Brazil reacts with praise and scorn to Dunga return

July 23, 2014

Michael Place – Global Post, 7/23/2014

Brazil’s media and past players reacted with a mix of praise and scorn to the appointment of Dunga as national soccer coach for a second time.

The 1994 World Cup-winning captain on Tuesday replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari, who resigned last week following Brazil’s failure to reach the World Cup final as hosts and pre-tournament favorites.

Dunga’s appointment comes four years after he was sacked from the same position after Brazil’s quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup.

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In shadow of Brazil World Cup, a nonprofit builds fields of hope

July 14, 2014

Rick Maese – The Washington Post, 7/11/2014

 From afar, the Complexo do Alemão favela looks like Legos dropped from the sky, a mountain of small building blocks stacked one atop another in no discernible pattern. With an estimated population of at least 100,000 people, the favela is one of Rio’s largest. Historically, it has also been one of its most dangerous.

The endless maze of small boxy homes and narrow pathways is located about 5 ½ miles from the famed Maracana stadium, site of the World Cup’s title match Sunday. But soccer isn’t that far away. In fact, it’s never been closer.

A nonprofit co-founded by Washington native Drew Chafetz is responsible for the favela’s giant year-old soccer field with red fencing wrapping around the perimeter. At the same time Brazil’s municipal governments and soccer officials scrambled to construct and refurbish a dozen World Cup stadiums, Chafetz and his modest outfit have been busy building their own fields around Brazil, working with considerably smaller budgets and with sights set on an impact that will continue to be felt long after this World Cup.

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In World Cup Of Education, Brazil Is Bad, But Argentina Is Worse

July 14, 2014

James Marshall Crotty – Forbes, 7/12/2014

One of the underplayed sub-plots of this year’s World Cup is that many of those who vociferously protested on the streets of Brazil were doing so on behalf of better teacher pay and benefits. In other words, education was a huge subtext in this futbol-crazed country’s first World Cup since 1950. And beautiful, hilarious, resource-rich Brazil – which does not often register in American consciousness outside of Carnival, Amazon deforestation, and Gisele Bundchen – actually does want to be known around the world for more than soccer greatness. Especially now that their presumed stranglehold on this year’s Cup was surgically eviscerated, 7-1, by a superior German squad in last Tuesday’s semifinal in Belo Horizonte.

But, as Brazilians now know, expectations for greatness do not always correlate with success. This is especially true when it comes to education. In no surprise to close Brazil watchers, on the eve of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian protestors fulsomely, and often violently, argued that the record-breaking $14.1 billion that Brazil spent on staging the Copa Do Mundo — including a suspicious $1.2 billion cost overrun in building 12 new, albeit gorgeous, soccer stadiums – would have been better allocated towards building hospitals, public housing and, most urgently, schools and other education infrastructure.

The leftist government of the otherwise popular President Dilma Rousseff has been flat-footed in its response. To such an extent that now, with the distracting bread and circus of a Brazil World Cup triumph off the table, “Dilma” is in danger of being removed from office altogether.

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Bye-Bye, Brazil

July 9, 2014

Michael Goodman – Foreign Policy, 7/8/2014

And just like that, they’re gone. This World Cup was always going to be defined by Brazil. Now that they’re no longer in the tournament, it will be defined by their absence. The primary question of World Cup 2014 was whether the hosts would let anyone else win it. The loss now raises another question, one that will remain long after the tournament is over: What’s next?

Let’s start with the soccer part, because it’s a lot simpler. This particular Brazilian squad was constructed with a win-at-all-costs ethos. It’s a team focused on positional discipline in the middle of the field, tough tackling, and tactical fouling. Flair is shunted out to the wings. There are no teenage players here to get experience or older veterans trotted out for one last sentimental showing. There are no ancillary benefits or secondary goals. For this group of players, the sole purpose is to win the 2014 World Cup. That’s all that matters. And that’s why, at 2-0 down to Germany, the house collapsed so astonishingly quickly.

Brazil’s was a particularly dangerous approach given how fickle a short soccer tournament can be — just ask Neymar’s back. But it’s also hard to criticize Brazil, given the relative disarray of their soccer program over the last four years. Many members of Brazil’s next generation of talent haven’t quite panned out. The careers of Alexandre Pato, Ganso, and Leandro Damiao, among others, are stuck in neutral. And while Brazil’s youngsters won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, their loss in the finals to Mexico was considered an enormously significant defeat.

