Week 38 (7 - 13 June 2014)
Brazilians have an innate sense of how to put on a show. Think samba dancing, the Rio Carnival and the passionate speeches by the then President of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, when advocating Rio 2016's Olympic Games candidature.
But this reputation has been challenged over the past two years. Indeed, it seemed for a while that the Brazilians might even fail to put on a football tournament in Brazil.
Yet when the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ did finally get underway on Thursday evening, the whole country staged a first night performance to be proud of. The main parts were played by the 11 men in yellow and green on the pitch in São Paulo's Arena Corinthians. Putting the questionable acting by Fred (pictured, right) aside, Brazil were box office from start to finish, making it clear that despite the country's problems, their football team is still a unifying force and an important cultural anchor point for the majority of the population.
But it wasn't the football that did the talking in the samba boys' 3-1 win over Croatia. It was the players' comportment. Walking out onto the pitch to take their places for the anthems, each player placed an arm on the shoulder of the man in front of him. It was a simple gesture that spoke of solidarity in the team and no doubt inspired it amongst the fans, even those with an anti-World Cup stance. Only Neymar (pictured, left) broke the chain – briefly – to point his fingers to the sky in silent prayer (but more about him later). The anthems were sung boisterously by everyone in the stadium and the emotion in the eyes of the players was brilliant to see. The World Cup needed this stirring beginning, as did Brazilians.
With four goals, numerous talking points and near misses, the match was exciting. And of course we saw the emergence, or rather confirmation, of the talent that is the 22-year-old Neymar. A goal in each half secured his team the win and showed that despite the pressure that comes with being the golden boy of Brazilian football during a home World Cup, he is ready to take the tournament by storm.
Yes, there are several unavoidable, and well-documented, negatives around Brazil's hosting of this World Cup. But that doesn't mean this World Cup will be bad for Brazil. Success on the pitch will be a boost to the nation's psyche – but success achieved by a group of players who so obviously reflect the emotions and image of their people has the potential to attune hearts and minds to creating a better and stronger Brazilian nation on all fronts.
Photo: Calcio Streaming