Tears for heroes dressed in yellow

November, 24/2022 - 06:06
They come into the tournament unbeaten during qualification boasting an impressive 45 goals to their name and only five conceded. While they will undoubtedly come up against tougher opposition on the biggest stage, they have an uncharacteristically balanced squad.
Alex Reeves

Alex Reeves

It’s over eight years since the ‘Mineirão massacre,’ when The Seleção, like England in ‘96, were humbled on home soil at the hands of the German machine and the collective sporting grief of a nation was broadcast wanton in a way perhaps never seen before or since.

Countless memes were born depicting the emotion of everyone from little girls at their first game to elderly men at their last, tears streaming down their faces in unison – age an irrelevancy, with football as the great leveller. Such was the desire to finally win a World Cup on Brazilian soil, at the Maracanã: to write football history in the poetic way it so often is; to finally lay the ghost of their 1950 final loss - at home as favourites - against South American neighbours, Uruguay, to rest.

This is the World Cup, and for Brazil it means everything. Germany however, as we know, are not one’s for sentiment and showed no mercy as they rolled in 5, 6 and eventually 7.

While England fans singing Baddiel and Skinner’s popular, yet seemingly cursed ditty might like to think of a World Cup victory as ‘football coming home’, the truth of the matter is that the World Cup already has one.

Brazil’s third triumph in 1970 earnt them the privilege of keeping the original ‘Jules Rimet’ trophy in perpetuity, as decided by the former FIFA president whose name the trophy bears, until its theft in 1983. The provided replica didn’t satisfy Brazil. Winning as the pundits so routinely tell us, is a habit.

Middlesbrough's Juninho Paulista holds the trophy aloft in 2002, the last time Brazil won the World Cup. AFP Photo

They have since lifted the modern, globally designed trophy that we’ve come to recognise, twice, most recently in 2002 and they sit at the top of the tree holding an unrivalled five titles. The only side able to join them on their perch this year? You guessed it, Germany.

However, the chances of that, should you check the odds, are slim. This time Brazil are tournament favourites and for good reason. They come into the tournament unbeaten during qualification boasting an impressive 45 goals to their name and only five conceded. While they will undoubtedly come up against tougher opposition on the biggest stage, they have an uncharacteristically balanced squad.

Experienced in the time defying forces of Dani Alves and Thiago Silva at the back (a combined age of 77) and youth in a forward line including Real Madrid’s emergent ‘Vinny Jr’ and Rodrygo.

Fielding numerous Premier League regulars and two established players in every position, it is hoped that with this supporting cast there will be an easing of the pressure and reliance on a Neymar who might well feel this is his last chance to seal his status as one of Brazil’s true prodigal sons. You never really are a god in the nation where football is religion, until you’ve lifted this trophy.

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, Tite’s men, the only nation to appear at every World Cup since its inception, will line up against Serbia as they begin efforts to end their ‘twenty years of hurt’ and the twenty years of European dominance that has accompanied it.

Glory is the ultimate aim for the Samba men as they make their plans for final day. While we neutrals hope for passion, skill and flair from the game’s truest entertainers, Brazilian’s hope the only tears on show this year will be ones of victory. VNS

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