The actual commentary on Brazil’s game with Croatia tonight will be the usual “samba” rubbish, I’m sure, but this magnificent BBC article on the background to Brazilian football adds some balance at least.
So, what lies behind the Brazilian brilliance?
Journalist Alex Bellos, author of Futebol – A Brazilian Way of Life, believes it was also due to the relatively late abolition of slavery at the end of the 19th century, and a lack of positive symbols.
Whatever the reason, Brazil very early “recognised football in our future and tradition and (as) our opportunity to communicate to the world that we are powerful,” says 1994 World Cup winner Leonardo.
“In the 1930s, we started to organise a team to be competitive in the World Cup, and the 1950s were the beginning of this big dream to make Brazil the best international team in the world,” he added.
2. Detailed Planning and Preparation:
Losing the final to Uruguay in 1950 was viewed as a national tragedy, but it only heightened the desire to win.
And it led to a little-known aspect of Brazilian football. Believing they had let themselves down through personal weakness and a lack of research, the national side came to see comprehensive preparation and innovative tactics as crucial to success. Contrary to the popular belief that Brazilian teams are defensively naive, the idea of the modern back four originated in the 1958 World Cup-winning team.
Through a careful evolution of the way they played, Brazil continued to have a tactical lead until 1970.
3. Unique Training
In Brazil children learn football in a very different way from their European counterparts.
There are no leagues or competitive matches for young children – such a concept is seen as likely to hinder a player’s creative impulses.
“The children play a lot but it’s always very free,” says Leonardo. Parreira agrees: “We don’t put them in a cage, say ‘you have to be like this’. We give them some freedom until they are ready to be coached.”
4. Sheer Hard Work:
Brazil’s success, though, stems from more than talent and the freedom to express it – behind Ronaldinho’s gleaming smile lies hours of hard work.
“The English academy system is one where players are training for just four hours a week,” says Brazilian football expert Simon Clifford.
“Compare that to Ronaldinho when he was a 16-year-old with Gremio, where he would have been training for up to 20 hours a week. ”
Parreira adds: “In Brazil players are fabricated, they are produced. “They come to the clubs when they are 10-12 and then they start in categories according to age.
“There are no more players from the beach or from the street. This is a myth, a legend. They are built, grown in the clubs.”
One of the reasons why many people believe than an African nation will win the World Cup in the near future is the fact that “street football”, from where they think the natural creative players come, is still predominant there. I’ve seen two African sides so far at this World Cup – Ivory Coast, and Ghana – and rather than remind me of Brazil, their physical strength, bravery, endeavour and fair play have reminded me far more of British sides from the 1950s. The Brazilians are in no danger of losing their preeminence, if only for the thoroughly bad reason that the Europeans are keen to hold on to their Copecobana fantasies, to hug football’s version of Orientalism to their chest and keep it there.
I’d keep one eye on Simon Clifford, if only for the short while until he really takes over British footballing consciousness. Which he will.