Jul 16, 2014 10:56 AM
Being in the stands that night for the German demolition, the clear reaction amongst the Brazilian faithful was shock. From some of the stunned home support there was some form of response: mostly tears, and fortunately, far less punches.
A Venezuelan wearing a German replica jersey went for adult beverages in the second half. While in the tunnels of the Estadio Mineirao he was given the choice of removing the shirt and walking away unscathed or keep the shirt and be beaten. His bare chested return indicated the prudence of his decision.
Even wearing a neutral blue Nike shirt , which actually is the Brazilian away kit, a concerned Brazilian wrapped me in the ubiquitous flag of the host nation because I appear more German than Brazilian. I made it out unscathed.
Four days later the Selecao embarrassment was complete as the Dutch ran rampant through a team in disarray to claim third place. And so begins the inquisition of “Why” and “What happened?”
The potential of answers are many but the distillation of it is as follows:
- The Brazilian team could not play at the level necessary.
- The Semi was more about playing without Neymar than playing the game itself.
- Is the Brazilian team really Brazilian?
The first consideration is the actual composition of the 2014 Selecao. It can easily be argued that the players in this side are not at the level of past Brazilian teams. And which of them actually play the joga bonito we have come to associate with the yellow and green?
Neymar is up to snuff and cases can be presented for Oscar, Thiago Silva and an in form Julio Cesar, but after that it become a far fetched argument. To say the outside backs are the level of Roberto Carlos and Cafu, the midfielders could play with Dunga, Rivaldo, Socrates, etc. And the most obvious downgrade being the attacking players themselves- imagine a Ronaldo or Romario or Bebeto in this team and they simply outclass the current crop of strikers by a wide margin. Imagine Scolari’s anguish as he would look to the bench and see Jo as his best option.
Only Neymar played like a Brazilian and only Neymar could be in the sides of the past without much argument.
Then there was game day itself. The papers spoke of the Brazilian team playing without its talisman. The pregame analysis was about what happened against Colombia and not the game itself. There was already a resignation within the entire country as a result of playing without Neymar. And the ridiculous yellow that sidelined Thiago Silva can’t be overlooked as an influential moment leading to the collapse.
But the most glaring heartache endured by the home supporters is that their team is really not their team anymore. Of the 23 man roster only four play in Brazil and just one of them was a participant in this deficient side. Fred returned from France in 2009 to ply his trade with Fluminense. The other three were the reserve keepers and European outcast Jo.
The vast majority of the rest were gone to Europe by the age of 20 and most have remained there ever since. Thiago Silva is a special story- he returned to Brazil in his formative early twenties due to contracting tuberculosis in Portugal (almost ending his career) but returned to the big money of Europe in 2009.
It is safe to say this is symptomatic of the other CONMEBOL representatives in the 2014 Cup, but with Brazil there was a glaring snub of the homeland preparing for this tournament. The other South American nations endured the grueling qualification process and were playing at home in front of their countrymen on at least nine occasions.
Brazil did not have to qualify. To chase money Nike had the Brazilians playing all over the globe and just about anywhere other than Brazil. So is it a tough sell to say that the average Brazilian may have become disenfranchised with their national side because of the long absences they endured? In speaking with many before and after the German debacle, it was clear many Brazilians were not endeared to this team.
Neymar is the glue that held this house of cards together. He is easily the best player of the current crop and more importantly, plays like a Brazilian in the traditional sense. He resisted moving to Europe when Europe kept knocking with lucrative offers until finally relenting and moving to Barcelona last year. Taken cruelly out of the Cup with injury, with his absence the locals decided that the embarrassment of the Semi Final was really just a team of Semi Brazilians.