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Archive for the ‘Off topic’ Category

We’ve had five off topic post in the history of Anything Palmeiras: four recent ones related to the World Cup in Brazil, and then the one in homage to the greatest football goal of all times.

It’s Zlatan time again. Yesterday, Ibra scored twice in Sweden’s friendly against Estonia to become the country’s all-time leading scorer with 50 goals in 99 appearances. Both braces came in the first half.

After scoring the record setting goal, Zlatan removed his jersey to reveal a message underneath, addressing the fans: “You made it all possible”.

Ibrahimović takes the long-standing record from Sven Rydell, who scored 49 goals in no more than 43 appearances for Sweden between 1923 and 1932.
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Dreams of a sixth World Cup title for Brazil were dashed yesterday as a completely dominant Germany humiliated the men in yellow. 7-1 is not only Brazil’s worst defeat ever, but also the second worst in the history of World Cups, only trumped by Sweden’s 8-0 against Cuba in the quarterfinals of 1938.

Muller opened up the scorecard for Germany in the tenth minute, then Miroslav Klose drilled home, becoming World Cup top scorer of all times with his 16 braces. What then followed at the Mineirão stadium was an utter disgrace: Brazil’s defence suffered a complete meltdown, allowing the German side another three goals in six minutes, making the score 5-0 with 28 minutes on the clock. We saw Germany cruise through the remainder of the game, adding two additional braces in the second half, before Oscar defined the end result in the dying minutes.
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There are explanations to the seemingly inexplicable. Emotional aspects come into the mix, the pressure on the squad, expectations. The collective blow of losing Neymar and the whole “play for him” sentimentalism that followed. Motivation and emotion, the us-against-the-world, defined as the “Família Scolari” approach – has worked on previous occasions. This time, it backfired.

Now, would yesterday have played out much differently with Neymar and Thiago Silva on the pitch? Not likely.

Brazil lost because of hubris, believing it could take Germany on as equals.

The German squad has been carefully crafted for years, with players moulded to fit like pieces in a machine. In comparison, the Brazilian “little canary” is young and unexperienced as a group. Unexperienced, chiefly because of the many different players that have been tested and discarded in the last few years.

Scolari’s relaxed attitude to training hasn’t helped: Brazil played Chile on a Friday, the players only going back to train on the Tuesday.

However, tactical errors must be considered the primary reason for yesterday’s disaster. As during earlier games, Brazil’s lack of a midfield was obvious. Against Chile and Colombia, Brazil suffered but pulled through. Against Germany, not strengthening the midfield equalled suicide. Penetrating Brazil’s defence with ease, it looked like the Germans were on a training session.

Who’s to blame? Primarily coach Scolari.

But we need to look further.
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Brazilian football has stagnated. Internally, externally. On and off the pitch. And this while maintaining an absurdly arrogant attitude. It’s time for Brazilian football to rethink itself, to reframe glories and values from the past into a modern context, a globalized perspective, humbly learning from others and implementing profound changes. At club level, in regard to legislation, financial transparency, the Federation, relationship with sponsors (in particular Rede Globo), match hours… The list could go on and on.

Change must also happen at player level, but not through “implementing”: something is lacking in terms of maturity and responsibility on an individual level. Something has been lost (or were never present) behind all the hairdos, gang style signs, instagraming, silly dance moves and everything else taking the focus away from football. Watching Brazilian TV these last few weeks, you wouldn’t believe the number of commercials featuring Scolari and Brazilian key players. Neither would you believe the easy access selected Brazilian entertainment TV has had to players and staff throughout the tournament.

Brazil needs to man up. Learn when it’s time for fun and when it’s not. Give and demand respect. In so many aspects; football being only one of them.

Brazil takes on either the Netherlands or Argentina in Saturday’s bronze match in Brasilia. In case of an all-out South America clash, FIFA has already signalled it will suspend the selling of alcoholic beverage at the Mané Garrincha stadium. Wisely so, if you ask me.

The World Cup, as a tournament, is a success. The path leading up to it has been a tragedy of wasted money and opportunities. As for the legacy? For Brazil? Let me get back to you on that one.

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For those of us nourishing fears or hopes in regard to massive protests during the 2014 World Cup, entering the fifth day of the tournament, indicators seem crystal clear: by all accounts, the World Cup has, so far, been nothing but a tremendous success. Eurosport.com suggests it’s on the course to be the greatest tournaments of all time, presenting its case in six arguments:

# Goals aplenty: after eight games the 2014 World Cup has more than double the number of goals – an average of 3.5 per game – as its predecessor at the same stage.

