Contingencies of Brazil’s FIFA performance

By Tendayi Moyo

I read an article in USA Today that quoted a street vendor in Rio de Janeiro. He said he hopes Brazil is knocked out in the first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He thinks this will stamp out remaining support for the tournament and make the public turn their attention to Brazil’s looming social problems — a surprising sentiment from a home fan.

Soccer is taken very seriously in Brazil. It is the most popular sport in the country, and for good reason. Brazil’s national team has won the World Cup a record five times and has qualified for every FIFA World Cup since the tournament started in 1930. It is not hard to imagine a Brazil at least partially unified by their love for the game and their iconic national team.

But suppose Brazil is knocked out in the first round . . .

Admittedly, this is unlikely. Brazil is a perpetual favourite in the tournament and is the highest-ranked team in South America. They haven’t lost in the first round since 1966.

Despite Brazil being ranked fourth going into the World Cup, anything other than a trip to the finals will be considered a failure. Goldman Sachs economists just gave Brazil a 48.5% chance of hoisting the cup, adding that a jump in the stock market would follow the victory. Politicians and businesspeople are banking on a good showing from the national team.

But suppose Brazil is knocked out in the first round . . .

Entertaining this thought, I can’t help but think about Vancouver a few years back. Two reasons for the riots that followed the Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup final always seem to come up. The first: fans and bandwagon jumpers were devastated by the loss. The second: a small group of troublemakers incited the riots.

There is no doubt that Brazilian fans and bandwagon jumpers alike are set up for disappointment. Look no further than the 2010 FIFA World Cup to see a Brazilian national team disappointing its fans – and Goldman Sachs who again predicted Brazil would win it all.

Yet there are plenty of Brazilians who are not distracted by the World Cup. Brazil has been plagued by riots over the last year. Issues surrounding riots ranged from demand for fundamental goods and services to rampant police killings. This is compounded by public opinion in Brazil turning against the tournament. More than half of the country no longer support having the games in Brazil.

Authorities say crime in Brazil’s cities’ slums has been “pacified.” But a state bullied favela in Sao Paulo probably does not need much provoking to erupt in violence.

Brazil could well live up to its expectations and make it deep into the tournament. If they go most of the distance and then lose, the loss could bring a mix of disenchantment and displaced anger, but who knows how the country will react then.

But suppose Brazil is knocked out in the first round . . .

Leave a comment