World Cup: Why Brazil should have won

July 16, 2014

Richard Allen Greene – CNN, 7/14/2014

It’s all over now. Germany won the World Cup, which can’t have surprised anyone who watched it demolish Brazil en route to the championship.

But according to CNN’s calculations, Brazil should have taken home the trophy.

While Lionel Messi was battling Thomas Muller to be the tournament’s top goal scorer, while Tim Howard and Guillermo Ochoa were batting away shots on goal, while Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello were stalking the sidelines, CNN was looking at the bigger picture.

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What to Watch at the BRICS Summit in Brazil

July 15, 2014

Molly Elgin-Cossart – Center for American Progress, 7/14/2014

While the drama and sportsmanship of the World Cup has captured the world’s attention for several weeks, an international gathering of a different kind is set to begin in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15. After attending the final soccer match at the invitation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, or the BRICS countries, will meet for their sixth summit.

The summit is likely to be more show than substance—but never underestimate the power of a good show. For a group that began as a mere Goldman Sachs acronym, the BRICS has slowly asserted itself as an economic entity. During this week’s summit, the group is likely to announce its own BRICS development bank with starting capital of at least $50 billion, and it is also cautiously wading into political territory.

What is the BRICS?

The BRICS began as BRICs—or Brazil, Russia, India, and China—an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill as shorthand for the developing economies with high projected growth. The countries took this constructed association seriously and began meeting formally in 2006. South Africa joined the club in 2010.

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Brazil takes stock after World Cup comes to an end

July 15, 2014

Kevin Baxter and Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 7/14/2014

As the last of the World Cup visitors headed for the airports Monday, Brazilians began to reclaim the pristine beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema while traffic in Sao Paulo returned to its regular weekday snarl and the seaside hotels in Salvador, Recife and Natal emptied.

After seven years of planning and 31 days of competition, the most expensive soccer tournament in history is over. And the dire predictions that street demonstrations, massive transportation breakdowns and construction delays would disrupt the event proved unfounded, with Brazil’s tournament ranking among the most successful in World Cup history.

“We’ve eliminated the doubts of all who didn’t believe in us,” President Dilma Rousseff told a gathering of foreign journalists.

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In defeat, a teaching moment for Brazil

July 15, 2014

Johanna Mendelson Forman – The Hill, 7/15/2014

Two routs of Brazil in one week, first with the German soccer team and then with the Dutch, can only be viewed as a metaphor for the limits of soft power. The final blow this past Saturday was the Netherlands team trouncing Brazil in a poorly defended game, and a palpable sense of retreat as Brazilians watched their home team crash and burn.

Brazil’s culture cherishes its long romance with futbol. And well it should. It is a nation that produced Pele, Ronaldinho and Neymar. Its Labor government bet the ranch on being host to the World Cup, a jewel in the crown of an emerging power. Unfortunately, the fairy-tale ending of living happily ever was overshadowed by large public protests in 2013 in a nation that wanted more for its children than gleaming soccer palaces and airports. Brazil’s desperate need for more schools, better educational opportunities and increased resources for health have become the grievance of a rising middle class that emerged as a result of policies that made poverty alleviation a central tenant of the Labor platform. First, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and then with President Dilma Rousseff, the country moved 33 million citizens out of poverty, and brought 47 million into the middle class with expectations that exceeded the government’s capacity to respond. And that’s where the trouble started.

Projecting power through persuasion with a global brand like soccer is fine and important. But rising to the level of serious leadership will require more than a World Cup victory or playing host to the 2016 Olympics. With this sporting event over, it is time for Brazil to rethink its mission in a complex international system that welcomes nations with peaceful inclinations, but equally values leadership. And this is where the problem lies for Brazil. For example, in 2008 it created a distinct South American forum, UNASUR, the Union of South American States, with the goal of distancing itself from the politics of the Organization of American States (OAS), which has been dominated by the United States. While UNASUR has voiced its intent to become an institution that can provide a genuine multilateral forum to resolve regional problems, to date its record is slim in spite of rhetoric to the contrary.

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Brazil Protests Fizzled, but Roots of Anger Remain

July 14, 2014

Jenny Barchfield – ABC News, 7/13/2014

The protesters who many feared would wreck Brazil’s World Cup party failed to show up. While the national team fell short of claiming the coveted championship, the country at least can say the tournament that wraps up with Sunday’s title game has gone off with only scattered demonstrations.

Brazil avoided a repeat of last year’s Confederations Cup when violent protests broke out in several cities and more than a million people took to the streets on just one night to demand the government spend on improvements for education and other public services instead of soccer. But the absence of conflict during the World Cup came less from dissipated anger than attention being glued to the games and police cracking down on even small demonstrations.