# Shock results: Netherlands 5-1 Spain, Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica. Say no more.

# No draws: attacking mentality and tactics have taken the upper hand of this tournament. Or, as Rio Report puts it: “We’re not sure if teams can’t, or won’t, defend. But we’re not complaining.”

# Big names performing: Robben, van Persie, Neymar, Messi, Benzema, Balotelli…

# Location: it’s in Brazil. If that means nothing to you, go check your pulse.

# Word is spreading: and these things have a way of turning into self-fulfilling prophecy.

There’s truly nothing like the World Cup. People gathering from all over the planet for a month of intensive interaction and drama. You are swept away, either you want to or not. I’m football, more than ever. Already trying to imagine life post 13 July.

The downer of all this is that Brazil, once again, is getting off the hook. Brazil, here to be understood as the Government, Parliament, Institutions. Brazilians have a short memory when it comes to politics: a splendid World Cup, and all the small and large, dramatic and low-intensity disasters on the way will have little impact. As will the fact that Brazil has spent more on preparations [sic] than previous four host countries combined. Oh, the Legacy…

On different social media, I’ve already started to see messages like “Suck it up, FIFA. Never doubt Brazil!”. It’s exactly these kind of attitudes that make me wonder if Brazil will ever truly evolve.

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It’s underway, the 2014 World Cup.

And if it hadn’t been for the underlying tension in the air, it would’ve been amusing the way sports journalists, national coach Scolari and others yesterday repeated how pleased the Brazilians seemed to be and how much they supported the National Squad. “When Brazil scored, I could hear fireworks from outside. People celebrating, even outside the stadium”, an ESPN reporter marvelled from within the Itaqueirão. “If there’s ever been such a thing as paulistas not supporting the national squad, today we had the proof that it doesn’t exist”, Scolari stressed when initiating the post-game press conference. You see, Brazilians rooting for their team has become something not to be taken for granted. At least not in its totality.

dilmaopeningPresident Dilma Rousseff did not address the crowd in the stadium or declare the opening of the World Cup, but was still roundly booed on several occasions during the game. Even so, Brazil did indeed come to a halt yesterday, the nation tuning in to watch Brazil defeat Croatia 3-1 in a game filled with dubious calls from the referee.

Clashes between protesters and riot police took place in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Salvador and in the Federal District. Some 20 persons were injured – among these four journalists – and close to 70 persons arrested. Police reportedly put rubber bullets and teargas to good use.

So far, the tournament has been characterised by the good-to-excellent quality of the games, combined with bad-to-disastrous refereeing: Croats were furious after yesterday’s defeat and Mexico would have been even madder had they not beaten Cameroon 1-0, after having two legit goals disallowed. While FIFA insists on not letting technology in…

The Netherlands crushed Spain 5-1. At halftime, Chile are beating Australia 2-1, with one brace from Valdivia. Valdivia is set to leave Palmeiras after the World Cup, so I guess the better he performs, the higher the price tag, which equals more money for Palmeiras. Thus, with all my heart: good luck, Valdivia! May you play your best football ever in the coming four weeks.

Tomorrow, the highlight is England vs. Italy in Manaus. I’m watching the game at the UK Embassy, wearing my 1993 Newcastle jersey.

Até mais, amigos.

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[It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts. Now, what if it’s been a really bad journey?]

Expectations and excitement has been building up for some time, as the number of canary-yellow jerseys take to the streets in greater numbers by the day. Flags everywhere, pavements chalked up in creative green, yellow and blue designs, peoples smiling in anticipation of the sixth World Cup title destined for the country where football is considered part of the DNA.

That was four years ago.

In 2014, World Cup in Brazil can be resumed as one, resigned, collective sigh. Yes, resigned, because Brazil has had SEVEN years to prepare for what was supposed to be the party of parties, the event of events, the celebration of celebrations. Of Brazil showcasing all its social, civic and economic progress, its joyeux de vivre, its welcoming ways and, of course, superior football. Well, Brazil is certainly a favourite to lift the trophy, so there might be glimpses of superiority on the pitch. Forget the rest.

