The 2014 World Cup will be remembered for a range of contrasting incidents and matches with the emergence of James Rodriguez as a genuine World Class striker, the 5-1 defeat of Spain by Netherlands and the Luis Suarez bite among the most prominent. However, those four goals in less than seven minutes during the 7-1 victory by Germany against Brazil may be the most abiding memory in the long term.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team were already trailing 1-0 to a Thomas Muller goal before that seven minute spell and onlookers could barely believe what they were watching as Germany appeared to score at will against the pre-tournament favourites. Scolari subsequently resigned after a further 3-0 defeat in the third and fourth placed final, but for Brazilian football, the scars will remain for some time.
Brazil had won the Confederations Cup during the previous summer and were viewed as lively contenders to lift the trophy in the Maracana Stadium in front of their fanatical fans. A series of indifferent performances in the group stage and further close matches in the knock-out phase suggested that this Brazilian outfit could still win the tournament but they were by no means a vintage squad.
The panache and flair of previous generations was absent to be replaced by a functional team bearing characteristics of the need to survive in European football. So many of the Brazil team are now based in Europe that many of the basic attacking instincts engrained into their mindset are deemed unnecessary especially in games requiring team work, helping defensive colleagues and preventing the opposition from playing.
Several of the Brazilian players do possess flair which was occasionally used during the tournament but the creative passing and body swerves of a bygone era were sadly lacking in a squad which seemed over reliant on Neymar to produce that one special moment.
Perhaps the lure of professional contracts in Europe is also a factor in Brazil losing that element of surprise at an international level. World Cup tournaments were always viewed with anticipation at the thought of a several new Brazilian samba stars emerging, but nowadays there is rarely any novelty in the constituent members of the squad. The characteristics of the players are well documented in the months prior to the tournament.
The Brazil squads of 1970 and 1982 were cavalier in their approach to football and the latter was deemed to be the best team not to win the World Cup, but subsequent years have witnessed an erosion of those values with more emphasis on merely winning games.
Sadly, the squad which competed in their home tournament was far removed from the players of previous decades and had not learned to play as a team in adversity while lacking the flair to change the course of a game when necessary.
For now, the 7-1 thrashing by Germany will live in the memory of many Brazilians but it may also provide a watershed moment in offering the opportunity of returning to more traditional values in the wake of that defeat. This may be a long term vision but any successful implementation may help to heal those deep wounds and restore the reputation of a battered football nation.
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