Brazil, we have a problem. A very big problem.
The past week has seen the Brazilian National Team go from World Cup favorites to humiliated hosts, a fate no observer expected by this time in the tournament.
Forget all the platitudes and history of Brazil’s epic collapse. The coming days will provide more than enough reflection for both Brazilian fans and soccer journalists to determine where the Selecao’s final shortcomings rate amongst World Cup failures.
The real lesson of this World Cup is that Brazil is no longer elite. In fact, Brazil hasn’t been elite for some time now.
Since claiming their last World Cup triumph in 2002, Brazil has been eliminated in the Quarterfinals twice and now embarrassed in the Semifinals on their home soil. Add in their comprehensive defeat during today’s Third Place Match against the Netherlands and it’s clear Brazil’s flaws are neither simple nor isolated.
The problems are long and varied.
Other than Neymar, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team lacked skill, creativity and pace on offense.
For all their hard work up top, both Hulk and Fred were largely ineffective from the start of the tournament. In the midfield, Oscar, Paulinho, Fernandinho and Ramires are solid possession players but lack playmaking skills, often leading to bogged down offensive possessions. And on defense, an absence of organization and intelligence allowed both Germany and the Dutch to put home 10 goals in two games.
Add it all up and the recipe for a Brazilian disaster came to a head during the Selecao’s last two games.
The question now becomes where Brazil goes from here. Clearly, the 2014 World Cup team was deeply flawed both in roster and tactics. Upon a more focused examination the issues may go even deeper. After all, this was a team of young players expected to play with both the flair and passion of past Brazilian squads.
Currently, Brazil is a long way from that history of unparalleled accomplishment. The nation of 200 million that takes such pride in the achievements of its soccer team is in completely uncharted territory. Never before has Brazil faced circumstances that have pointed out clear deficiencies in the world’s most popular sport.
Will we see a complete overhaul in Brazil’s approach to the game? Commentators are already starting to discuss the possibility. With the national team having just suffered such an infamous meltdown in its own country, drastic measures may not be far on the horizon.
It will likely be another four years at the 2018 event in Russia before we find out whether Brazil’s coming adjustments have lifted the squad back to the pinnacle of world soccer. With plenty of other challengers, including up-and-comers such as Chile and Colombia, coming into their own, the task will not be an easy one.
How Brazil addresses these challenges will likely determine what kind of team takes the field for their World Cup opener in four years. Until then, Brazilian soccer figures to be more about questions than answers.