5 Reasons European Teams Will Struggle In Brazil

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With the World Cup now just months away, today on the blog Brazilian football expert Jack Lang details the top five difficulties facing European sides at the 2014 World Cup.

Christ The Redeemer Statue Rio de Janeiro Brazil

#1. Travel

Let's start by stating the obvious: Brazil is an enormous country. The distances between the World Cup host cities are not to be taken lightly; London is closer to Moscow than Manaus is to Porto Alegre, for example.

With the organisers deciding against tying groups to specific regions, some teams will really rack up the miles over the course of the tournament. The USA, for instance, must traipse from the north-east coast to Manaus and back again before the group stage is out. That's a cool 5,600km.

Matters are complicated further by the fact that Brazil has no nationwide rail system, meaning trips must be taken by plane and/or coach. Having jetted over from the old continent, players can expect to have to endure journeys that sap their patience as well as their energy.

#2. Climate

The size of the country also creates other potential problems. Conditions will be tricky in the north of Brazil, which is blessed/cursed (delete according to taste/whether you have to actually live there) with equatorial temperatures, meaning European teams unaccustomed to the heat will be at a considerable disadvantage. True, it will be winter when the World Cup comes around, but we can still expect thermometers to be tipping 35 degrees Celsius on hot days.

While the north-east triumvirate of Natal, Fortaleza and Recife can be dry and arid, Manaus poses its own unique challenge: humidity. The air will be heavy in the Amazonian city, so teams should look to arrive early before matches so players can acclimatise a touch.

The real difficulty, however, will be moving between the sweaty north and the south, which can be fairly chilly in June and July. We're not talking Russian winters here, but Porto Alegre and Curitiba especially are fairly European in terms of temperature. Having to adapt to changing climes on the fly (and according to the draw when the business end of the tournament comes around) will be a challenge.

#3. History

A quick glance at the record books reveals a harrowing truth for Spain, Germany, the Netherlands et al: no European country has won the World Cup in South America. Indeed, only Spain have managed to triumph outside the borders of Europe itself. Causation must be distinguished from correlation, but these tournaments do tend to be won by those sides more familiar with local conditions.

But whatever disadvantage there is surely becoming less and less telling. With most players in the Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay squads plying their trade in Europe anyway, there seems little reason to think that the South American sides have the edge they did before the game became truly globalised.

#4. Form

France did well in the play-offs but haven’t been truly impressive for years. Italy seem to be in a decade-long transitional period. The Netherlands blitzed qualification but were poor at Euro 2012. Spain’s dominance appears to be waning as Xavi and Iniesta get older. Belgium have talent but zero big-tournament experience. And England… only joking.

Obviously, I’m being hugely reductive, but you could certainly argue that only Germany come into the tournament with both the confidence and the abundant talent that win World Cups.

On the other side of the Atlantic, things are rather more positive. Uruguay, Chile and Colombia will all be dangerous. Argentina have Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. Brazil are buoyant after their Confederations Cup win and have home advantage. It would take a brave person to bet against the trophy returning to the CONMEBOL region.

#5. Support

Thousands of European fans will doubtless flock to Brazil to follow their sides, but they are unlikely to match the fervour of those roaring on the hosts. We saw just how rousing the home support could be last summer, when spine-tingling a cappella renditions of the national anthem brought tears to the eyes of the players before Brazil’s knockout games.

With protests likely during the tournament, the seleção will again be a locus of unity for a people otherwise fractured by inequality and social ills. Simply put, this means more to Brazil than it does to every other side at the World Cup. That has to count for something.

 

 

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Follow Jack on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop

And read more of Jack's work on his blog: SnapKakaPop.blogspot.com

Brazilian football writer for a range of sites and publications, as well as for his blog, Snap, Kaká and Pop! He doesn't particularly enjoy writing about himself in the third person, but sometimes must.