Brazil’s painful image post the defeat to Belgium in the quarters of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup 2018 defined the lost glory it once enjoyed in the past.
The five-time winners never stayed true to their potential as title favourites and continued their trophy-less run since 2002. A feeling runs now that the Selacios haven’t quite stayed true to their potential. Brazil have lost its magic of yesteryears and need to reinvent.
Several former winners including Pele, would not have been happy seeing the demise of Brazilian football at the World Cup and also the say of South American nations being silenced.
Brazil once a dominating force of world football has all the records when it comes to the coveted trophy. They were superb in 1994, 1998 and 2002 too.
But since then it’s not quite gone well for them. The 2-1 loss to Belgium in this campaign was another deafening blow especially after the humiliating 7-1 loss in the semi-final encounter against Germany in 2014.
A problem for Brazil was scoring goals in large numbers in Russia. In five matches, Brazil scored only eight times. Certainly low by the Selecao standards.
Interestingly, Brazil took 27 shots to get them. Previously, when Brazil dominated the world, they scored aplenty and especially was handy in pivotal situations. Not anymore.
Can they take a lesson from FIFA World Cup 2018 champions France? Can they follow in their footsteps of setting up a side that is strong defensively?
Since 2006 Brazil have not found their feet
Since 2006, the South American stalwarts have managed three quarter-finals finishes and a fourth place. Somewhere, it can be noted that the cutting edge was missed in pivotal situations. Barring 2014, where they were battered on a day Germany showed authority and determination. Also if one looks at their performances against European sides, then it is a common recurrence.
In 2006, Brazil fell against France in a narrow 1-0 loss in the quarters. France eventually ended as runner-up. Four years later, it was eventual finalists the Netherlands, who inflicted a 2-1 loss despite Brazil going 1-0 up through Robinho in the 10th minute. And after Germany, now it was Belgium that had outwitted them tactically.
Brazil’s star-studded forward line failed to repeat the heroics the likes of former legendary players like Pele, Romario and Ronaldo often showed. The consistency was missing and so was the gusto. Both legends Ronaldo and Pele had high expectations from this side in Russia but were left feeling vindicated.
Neymar not the Ronaldo of yesteryears
Brazil at this World Cup will always be remembered for star forward Neymar crying out in pain while demanding action from the referee. The Paris Saint-Germain striker’s theatrics have been widely condemned by former players and football fans during the past three weeks in Russia.
Neymar is not the first footballer to be accused of diving and he also won’t be the last. But the fact that Neymar rolling on the ground seemingly in agony is the main takeaway from the World Cup from Brazil shows how far the five-time winners have fallen.
What Ronaldo showed in 1998 and 2002 was finesse in front of goal. Brazil’s record scorer had all the essentials of a proper centre-forward, who knew one thing which was to score. Like Pele. the former legendary forward was a real force for the 5-time winners. Neymar, on the other hand, had a decent campaign in 2014 but missed out in the semis.
In 2018, he was a sheer disappointment. Being the talisman of the side, one needed Neymar to lead the line like a Pele or Ronaldo, but it wasn’t to be seen. Neymar killed himself, the way he carried on through the tournament in Russia. And he ended up killing his team.
Can Brazil return to its former glory?
The bigger debate will be how Brazil returns to its former glory. That’s a question that will linger on for quite some time. It’s the debate the country was forced to have four years ago.
But it finds itself in the same position after another World Cup failure. It’s been the World Cup of seeing the traditional big guns fall from the wayside with Brazil being one of them.
Will they be able to show that Russia was just a blip on the radar or the start of a new fightback that can see them rule Qatar in 2022. Post the 2018 debacle, manager Tite has a lot to ponder about.
Should Tite stay? Should he continue to build what he started?
Under him, Brazil delivered several stunning performances. The most memorable is how they dominated the World Cup Qualifiers. Brazil played with cohesion and pressed hard.
However, like other South American giants, Brazil have failed to live up to the billing and now need to go back to the drawing board.
But it is also going to be difficult with France being the team of the world at this moment. The 2018 World Cup winners are hot favourites for the 2020 Euro Championships and given their team depth, they could also be the pre-tournament giants in Qatar.
Former Brazil sides and the art of breaking records
Brazil’s teams in 1958, 1970 and 1982 are widely mentioned in the context of the greatest footballing sides of all time. Brazil’s World Cup winning efforts in 1994 and 2002 also packed a punch on the star radar.
Brazil have 5 World Cups under their belt, the most by any nation. Apart from winning the World Cup a record 5 times, Brazil have been runners-up twice.
Brazil’s legendary footballer Pele won the World Cup three times, which is the most by any player. Former striker Ronaldo is still the youngest Golden Ball winner of all time. He is also the leading goal-scorer for Brazil in World Cups with 15 strikes.
Brazil is only the second nation to defend the title (1958, 1962). They won the trophy in 1994 and reached the final in 1998 before winning it again in 2002. They won 7 matches in 2002 World Cup, which is a record. Their 1958, 1962 and 2002 sides are still considered one of the best ever in football history at the World Cups.
Tite too has built a great squad, but in 2018 they weren’t anywhere near to be a side who dominates the biggest stage in style.