Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 9th 2014 Contents A75
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
AP Sports Columnist
BELO HORIZONTE---Because it is
turning out better than expected,
the World Cup is doing more good
than harm to brand Brazil. The
opposite is true for Brazil s brand
The national team s grinding route
to yesterday s semifinal against Ger-
many, its play pockmarked with fouls,
gamesmanship and win-at-all-costs
realpolitik, has driven a stake through
the myth of Brazilian football as art
and through the hearts of us fools
who nurtured and clung to it.
I can t have been the only one
before this World Cup who dusted
off precious memories of falling
under the spell of Brazil s yellow-
shirted Selecao. Too young for the
era of Pele, Brazilians who bewitched
me were Zico and the teams of 1978
Nelinho s thunderbolt in the match
for third place against Italy in 1978,
arcing off his right foot across the
penalty area and bending majestically
beyond Italy goalkeeper and captain
Dino Zoff. Falcao against the Soviet
Union in 1982, letting a pass from
Paulo Isidoro run between his legs
to Eder, who flicked the ball up and
volleyed it in.
Eder celebrated by doing a forward
roll. This wasn t just football, it was
narcotic. Those teams didn t win the
World Cup. But for those of us who
weren t Brazilian, that didn t matter.
We were hooked.
Even when Brazil reined in the
beauty to win in 1994 and 2002, it
still did enough to enchant. Bebeto s
rock-a-bye-baby goal celebration
against the Netherlands helped wash
down the bile of Brazil drawing 0-
0 with Italy in the final and needing
a penalty shoot-out to secure its
fourth World Cup.
The story of Ronaldo s resurrec-
tion, his eight goals with surgically
repaired knee ligaments, put glitter
on Brazil s fifth World Cup win in
2002. But South Korea won the FIFA
award as the most entertaining team
at that tournament it co-hosted with
Naively in hindsight, because of
its glorious past, I tricked myself into
believing this time that Brazil might
want to shine on home soil, that its
fine players would want to live up to
the standards of predecessors who
put the five stars - one for each
World Cup win on the shirts they
This, the marketers assured us,
would be the Copa das Copas the
cup to beat all World Cups, a return
after 64 years to the country that
took a game born in England and
elevated it to a higher plane. You can
be sure that fans hummed Gilberto
Gil tunes to themselves on flights
over here, heads full of dreamy
expectations and flashbacks of
Socrates and other futebol sorcerers
with one name and two magical feet.
And there has been fabulous foot-
ball, but only smatterings of it from
Brazil, mostly from Neymar, the
team s principal entertainer now out
with a broken back.
The pre-game soundtrack played
in stadiums to whip up the crowds
includes "Thunderstruck" by hard-
rock band AC/DC, appropriate for
the muscular, functional football
Brazil played in the group stages and
to knock out Chile and then Colom-
bia to advance to the semifinal against
Germany, a team easier on the eye.
Brazil has been a scrappy team,
committing more fouls - 96 so far
- than any other and collecting 10
yellow cards, again the most with
Costa Rica. Against Colombia, Brazil s
players ganged up on James
Rodriguez, taking turns to foul the
22-year-old because he was central
to that team s electric attacks and
scored half of its tournament-leading
David Luiz s goal against Colombia,
arching over the wall and back down
past David Ospina, was a gem, as
spell-binding as Zico s free-kick
against Scotland in 1982.
Neymar also scored a pretty good
goal against Croatia, although the
toe-poke from his teammate Oscar
at the end of that opening match to
make the score 3-1 for Brazil was
probably better. Oscar s run, however,
started with Ramires charging into
Ivan Rakitic, clattering him off the
ball and to ground, which the referee
chose to ignore.
Neymar also scored a couple for
the highlight reel against Cameroon.
But other Brazilian goals were
unspectacular. Thiago Silva used his
knee to bundle in against Colombia.
