World Cup 2014: Defeat brings down the curtain on Brazil’s generation of failure

There was something sadly fitting about host nation’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands

It’s been a farewell to the World Cup that’s been as long as it’s been painful for the host nation. And for the people here, they deserved better than that after what they’ve put on. Just over a month ago, on the eve of the opening game between Brazil and Croatia, there were nervous whispers about a temporary stand at the Itaquerao, which hadn’t been trialled before, let alone been met with such a wall of emotion. Meanwhile further up the coast in Salvador, as Spanish and Dutch fans arrived in the city, welders battled for space with men carrying sheet metal around the grounds of the beautiful Arena Fonte Nova. Yet somehow – in that very Brazilian way that doesn’t come with rhyme or reason – it’s worked out brilliantly. Indeed, all that hasn’t worked has been the Brazilian team itself.

After another humiliating disintegration in the third-place play-off – and it says much about Brazil’s performance that the result of a meaningless game found some relevance – the local talk turned away from the final and towards the future of their football and their manager.

“We must praise our players even though we came up short at the end of the tournament,” said a weary Luiz Felipe Scolari in Brasilia, as his ego took as much of a battering as his reputation. “We didn’t play badly today,” he continued. “The president [of the CBF] has to decide about my future. He has the quality to do the analysis necessary.” It ought to be a very painful analysis because many home truths need to be told.

Scolari undoubtedly had many qualities but, in a way, football in its most modern and fluid form has passed him by. After the Spanish revolution led by Barcelona at club level, followed by the German evolution led by Bayern Munich domestically, what he brings is no longer enough for a team with the ultimate expectations. Gone are the days where organisation and a focus on strict discipline are enough. For while they’ll  undoubtedly get you to a certain level, they can’t bring you far enough, as we’ve seen with Brazil, who fell off the mountain having somehow got within sight of the summit.

 

“It’s a horrible feeling,” said Oscar of the 3-0 loss to Netherlands on Saturday, which was over just as it began, with an early penalty setting a one-sided tone. “I don’t even know what to say. We played well but it wasn’t our day.” Meanwhile Thiago Silva noted: “We dreamed of this moment, had sleepless nights. We didn’t deserve to end the tournament like this”. Scolari may have talked at the press conference about a generation that finished in the top four of a World Cup, but the truth is they will be a generation cast aside: the masses here have had enough of their self-indulgent antics and self-imposed capitulations.

Remember, this was a side that was given every advantage: they had the population, the history, they were at home backed up by a rabid crowd, and had a relatively easy group and a surprisingly easy quarter-final. On top of that, for all the limitations of their strikers, they had one of the stars of the tournament, until their tactics created the environment in which Neymar  was injured. Don’t forget, either, that fully fit, they could have fielded seven players who have lined up in a Champions League semi-final across the last two seasons; in  Fernandinho, they also had a Premier League winner. From that you expected better than to have controversy and luck attached to every victory save the Cameroon match, where even then they were briefly on the ropes against the worst team in the tournament.

There was perhaps something sadly fitting about where they ended their campaign. There have been the two strands running through this World Cup from the very beginning: the pride the people felt for their team, battling with the revulsion they felt for their government in lumping a bloated tournament that fetishised luxury over practicality ahead of them. That £10bn-plus price tag shouldn’t be forgotten, and it comes against the backdrop of a nation with huge problems in terms of poverty, infrastructure, health and education. But while the planet looked to that great altar of the game – the Maracana – they played out their final minutes in the greatest altar to excess.

The Mane Garrincha in the capital was originally expected to cost around £175m, it ran to treble that, in the process making it the second-most expensive football ground ever built. Figures have since been dripping about just how it ran to that, and, as Brazil left the field on Saturday, it’s dawned on people that it’s a stadium that may never be filled for a football match again, given that local teams struggle to attract 1,000. That’s what the country now returns to, but it’s actually worse than they could have imagined.

Their football was supposed to help cover the cost of this, but as the circus packs up and leaves town, it’s added hugely to Brazilian pain.

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