For a while it seemed as though malaise and misfortune were following Brazil around every major international tournament. Since Dunga’s Brazil side of 2007 swept away Argentina to win the Copa America, Brazil’s performances in major competitions have been a tale of woe, of squandered potential.
The limp defeat to a better motivated Dutch side in South Africa 2010. The disheartening penalty exit at the hands of Paraguay in the 2011 Copa America. The unforgettable and harrowing 7-1 demolition by Germany in 2014. The pair of weak, insipid performances that led to early exits in both the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas. These were the signs of a Brazilian national team in crisis.
But as Tite’s side reclaimed their South American kingship on home soil earlier this month, more than a decade of international failure was washed away. Dani Alves, who was a part of the 2007 Copa winning side, seemed the perfect man to lift the trophy, to bookend a painful decade with sweet success once more. This was a Brazil side recharged, spurred on by the home support that ultimately caused them to choke in 2014, harnessing their talents effectively to sweep away all opponents. This was a call-back to the glory years, as Brazil did not concede a single goal before the final.
It may seem melodramatic to present this as some kind of redemptive success. For many of us, twelve years without a major international title is not a long time. For England fans indeed, over 50 years of hurt have not yet been healed by a repeat of that 1966 World Cup triumph.
But then, Brazil are different from any other footballing nation. For decades, the mood of the nation has so often hinged on the prospects of their football team, those yellow shirts the beacons to which so many Brazilians pin their hopes and dreams. The 2014 World Cup disaster on home soil presented the kind of humiliation Brazil had never experienced. So used to success, so acquainted with glory, it felt as though a nation, never mind a football team, had crumbled into the sea, each German goal another wave crashing against the side that was once feared by all.
That wound has undoubtedly taken time to heal, and perhaps it will never heal fully, but this recent success provides a boost to every level of football in Brazil, from those kicking balls around the streets of Rio right up to the Série A. Perhaps now is the time for Brazilians to fall in love once more with their domestic game, the league that once boasted legends like Pele and Romario.
Indeed, Everton, who scored the opening goal in Brazil’s 3-1 win over Peru in the Copa America final, plies his trade with Grêmio, proving that the domestic league can still provide the national side’s heroes. As the Série A gets underway once again after breaking up for the Copa America, expect there to be a new spring in the step of many players, an added buoyancy to the crowds, all now reacquainted with that sweet taste of international glory.
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