Luiz barely touched the goal FIFA
credited to him against Chile. Striker
Fred isn t even a pale imitation of
Ronaldo, Romario and other illus-
trious Brazilian goal-getters of the
past. Fred s only goal was a header
against Cameroon. He hoodwinked
the referee into awarding a penalty
against Croatia by tumbling over like
Bambi on ice.
Brazil has simply become like many
other teams in doing these things.
In winning ugly, rather than losing
beautifully, Brazil was merely march-
ing to modern football s tune that
victory is all that matters. Coach Luiz
Felipe Scolari and his players had
200 million Brazilians breathing down
their necks, expecting deliverance.
So the players can perhaps be forgiven
for doing whatever it took to get that
weight off their back.
"What s remembered in the history
of football is the victory," Zico said
on the eve of yesterday s semifinal.
"Our team in 1982 scored goals
because we played beautifully but
didn t win, so we re not part of his-
Maybe not, but that team lives on
This Brazil team won t do that.
John Leicester is an
international sports columnist for
The Associated Press. Write to him
at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at
From the beginning of the
World Cup, my biggest fear
was not about which team
will make it to the top.
Instead it was how the ref-
erees were going to protect
the world class players.
Those who follow football
internationally will have
recalled the number of times
that top players are kicked off
the park, sometimes very
unceremoniously without the
referees doing more than
showing a yellow card or to a
lesser extent, a red.
most crucial department of
the great game has to be the
performance of referees at all
There were many seminars
regarding the business of the
referees, not only about the
fundamental of the rules as
they are written in the law
book, but their interpretation
of discretionary decision mak-
ing as opposed to the fine line
possibility of emotion.
We all agree that finding
officials to think the same way
is tantamount to using a crys-
tal ball, simply because each
perception can differ from one
ref to another.
The fact that players operate
outside of their normal fac-
ulties during an international
game, the tendency to act
rashly at certain times can be
the result of a player suffering
for long periods, sometime
The case of the Brazilian
star Neymar Jr did not arrive
like a thief in the night. From
the start of the tournament,
he was subjected to some
fierce tackles, many of which
he intelligently evaded, while
others did not achieve the suc-
cess for which it was meant.
No one is asking the referee
to pay special attention to the
marquee players, but every
player who is the victim of
some of these vicious tackles.
The laws of the game have
made every type of illegal foul
clearly and without ambiguity.
This includes using the advan-
tage in order to let the game
continue. But the referee can
deal with the guilty player after
the play is completed.
Unfortunately, this rule is
hardly ever used and the final
result will be the referee s
descretion. Ask the forwards
who have been subjected to
numerous unreasonable tack-
les, followed by a hypocritical
apology from the player.
The use of technology needs
to be stretched to incidents,
even if the decisions have to
be made after the match.
Neymar is young and con-
fident. He believes that he can
deal with the rough, tough
world of the robust tackle.
Maradona had a similar
approach, so did Gerd Muller,
and many others. Cristiano
Ronaldo prefers to call the ref
for protection as soon as the
incident has occurred.
Young James Rodriguez, a
bright prospect for being the
most outstanding player in the
tournament, was also the vic-
tim of a few ridiculous tack-
les.FIFA must take a strong
stand on this issue, even before
the tournament is complet-
ed.The competence of referees
must be assured if players are
to develop full confidence in
them, and maybe a survey
taken from the current payers
may answer that question.
There is no sport called ref-
ereeing as opposed to the sport
called football, hence the rea-
son why the authorities should
make a special effort to bring
some level of sanity to legal
There's no sport called refereeing
Brazil W Cup killed 'beautiful game'
Germany's Mats Hummels, Miroslav Klose and Benedikt Hoewedes, from left, celebrate after their teammate
Thomas Mueller scored the opening goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Brazil and
Germany at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, yesterday. AP PHOTO
Referee Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan shows a yellow
card to Netherlands' Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during the World
Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and
Costa Rica on Saturday. AP PHOTO
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