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Brazil’s man of the people

July 8, 2014

FIFA.com, 7/7/2014

“Look at him, our very own Mother Teresa of Calcutta. If he decided to run for the senate tomorrow, he’d get elected.”

David Luiz can do no wrong at the moment, as those words, uttered by a member of the Brazil team’s delegation, confirm. No sooner had he completed his barnstorming performance in Brazil’s quarter-final defeat of Colombia at the Arena Castelao last Friday, during which he ran more than eight kilometres, than the centre-half sportingly asked the stadium to rise and applaud Cafetero playmaker James Rodriguez.

After then playing his part in ensuring that one of the match balls found its way into the Brazil dressing room so that it could be autographed by the players, he continued his post-match tour de force, making his way to the mixed zone, where he gave no fewer than eight straight interviews, two of them in English, attending to each interviewer’s needs with perfect good grace.

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Maradona: Brazil must ‘die’ for cause

July 8, 2014

Alec Fenn – Goal, 7/8/2014

Diego Maradona believes Brazil can take a leaf out of Argentina’s book when they face Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup on Tuesday night.

The host nation have been dealt a considerable blow following the loss of captain Thiago Silva through suspension and star man Neymar, who misses the rest of the tournament with a broken vertebra.

The Selecao’s plight has brought back memories of the 1990 World Cup final for Maradona, when his Argentina side faced Germany without four of their main men.

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Brazil’s Other Beautiful Games

July 7, 2014

Jeré Longman – The New York Times, 7/6/2014

MANAUS, Brazil — It was a newsroom like any television station newsroom, unless you count the brunette receptionist wearing a crown, sash and leopard print dress and offering friendly advice on how to spice up the World Cup.

“Beauty queens,” Brenda Pontes, 19, said.

The World Cup does have many things — consuming attention, enthralling soccer and a carnival atmosphere — but it does not have beauty queens.

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In Brazil’s biggest favela, passion for the Seleção burns brightly

July 7, 2014

Matt Sandy – Al Jazeera America, 7/5/2014

RIO DE JANEIRO – Luiz Henrique, 48, took a swig from his glass of cheap lager and eyed the three police officers passing his roadside bar with their pistols drawn. “It’ll be three-nil to Brazil,” he said. “And I say that with confidence.”

It was 11.45am in Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, on the day of the national side’s quarter-final against Colombia, and a sense of national unity and pride was about to overwhelm all else, even in this most troubled corner of Rio de Janeiro.

The atmosphere had been building since the early morning. Most streets were decorated with copious bunting. Plastic Brazil flags hung from dreadlocked electrical wiring. A bus driver wore a yellow and green wig with his obligatory Brazil shirt.

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Pressure on Brazil enough to make a grown man cry

July 2, 2014

Tom Hennigan – The Irish Times, 7/2/2014

Before Brazil faced Chile the team’s coach Felipão had said that if his side lost, life would go on and no one would need to throw themselves down a well.

But his players’ body language told a different story altogether and none more so than that of their captain. All through the penalty shoot-out Thiago Silva looked an emotional wreck. Supposedly one of the squad’s strongest personalities, he did not even take part in a huddle for one last team talk before its fate was decided, sitting off on his own lost in thought.

When Brazil survived to fight another day he completely broke down, having to be comforted by the squad’s technical staff. If this is the state of him when his team sneaks into the quarter-finals, it is hard to imagine what he will be like if he actually has to lift the trophy on July 13th.

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Brazil expert unhappy with team, hopes for Argentina final

June 30, 2014

Elzio Barreto – Reuters, 6/28/2014

Brazil’s oldest World Cup historian is concerned about the team’s right wing and lackluster performances in the tournament so far, but remains confident the five-times champions can make the final.

“I’m concerned with the Selecao, especially the right wing because Dani Alves isn’t doing so well,” said Airton Fontenele, who published eight books on Brazilian football and has been collecting World Cup documents, newspaper clippings and football memorabilia since 1950.

“As a fan, I believe Brazil will be the champion, but given the performance so far, there are some doubts,” he told Reuters.

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