It can hardly be called a classic, but Brazil vs. Uruguay was packed full of talking points — not so much about soccer, but more about the uglier side of the game that can tend to creep in from time to time.
Most culpable for effectively bringing the game into disrepute is Brazilian winger Neymar who lit up the arena with his magnificent swan dives time after time in an attempt to use his rather slight physique to con the referee into giving free kicks.
To be fair, it occasionally worked and he did win the odd foul, however, he was obviously unaware that he was winning said free kicks at the expense of his dignity.
It was actually bordering on embarrassing watching him bounce off Diego Lugano and collapse to the floor holding his face whenever he felt the slightest contact. One gentleman at the bar I was in even had the gall to make a comparison between Neymar and Angel Di Maria, which actually seemed a little harsh on Neymar.
On a serious note though, diving has no place in soccer and the sooner players begin to get sent off for the offence, the better.
Unfortunately, as the game progressed, there was an incident taking place that was actually managing to eclipse the fabulous diving on display: the gathering of 50,000 people outside the stadium to protest against the poor standard of public services.
The people of Brazil have every right to be aggrieved, to be quite honest. FIFA‘s World Cup guidelines set out that all the stadiums and infrastructure need to be up to code and even rebuilt if necessary. The problem Brazil has is that FIFA are asking them to effectively divert money from public services in order to pay for the World Cup, and naturally the populous aren’t going to be happy with that.
FIFA should be at least partly funding the revamp with grants from their own sources, but that appears very unlikely to happen.
People had concerns about the South African World Cup and that passed without much incident, but they still had to ask for funding to help them build five new stadiums and renovate five more. I’m pretty positive the Brazilians will need to make a similar plea otherwise they can look forward to more prolonged, possibly more violent, protests.