For the first time in five years, Brazil is first in the FIFA rankings. World Cup 2022 favorite status is not an easy niche
The great generation of the eighties with Socrates never made it to the World Cup finals, although teams with far less skill made it to the decisive matches. Ronaldo’s team in 1998 was considered the first contender for the crown. They lost to the Norwegians in the group stage, Dunga and Bebeto scandalized, unity was long gone. Italy’s Lebanese Zagallo had to recall getting along with Pele and other character stars in his youth.
A parallel path to the final was France, where there was also plenty of apprehension from the outside and well-deserved criticism. Zidane stomped on the Arabian captain Amin. Aimé Jacquet’s squad lacked solid center forwards ready for big feats, Henri and Trezeguet were in their twenties. But they got past the Italians and overcame the Croatians thanks to a Tyrum double. There was hope for the first World Cup victory in French history.
The Brazilians had by then learned from their mistakes from the start, but then circumstances intervened that could not be influenced. Ronaldo had an argument with his girlfriend Susana Wagner (now Julio Cesar’s wife), who worked as a journalist. The forward returned the night before the final to his hotel room. He lived with Roberto Carlos, which saved Ronaldo’s life. He appeared to doze off, but then his body convulsed. Cesar Zapayo pulled out Ronaldo’s sunken tongue.
The patient was taken to the hospital with a pulse rate of 18 beats per minute. Doctors thought it was an epilepsy attack, but many cardiologists later insisted that the diagnosis was wrong. Perhaps it was a heart attack, French medics may have killed Ronaldo with a dose of epilepsy medication. It was 1998, they injected a drug that inhibited reactions, and then the poor guy made it to the World Cup finals. France rocked, Zidane’s double and Petit’s goal a reminder that anything can happen in soccer.
We need this story now, as France and Brazil are the favorites to win the World Cup this time around. The draw is expected tonight at 7 p.m., where the favorites will know their opponents. The Brazilians will have a hard time in the playoffs.
A huge difference with Scolari’s team
In any Brazilian team in its great history you will find a scandalist, a womanizer, a dancer and an alcoholic. Sometimes it’s the same person. But every time a balance is needed. Nilton Santos was not a copy of Pele. Didi was not like Wawa. And Zagalo didn’t repeat Garrincha’s mistakes, which is why the “Old Wolf” is still alive today. The drinking and partying Brazilians of the ’80s. Socrates was a deeply educated man, so he openly called himself a chronic alcoholic.
Now professional marketers do everything to ensure that Neymar, with a salary of 4 million euros a month, does not have the same reputation as the young Ronaldo or the mature Ronaldinho. But when Brazil’s new official leader gathers noisy parties in Paris and then gets one injury after another, it is impossible to call the Ten an example of a professional in soccer. On the other hand, the team has Thiago Silva and Marchinhos, very different people with different priorities.
The merry Dani Alves, who with his return to Barcelona is building the road to Qatar, also deserves the World Cup thanks to his class and professionalism, another trophy in his huge collection. Still, Danilo is likely to be in the starting lineup. On the left – Alex Sandro, in the center of the field – Fred. At the edge of the attack we will see Firmino. Great players, some underrated. But their efforts may not be enough.
The last time the Celesao found a balance between scoring and quality soccer was twenty years ago. Back then it was the dull Marcos in goal, not the bright Dida. On the flanks of the defense were the legends Roberto Carlos and Kafu. In the supporting area, Gilberto Silva was the “invisible wall”. Casemiro has a similar role. But Tite does not have Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo. Neymar did not even take the Golden Ball as the son of the great regiment in that national team, Kaka.
The team of 2002 was phenomenal, although there were some nuances. What about Rivaldo’s brazen simulation, for which with VAR he would have received a penalty instead of the poor Turkish national team player, who was suspended after the forward’s provocation. But that Brazil is associated with Ronaldo’s goals, with his ridiculous hair – he left his bangs to be discussed, with Ronaldinho’s kick behind the scruff of Siemian’s neck.
Now it’s impossible to assemble a similar lineup and offer a hybrid scheme. The Brazilians simply don’t have that many strong players in key positions. Not strong in 2022, but strong when compared to twenty years ago.
The number one ranking did not help Belgium
Roberto Martinez’s charges had been leading since October 2018. But De Bruyne did not win Euro 2020, and before that did not make it to the final of the 2018 World Cup, although both times counted on a decisive match. The Brazilians haven’t been in first place for five years, and now it’s Belgium themselves. Tite was winning in qualifying matches, so even losing to Argentina, Messi and Di Maria in the final of the America’s Cup did not prevent the celesao to return to the familiar first line.
But they actively hide some of their problems. Rumors that after the departure from Real Madrid, Neymar went on a spree, became depressed and began to abuse alcohol, should not be surprising. It’s naive to think that all over the world grown men allow themselves varying degrees of weakness, and somewhere there are millionaires who are forbidden to spend their fun college youth, and they always behave like Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course, Neymar may be in a terrible state of morale.
But the forward wants to break Pele’s record, so he will always play with inspiration for the national team. This is where the Brazilians are honest. They are pained by defeats, especially 7-1, and they miss victories. And lest the parallels with the past remind us of saying the grass used to be greener, let’s note the depth of Tite’s squad. Jesus and Risharlison will back up Firmino. Coutinho and Paqueta can fill in for Neymar if we’re talking about the “ten” position.
Fabinho will backup Fred and Casemiro on occasion. There are three men in each position, Alisson and Ederson are two world-class goalkeepers. The team is incredibly strong, and the coach is lively and experienced. The world of soccer will not be ruined by Brazil’s World Cup victory after twenty years. But to succeed, you need to forget all the success of the selection until the end of the year, because Bonucci is partly right. In Europe, a single qualifying final can ruin everything, while in South America there are few countries, you can lose six matches out of 18 and qualify directly for the tournament.
The European selection is more ruthless, there are more unfamiliar opponents, so it is not surprising that four times in a row the World Cup has been won by representatives of the old world. But all series come to an end, and Brazil is the brightest contender not from Europe.