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Fear of Failure: Can Brazilian Football Succeed Where Politics Failed?

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Brazil enter the World Cup as favorites. Not only are they one of the best teams in the world, but they will be playing at home, amongst scores of cheering fans. Or will they?

When you think of Brazilian football, a scene comes to mind: brightly colored, cheering fans dancing around as their team plays Samba football. Yet that’s not necessarily the true picture of Brazilian football. Indeed, there’s something of a micro-culture when it comes to sports fandom in the South American giant.

The culture of support

Brazilian sports journalist Andre Rizek knows Brazilian football inside out. He also knows other Brazilian sports, too, so his comments can be taken at face value. His proclamation, therefore, that the Brazilian “national sport is not football, it is applauding winners,” sheds interesting light on the scene in Brazil.

No team top of the FIFA World Rankings has won the World Cup since their introduction in 1993

1994 winners Brazil were 3rd in the rankings

1998 winners France were 18th

2002 winners Brazil were 2nd

2006 winners Italy were 13th

2010 winners Spain were 2nd

Indeed, when it comes to betting on sports in Brazil, punters are known to regularly bet against their own team, something almost unheard of in the UK market.

Supporters have been known to turn on their team when results start to go against them and one of the biggest things in Brazilian life is avoiding humiliation. Why, then, the popularity of the World Cup?

Put simply, the competition is where Brazil have won the most times. With 5 winners medals, they trump every other country and this year could be the year they add crown 6 to their list of accomplishments. If they don’t, the fans could very quickly turn against them, something that holds even more significance when the preparations are taken into consideration.

World Cup opposition

When Brazil was announced as the host of the World Cup, no-one could have predicted the large scale demonstrations against the tournament that have punctuated the build-up. Organizers have felt the fury of individuals out of work and having to do without key public works in order to build a flashy new stadium that will never be used after the tournament.

Just like 2010, the Brazil World Cup 2014 will be going to a country with huge disparity between the rich and the poor. In South Africa, the government tried to paint over the slums, yet in Brazil even that has been forgotten in the rush to get their stadiums completed on-time.

So there’s no surprise that protestors have been out in force demanding change at the top, and it’s football that has been the focus of their ire.

Actually, its football politics that has been at the forefront of protestors’ attentions, especially the corruption of senior officials: something that FIFA is also accused of.

Venues have been built from the public purse when it was promised no public money would be spent. They’ve also come in way over cost. With public infrastructure works delayed or cancelled to rush through late stadiums, protestors feel their views are not being listened to, something that looks true.

However, this can all tie back into the Brazilian sport of cheering for winners. The World Cup is traditionally the event where Brazil perform the best in world sport. As such, there is a feeling that supporters will not want to mar this image in the world press by protesting, especially if the team is performing. If they don’t, however, then there could be a very different story.

What about on the pitch

If you’re planning on placing a bet with an online sportsbook in Brazil, it’s probably worth knowing about the team itself. Luckily for you, current Brazil manager and 2002 winner Luis Felipe (Big Phil) Scolari has a pretty settled team.

Indeed, despite worries over whether a couple of his players were getting enough football in the right position, he has stuck rigidly to the same group of players, with only Chelsea’s Willian and Manchester City’s Fernandinho forcing their way into the squad, despite calls for the inclusion of old favorites Robinho and Alexandre Pato.

So we can be pretty sure of the starting line-up when things kick off on June 12th. Injuries aside, the team will be Julio Cesar in goal, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo at the back, Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho in central midfield, with Hulk, Oscar and Neymar playing off forward Fred.

Sure, there’s no Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo this time, but this Brazilian squad has an excellent mix of talent and teamwork. It is a well-oiled machine and even the defensive frailties of Marcelo and David Luiz are nullified somewhat – perhaps by world class defender, and captain, Thiago Silva.

Any mobile betting fans out there have a ready-made top scorer to pick, too, with Neymar having already amassed 30 international goals in just 47 games. That’s a goal every hour and his link up with centre forward Fred is an integral part to the Brazilian game plan this year.

What about their opponents, though? In the group stages, Brazil will face Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon, a Croatian team spearheaded by Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic and an ageing Mexico team. It’s after that the fun really starts, though, with Spain, the Netherlands or Chile (or Australia, as unlikely as that is) lying in wait in the last 16.

Whatever transpires, football fans and those planning to bet on the Brazil World Cup 2014 are in for a treat. Its shaping up to be one of the best in history. Will Brazil win a World Cup on home soil (after missing out to Uruguay in 1950), will their fans turn against the team when the going gets tough and will there be any more riots and demonstrations.

As an even bigger backdrop, the Brazilian elections are this year, too.

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