The Best Of Brazilian Football
Neymar. Fred. Political protests. It was a busy month in Brazilian football. On the blog today Jack Lang returns to share the highlights from June.
The Team – Brazil
June seems destined to go down as one of the most important months in the recent history of Brazil. Millions of people took to the streets in cities throughout the country, demanding better public services, more responsible government spending, less corruption and myriad other things. For the first time since the days of dictatorship, the Brazilian people woke up and demanded change.
It was fitting, then, that June was also marked by the return of another long-dormant giant. The Seleção were superb at the Confederations Cup, winning every game and inspiring hope that next summer’s World Cup could be a memorable one for home fans. Their performance against Spain in the final, in particular, felt like a turning point.
Much of the credit must go to Luiz Felipe Scolari. Although his appointment may have been born of populism, the 2002 World Cup winner has always been adept at galvanising team spirit and has skilfully built on the work of Mano Menezes. The introduction of a high-pressing system gave Brazil a vitality they had been lacking, while his faith in players overlooked by Menezes – Fred, Júlio César and Luiz Gustavo – paid off handsomely.
It is possible, of course, that the Seleção have peaked too early; it will be difficult to maintain the momentum over the course of the coming year. But Scolari and his players have at least restored belief ahead of 2014. That alone should be regarded as a major victory.
The Odds: Brazil are currently favourites to win the 2014 World Cup, best priced at odds of 4.50 with William Hill.
The Player – Fred
Fluminense fans have a chant about their star striker: “O Fred vai te pegar!” This translates, most obviously, as “Fred’s going to get you,” but also refers to the 29-year-old’s notorious womanising antics (the verb “pegar” also means “to snog”).
The former Lyon man has always had a reputation as something of a loveable slacker; a player of huge talent who just loves nights out a little too much. But the Confederations Cup marked the moment that many people began to take Fred seriously.
A tally of five goals (including two against Italy, two against Spain and none against Tahiti… cough cough Fernando Torres) underlined Fred’s killer instincts and should ensure that he will be the man to lead the line for the Seleção next year. With Leandro Damião and Alexandre Pato continuing to flounder, his emergence at international level could not have come at a better time.
The Goal – Neymar
Brazil vs Japan
I could have chosen any one of Neymar’s four Confederations Cup goals but this one was arguably the most important. With just a couple of minutes played in Brazil’s opening match against Japan, the Barcelona forward lifted all the pressure at the Mané Garrincha stadium, rifling a stunning volley into the top corner following a clever touch from Fred. The Seleção never looked back.
The Villain – Ricardo Teixeira
Among the issues at play in the street protests throughout Brazil was the amount of money that has been spent building and renovating stadiums for the World Cup, while more crucial public goods – hospitals, schools and transport – remain underfunded.
Many politicians and administrators deserve blame for this state of affairs, but perhaps the guiltiest party is Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of Brazil’s football association. It was he who, when Brazil were bidding for the 2014 showpiece, pledged that the majority of funding for stadium refurbishments would come from private sources.
It was a hollow promise. According to sports daily Lance!, 96% of the R$8billion ($3.6billion) cost of constructing and modernising the 12 stadiums for the tournament has come from the public purse. The Brazilian people are understandably angry at the far-reaching demands made by FIFA, but the old boys’ network at the CBF remains a hotbed for nefarious decisions.
Current Brazil Serie A Odds
|Vasco Da Gama||19.00||26.00||50.00||19.00||51.00|
Odds as at 5th July 2013.
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