Paulo Cavalcante, a 50-year-old public servant, shouted himself hoarse during last year’s protests, even bringing his teenage daughter along on the marches. But during the World Cup, like many other Brazilians, he chose to stay home.

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Brazil’s Dance With Defeat

July 14, 2014

Elio Gaspari – The New York Times, 7/14/2014

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Last week, with great solemnity, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that “being able to overcome defeat I think is the feature and hallmark of a major national team and of a great country.”

So what happened to Brazil that was so dreadful? Was it something similar to the 1940 defeat that drove Charles de Gaulle to call for French resistance? Thankfully, it was nothing of the sort. It was just a soccer game — a national nightmare, during which Germany scored seven goals, four of them in under six minutes. Fortunate is a people that is capable of such commotion over a simple soccer match.

Since its independence, the nation of Brazil has suffered only two terrible defeats — both on home turf, in soccer. Headed for a draw with Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final, the Brazilian team left itself open to a goal that silenced the country.

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Can the World Cup leave a positive legacy?

July 14, 2014

David Poort – Al Jazeera, 7/13/2014

After a month of football in a country where the sport is regarded a religion, we look at how the World Cup has affected the volatile political situation in Brazil and what will happen now that the tournament has come to an end.

The first World Cup to be hosted in South America since 1962 has faced many off the field problems with mass protests over social inequality and huge building delays to stadia and other public infrastructure. However despite these major setbacks, Brazil has managed to stage a successful World Cup both on and off the field.

Al Jazeera spoke to Claudio Goncalves Couto, professor at Sao Paulo’s Getulio Vargas Foundation, passionate football fan (a season ticket holder at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians) and renowned commentator on Brazilian politics.

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Success for Brazil, Just Not on the Field

July 14, 2014

Jeré Longman – The New York Times, 7/13/2014

RIO DE JANEIRO — When Mario Götze settled a crossing pass with his chest and volleyed a goal that won the World Cup, German fans roared in ecstatic release. Those from Brazil were nearly as delirious, even if it was out of relief as much as celebration.

It might have seemed an odd sight, Brazilian fans celebrating another team inside their own cathedral of soccer, the Maracanã stadium. But after two demoralizing losses brought national embarrassment, solace finally came Sunday as Germany defeated Argentina, 1-0, to become the first European team to win a World Cup played in North or South America.

“Argentina winning would have been the worst thing I could think of,” said Jaime Costa, 30, a Brazil fan who works in publicity for a music company.

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Brazilians likely to give government a ‘pass’ over World Cup

July 14, 2014

Larisa Epatko – PBS Newshour, 7/11/2014

The FIFA World Cup, which ends Sunday, has been a rollercoaster ride for Brazilians and no less so for the government.

When Brazil was playing well and advancing, President Dilma Rousseff rode the wave, visibly supporting the team and the tournament.

After Brazilian soccer star — known to fans simply by his first name Neymar — hurt his back during a match, taking him out of the rest of the tournament, Rousseff called him a “warrior” in a public letter of encouragement.

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The Political Hangover from Brazil’s World Cup Defeat

July 14, 2014

Antônio Sampaio – Foreign Policy, 7/12/2014

The World Cup isn’t over yet, but Brazil’s politicians are already facing fallout from the devastating defeat of the national team at the hands of Germany on July 8. That some Brazilian fans decided to react with violence comes, perhaps, as little surprise. The day after Brazil’s historic 7-1 loss to the Germans, rioters burned more than 20 buses in São Paulo, the country’s economic hub. In Belo Horizonte, the city that hosted the match, a gathering of thousands of people turned nasty when protesters set a Brazilian flag on fire and others threw rocks at the police.

The government has now decided to send reinforcements to security forces in both of those cities as well as to Rio de Janeiro, the site of the final match. All this comes in addition to thousands of soldiers already sent to the main host cities as a contingency measure at the start of the Cup. Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo has expressed particular concern about renewed activity by the anarchist Black Bloc movement, masked youths who have provoked numerous clashes with the police in recent months.

But the political repercussions from the defeat are likely to go farther than the actions of a few dozen football hooligans. After all, it was precisely Brazil’s plans to host the Cup (at a cost of some 11 billion dollars) that triggered an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, protests, and political activism a year ago — all of it underlining that futebol no longer occupies the same place in Brazilian hearts that it once did. Now the beautiful game is at the center of an agonized national rethink, a mass, middle-class movement against outdated infrastructure and failing services. And the crushing July 8 defeat is giving new momentum to the demands for reform.

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