At the moment of writing, kickoff is less than two days away. Preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup has been Brazil in a nutshell: a striking incapability to plan, to execute, to conduct with transparency. Considerably less than half of promised infrastructure improvements have been concluded. Some probably never will be – which is far worse than all those aborted before any physical labour begun – as it’s literarily money down the drain. However which way you look at it, costs have soared, and corruption is taking its toll. Behold the Mané Garrincha stadium in the capital of the country, originally budgeted at around 800 million reais (US$ 350 million), but today almost hitting the 2 billion (US$ 900 million) mark. Or the Itaqueirão stadium, where the opening game will be held, situated in one of the poorer outskirts of the city of São Paulo. The amount of public money poured into these and other stadiums around Brazil… A stark contrast to the “World Cup of Private Investments” enthusiastically proclaimed by President Dilma Rousseff a few years back.

True enough, the relationship Brazilians nourish to football has gone rather sour over the last decade or so. How could it not? With access to information increasing by the day, especially the young are increasingly turning their backs on the corrupt and inefficient Brazilian Football Federation, the poorly run football clubs, the badly kept stadiums, the overpriced tickets, the insane hours imposed by leading broadcaster Globo, the arbitrary rulings of the Superior Tribunal of Sports… Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the questionable quality of Brazilian football itself. So, yes: football in Brazil is not what it used to be – not on club level, not on National Squad level. Still, that’s only part of the explanation, and a minor part. You see, Brazil is, still, a football nation.

Thing is, not only World Cup preparations but the whole of Brazil has gone awry. The economy has entered into a general stalemate, suffering under notoriously heavy bureaucracy, lack of fiscal reforms and a desperate need for investments in infrastructure. Tens of millions have been lifted out of extreme poverty due to social welfare programs and grants, while also the lower middle class has been growing considerably in numbers. Making up the lion’s part of Brazilian society, these people struggle immensely to make ends meet, and increasingly so as inflation is again moving up the scales, bringing back ghosts past.

The economy certainly is a matter of outmost concern, as is the poor educational system and the even worse public health care. Add the record-breaking 50.000+ homicides in 2013, and the 60.000+ deaths in traffic accidents – the latest fatality being Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s nephew only a few hours ago…

Elections are due this fall, but when you examine the candidates, there’s little hope in sight.

Brazilians are tired. Frustrated. Angry. They would love to celebrate the World Cup, but many lack the energy. And even larger numbers seem torn between mixed feelings. To what extent can I enjoy the World Cup without giving the government my stamp of approval? By having fun, am I being a fool, pathetically duped into submission?

Others voice a different opinion. “OK, there has been issues, but now all that must be set aside: it’s our duty to do the best World Cup humanly possible, the country’s image is at stake.”

Perhaps we’ll have a World Cup without major incidents. Brazil showing the world “they can do it”. Backslapping all around. And then refocus: after all, we have presidential elections coming up, then the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Perhaps we’ll have protests, and protests escalating into what we saw in mid 2013, with – literally – millions of people taking to the streets, jeopardising the entire World Cup. Protests that would show governments and FIFA that PEOPLE is a force to reckon with.

In a broader perspective, I have a feeling the second image of Brazil would be so much more enriching for the country, and for the world.

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ps. I’d really welcome your thoughts on this post; feel more than free to leave your comments.

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Yes, this is indeed a blog about Palmeiras but after what Ibra did yesterday, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to make a tribute to my fellow countryman. After all – and in the spirit of the one and only Daniel Grandesso – my blog, my rules.

British newspaper “The Times” wrote that “England’s defenders spent part of yesterday morning watching video clips of Zlatan Ibrahimović in order to know their enemy. But there are some things you cannot prepare for, certainly not bicycle kicks from 35 yards. How do you prepare for something you never, ever saw before?”

In more than 35 years covering international football for the BBC, John Motson has seen countless matches and been to 10 World Cups. He lists Ibras’ fourth goal as the #1 of all times: “It was spontaneous, out of this world, unexpected and athletic – the best I have ever seen. It was a sensational piece of improvisation and even more special seeing as he produced it in his country’s new stadium. It was the icing on the cake to a fantastic performance.”

On Monday night the 31-year-old Paris Saint-Germain player received Swedish football’s “Golden Ball” player of the year award (for the sixth time in a row and for the seventh time in total; the female price went for the third time to Lotta Schelin). Three days later he treats us to this magnificent display, becoming the first player to ever score four goals against England, declaring their second defeat in 22 matches.

Enjoy!
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On a side note, and forgive me now, but isn’t there a small but distinct similarity between Ibra and our own Hernán Barcos in terms of physique and playing style?

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