea, unable to mark, cover or tackle, and a midfield that had looked ponderous throughout the tournament was over-run, with Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo outnumbered and outsmarted.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari aimed to attack but left his midfield vulnerable and with Neymar out injured, there was no one to create.

"We forgot how to play as a team," former World Cup winner Tostao said in his newspaper column.

"For Felipao (Scolari) and the majority of coaches exchanging passes in midfield is fancy, nicey nice, unproductive. Brazilian football is all about running, lunging, and balls into the air. Because of the contempt we have for midfield we have no great players in that sector."

The result shocked the footballing world.

Brazil were pre-tournament favourites and not just as they were hosts and because no European team have ever won the World Cup in the Americas.

They arrived having won their previous nine matches, with a settled squad and an experienced manager who led them to the World Cup in 2002.

Just one year ago, they won the Confederations Cup in style, winning all five games and handing world and European champions Spain a 3-0 drubbing in the final.

Brazil, though, never really convinced from the moment they went behind to an own goal after 11 minutes of the opening match against Croatia. They won the game 3-1, but needed a suspiciously soft penalty decision to give them the lead.

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What happened in Today's game

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was hoping to send an optimistic message to the team's supporters in Saturday's World Cup third-place match but their lifeless performance in a 3-0 defeat by the Netherlands.

Brazil's defensive woes manifested themselves once again as they fell 2-0 behind in less than 20 minutes, but their problems were evident all over the field.

Without the injured Neymar, their only world-class player, Brazil were confused in midfield and toothless in attack, lacking any sort of spark or creativity.

Even taking into account the possibility that Brazil were still shell-shocked after their 7-1 mauling by Germany on Tuesday, it was an alarmingly lacklustre display for a team that has always had talent, whatever their tactics.

The meek manner in which they capitulated to a Dutch side that had failed to score in their previous two matches, including two periods of extra time, was extraordinary given the rich history of Brazilian football.

The defence once again cracked under the slightest hint of pressure.

Central defender Thiago Silva, whose return after suspension was meant to stiffen the backline, gave away a penalty and was booked after 90 seconds for a tripping Arjen Robben as he sped towards goal, handing the Dutch a early lead.

Another disaster followed when David Luiz's attempted to head the ball clear but it feel straight to Daley Blind who fired into the top corner.

FORAYS UPFIELD

There was a general feeling of apprehension every time Luiz was on the ball and his forays upfield, often swashbuckling earlier in the competition, lacked any sort of conviction.

Brazilian fans may have feared that another thrashing was on the way and, although that never materialised, there was a complete lack of conviction in their play.

Right back Maicon was a pale shadow of the player who, at his peak, would charge to the byline with tremendous power and pace.

Maxwell, who replaced Marcelo at left back, managed to give the team a little more stability and discipline but was negligible as an attacking force.

Of the five midfielders, Oscar and Willian showed flashes of creativity but Ramires, Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo produced, at best, unproductive exchanges of passes.

Rather than the five-times world champions, it appeared to be the midfield of a middle-ranking European team.

Oscar, however, was always looking for the ball and testing the Dutch defenders with probing runs, and he seems to be the one Brazilian player whose international future is guaranteed.

The biggest disappointment was in attack where Jo, the lone striker, proved just as ineffective as Fred, the hugely-criticised player he replaced, and it was hard to believe that Brazil has previously been represented in that position by the likes of Careca, Romario and Ronaldo.

Both Fred and Jo were victims of Scolari's insistence of playing with a target men, even though Brazilian football is chronically short of that type of player.

"This will mark us for the rest of our lives. We need to try and lift our heads, look for strength in our families," Ramires said. "We apologise to the Brazilian people."

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DEFENSIVELY VULNERABLE

They could not score against a resolute Mexico side in their second game and although they trounced Cameroon 4-1 in the final group match they looked defensively vulnerable against one of the tournament's weakest sides.

They only qualified for the quarter-finals by beating Chile on penalties after a thrillingly close game. Even the 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals was fraught.

The decisive factor came in that game with the loss through injury and suspension of Neymar and Thiago Silva. Silva got a needless yellow card and that kept him out the semi-final and Neymar's injury, a fractured vertebra, shattered the team's confidence and highlighted their emotional fragility.

Several players had cried uncontrollably after they beat Chile on penalties and they looked visibly shaky at facing the Germans without their biggest asset.
Captain in Thiago Silva's absence, an emotional David Luiz even held aloft Neymar's jersey before the national anthems.

In contrast, the Germans looked cool and collected and when asked why they did not celebrate the 7-1 mauling more expansively, they replied that there was a time and place to show emotions.

Their performance also highlighted Brazil's lack of top-quality players. Unlike the Germans, the Dutch and to a lesser extent Argentina, several of the Brazilian players who started the match were not regular starters for top European sides.

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Goalkeeper Julio Cesar plays in Canada, Paulinho struggled last season at Tottenham Hotspur, Bernard and Hulk play in eastern Europe, Luiz Gustavo is at Wolfsburg and centre forward Fred is at Fluminense.

If there is a silver lining it is that unlike four years ago, when defeat by the Netherlands prompted a purge of the old guard, Brazil still have a young team and this experience, while bitter, could serve them well in the future.

Neymar is still only 22, midfielders Oscar and Willian are 23 and 25, respectively, and first-choice players Hulk, Luiz Gustavo and Marcelo will still only be 30 or 31 by the time the next World Cup comes around.

Central defensive pairing David Luiz, 27 and Thiago Silva, 30, will have a chance to deepen their understanding by playing together at Paris St Germain starting next season.

Brazil remains the only nation to win the World Cup five times and the team can bounce back. But the rebuilding work must start now

(All photos from AFP, AP, REUTERS)


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