Plunged from a nationwide party into deep despair, Brazilians lambasted their team’s lack of heart and style and begged for a return to the “beautiful game” by the time they host the World Cup in 2014.
In a country that has won more World Cups than any other and which defines itself by the success of its national team, the second successive limp exit to a European team at the quarter-final stage was too much to stomach for many fans.
“This is painful. It’s a miserable pain,” said a sobbing, bikini-clad Maria Elisa as she left Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach where about 20,000 fans, most wearing canary-yellow, endured the 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands shown on a giant screen.
Within minutes of the game’s conclusion, hundreds of forlorn Brazilians vented their frustration on the blog of Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s best-known sports writers. Many blamed coach Dunga for fielding a team that lacked some of the country’s greatest stars, such as Ronaldinho, Ganso and Neymar.
Many commentators had long had their knives out for 1994 World Cup winning player Dunga for what they saw as his stubbornly defensive style that was a far cry from the “jogo bonito” or beautiful game that Brazilians expect.
“What happened was precisely what we all knew would happen before the Cup even started — a mediocre team, mediocre football,” one fan named Anderson Verdao wrote. In Brazil’s biggest city of Sao Paulo, disconsolate bankers, builders and other workers trooped back to their workplaces or consoled themselves with more beer as they analyzed the defeat.
“There is no way to kill our sorrow. We just have to wait until 2014,” said 27-year-old systems analyst Rafael Moretti, swigging a beer as other fans defiantly blew out some final blasts on vuvuzela horns.
Dunga is stupid
A common view was that Dunga, who indicated immediately after the game he would not stay on as Brazil coach, had been too stubborn and inflexible to calls to change styles.
“Dunga is stupid — he didn’t call up Ronaldinho,” said Edson Cavalcante, a 40-year-old systems analyst who was swaying from the effects of beer and disappointment on a Sao Paulo street. Brazil lost to France in the 2006 quarter-final even with skillful playmaker Ronaldinho on the team, but fans said on Friday that his exclusion had left the squad without options. “It’s not a problem of Brazilian football — we have great players. The problem was Dunga’s philosophy of being the big chief, he was too hard-headed,” said Daniel Garcia, a 29-year old banker. Felipe Melo, the midfielder who scored an own goal and was sent off in the second half for stamping on Dutch playmaker Arjen Robben, was also singled out for blame.
“Felipe Melo shouldn’t spend his vacation in Brazil,” Ronaldo, the striker who led Brazil to its most recent World Cup title in 2002, wrote on his Twitter.
With Brazil hosting the next World Cup, Brazilians could at least look forward to a huge party and a strong chance of winning their sixth title in four years’ time.
“I think there is an arrangement at (soccer governing body) Fifa that Brazil can’t win too many times and of course the next one will be at home,” said Sydney Medeiros, a 52-year-old parking attendant in Sao Paulo who had his Brazil shirt draped over one shoulder. “Clearly, it’s a conspiracy.”
However, the quarter-final victory was more than just the first major scalp the Dutch had claimed. The Anhangabau Valley in central Sao Paulo, where 50,000 people gathered to see Brazil play the Netherlands, fell silent when the match ended with a Brazilian defeat.
You’re worth nothing
But the silence lasted only for a few moments. The band that was ready to play for the victory party loudly started a popular song whose lyrics go something like: “You’re worth nothing, but I love you.”
Fans at once understood that it was a message to their squad and started to sing and dance. After all, even in sorrow, this is Brazil. From the distance it did look like a joyous party but up and close you could see sad, almost desperate faces, struggling to accept that their favourite squad would be back home earlier than hoped.
Expectations are now high for the 2014 World Cup that is going to be played here. The squad can expect even more pressure. “Playing at home, we have the obligation of winning,” said lawyer Adriano Antonio, walking away from the giant screen with thousands of other fans.
‘I am sure in 2014 we are going to win our 6th World Cup and it’s going to be at home.” Football is a serious business in Brazil. People do not accept from the national squad anything short of a victory.
Even a second place would be considered total defeat.“I just hope now that the Dutch will win the World Cup,” said Mr Antonio. “At least we’ll have been defeated by the best in the world.”
Most fans were excited and confident during the first half. People on the streets agreed with TV commentators that, in the first 45 minutes, Brazil was on its way to an astounding victory. But everything changed - on the pitch and among fans - when the Netherlands scored their first goal. “It was a great game on the first half, then everything collapsed,” said bank clerk Tania Armord on her way back to work after watching the match on the square.
All banks shut their doors in Brazil for about three hours for the workers to watch the match.
It is true that the squad assembled by coach Dunga did not have as much experience or big names in it as teams from previous years. “The players did nothing in the second half and we must recognize that Netherlands played better.
“What can we do? This is what the World Cup is about and this time we’ve lost. “But I am happy that in four years I will see Brazil to be the champion here at home. And I will sell lots of flags.” said street-seller Jose Armando, still holding a few Brazilian flags he didn’t manage to sell in time. (Reuters)