World Cup in Brazil: the football dream gets closer
This is the big one. Brazil. That fabled place bathed in eternal sun and caipirinhas that everyone wants to drink in at some point in their lives. Where football is danced on beaches and clearings in the rainforest, rather than slugged out on waterlogged pitches strewn with litter or worse. Brazil: everyone’s favourite “other team”.
OK, so that’s all romantic guff that could easily have been dreamed up by a Fifa spin doctor, but somewhere beneath Brazil’s dreadful stadium accidents and recent street protests, lives a football dream waiting to be remembered.
And should England avoid a “group of death” scenario today, much febrile attention will start to focus on the World Cup that football fans have long wanted to happen. Brazil last hosted it in 1950 – which, in the pantheon of English football, might as well be cretaceous pre-history.
Yes, England may have invented the beautiful game, but bar 1966 we long relinquished any claim to enduring ownership. And among the habitual winners of Italy, Germany and Brazil, there’s only one team that all others reluctantly admire.
Now, several rather trenchant facts have stymied the football world smugly toasting return to it’s spiritual home. Yes – a World Cup in Brazil will be prohibitively expensive; for sure, the logistics of travelling around will be horrible – especially to the Amazonia reaches of Manaus; and, of course, there are the perennial concerns about stadia not being finished in time.
Most worryingly, there’s every likelihood there will be more protests – and tournament insiders are privately briefing they are anticipating at least one match may be so disrupted it will have to be postponed. If anything will derail Brazil’s other Copacabana carnival, this will be it – widespread opprobrium towards the largesse the Brazilain government has lavished on the World Cup and, indeed, the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s worth noting one of the bidders for the as yet undecided hosts for the 2022 Winter Olympics – Stockholm – is basing its campaign on cost efficiency and sustainability.
The days of national development being pegged on the back of a wincingly expensive global sports event may soon be over. Brazil, South Africa (hosts of the last World Cup) and India (hosts of the 2010 Commonwealth Games) all faced withering internal criticism for spending billions on what many deemed vanity projects, when the quality of life for the majority of their populations is so benighted.
That said, Brazil 2014 has the potential at least to be a World Cup like no other. At some point, the pendulum of doom will swing back the other way. And with the economic outlook for next year more Arsene Wenger than David Moyes, football fans will no doubt soon start to get excited.
That moment may come as early as 5.30pm on 6 December, when the final names are due to be extracted from the pots that will determine who, and where, the 32 teams who have qualified for the 20th World Cup finals will play.
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