Translated into English, the Portuguese phrase ‘colhendo os frutos’ has a simple enough meaning: as you sow, so you reap. But in the context of the World Cup and when the country is Brazil, whatever you sow, anything less than the title is not reaped well.
“Second place is never good enough — I know that from France ’98,” former striker and World Cup winner Bebeto was quoted as saying in an interview in the April 2014 issue of football magazine FourFourTwo.
To get to where Bebeto wants Brazil to be, they will have to make history. No team has won the World Cup after winning the Confederations Cup. But the five-time winners have rewritten World Cup records so naysayers beware! With the crowd behind them, a savvy coach and a settled team enjoying a sparkling run of form, Brazil are hot favourites to lift a record sixth World Cup this July.
Brazil have won seven games in a row and 13 of their last 14, and fans no longer wonder whether they can win the competition, they are expecting it. The worry, however, is whether they have peaked too early.
“We have a good team, in Thiago Silva possibly the best national team captain but also one that is very young. Germany are big favourites and let’s not forget Spain the world champions. I wish they win it but I can’t say Brazil will be champions,” Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of the 1970 World Cup winning Brazil team, had told HT in Kolkata last December.
Another pertinent question is how they will respond to the pressure of playing the World Cup at home in front of passionate fans desperate for success. While the squad announced by coach Luis Felipe Scolari has experience of paying at the top level in Europe, this will be a different ball game.
The only other time Brazil hosted the World Cup was in 1950 when the home side lost out in the final match to Uruguay. It scarred the nation and made Maracanazo part of football’s lexicon. There will be talk of ‘El Fantasma del 50’ if Brazil start slowly and anxious supporters get on their backs.
And that’s where Scolari has such an important role to play. When he took over in December 2012 from Mano Menezes, Brazil were struggling just like they were one year before the 2002 finals. Scolari’s team went on to win that World Cup and — this is just as important — redeem the reputation of the big striker Ronaldo who had collapsed in the 1998 final.