Lifestyle & Belief

Five-time victors Brazil World Cup team confident


Brazil World Cup Team Statistics: Group F

Status:  Advance to round 2, advance to quarterfinals, knocked out semifinals.

World Ranking: 1

World Cup 2010 results: 3-1-1

Total goals scored: 9

Total goals scored against: 5

Brazil World Cup Schedule: June 15 - North Korea (2-1 win); June 20 - Ivory Coast (3-1 win); June 25 - Portugal (0-0 draw), June 28 - Chile (3-0 win), July 2 - Netherlands (1-2 loss).

Brazil World Cup Soccer 2010

Assessing a country’s relationship with its national soccer team is most often a complex, nuanced task. In Brazil, however, what the team means to that country can be summed up in a word: everything. Soccer is not so much the national sport as it is the national identity.

Brazilians who visit the United States marvel at the ubiquitous flags that fly as a representation of patriotism. Brazilians aren’t much into patriotism — except during the World Cup when the flags emerge from the closets and you can’t find a can of green or yellow paint. On game days, the nation shuts down. No work, no play — you could probably nap on any major thoroughfare.

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In a massive nation of 190 million — a nation divided by region, accent, ethnicity, and, above all, class — the one common bond is the soccer team and the immense pride in its supremacy. They are further united in their conviction that anything less than a World Cup championship is unacceptable.

Brazil World Cup History: Brazil is in a league of its own. It has won the World Cup five times and has been in every final since 1994 except 2006. Its failures, like the 2006 quarterfinals loss, represent other nations' grandest dreams.

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Brazil World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Not everyone in Brazil believes it will win the World Cup: only 64 percent of the public, according to an April poll by DataFolha (down from 73 percent at the time of Cup draw last December). The Brazilian team, uniquely, has shown the capacity to win anywhere. No European team has ever won outside Europe, while Brazil has won in Europe, in North America, in Asia — so why not Brazil in Africa?

Brazil World Cup Team Coach: Dunga

The beautiful game was already fading when Dunga patrolled the midfield for Brazil’s ’94 World Cup champions. On a team with no shortage of show horses, he was the ultimate work horse — tough, even ferocious, relentless and pragmatic (which is a nice word for willing to do what it takes).

The former team captain has fashioned the Brazilian side in his own image. Dunga, who had never coached before taking over the team following the ’06 Cup disappointment, has shunned some of the old-time stars in favor of Brazil’s Generation Next. He is credited with instilling discipline and solid team values in a squad replete with superstars.

Brazil World Cup Team Strength: Brazil’s greatest strength is that it has no real weaknesses. And Julio Cesar is, arguably, the best goalkeeper to suit up for the national team that often seemed to consider the position an afterthought.

Brazil World Cup Team Weakness: The spotlight is always turned on the Brazilian team and distraction can be a danger. Dunga had the team practicing in near isolation — and kept them, as best as he could, away from Brazil’s voracious soccer press.

Brazil World Cup Key Player: Kaka

Kaka, world Player of the Year with AC Milan in 2007, graces the midfield with such sublime ball skills, creativity and scoring power that Real Madrid couldn’t resist paying more than $90 million to add him to their star-studded roster. It would be hard to say whether Kaka or the club — at about $11 million per goal — was more disappointed by this season’s result. So add redemption to the 28-year-old Kaka’s already considerable motivations. One of them is spiritual. Unlike a number of Brazilian standouts, whose partying prowess rivaled their playing ability, Kaka advances a different image: clean cut and deeply religious. And it has garnered him respect from teammates and tremendous admiration from a heavily evangelical nation.