By Philippe Chaveau
This summer the world will stop for the FIFA World Cup, hosted in Brazil for the first time since 1950. As a Brazilian native, I can honestly say that I have dreamt of this moment. Yet, now that it is upon us, I can’t help but wish FIFA had selected another nation to host the most prestigious competition in soccer.
Brazil’s social balance is falling apart. The media has failed to show just how negative the World Cup has been for Brazil. Since the competition was awarded to Brazil in 2007, government corruption has gone through the roof.
Expenditures for every stadium have gone above original estimates, and billions of public funds allocated for stadium construction have gone into politicians’ pockets. As a result, all stadiums are behind schedule and will barely be ready for competition. The other changes promised by the government, such as new subway stations, new highways and better and bigger airports, are all so far behind that they won’t be ready until after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
For those of you expecting to see the so-called country of soccer rejoicing as it hosts the World Cup, think again.
There will be protests, as evidenced during the Confederations Cup that occurred in Brazil last year. Millions of protestors took to the streets, revolting against the billions spent on stadiums that could have gone towards hospitals, schools or infrastructure, all of which are deficient. Brazil is not ready for the World Cup, but regardless, the competition will begin as scheduled on June 13.
With that being said, viewers should also not expect to see only protestors and anger. The World Cup is a celebration, and Brazil is a country that loves celebrations.
Look for a young Brazilian national team, striving to prove themselves at home, led by 21-year-old forward Neymar. Perhaps the biggest story of the competition is how the youthful Brazilian squad will react to playing in the greatest stage of world soccer.
Although playing at home could be a great advantage for the Brazilians, the pressure is on: anything short of a tournament victory will be seen as a failure. Brazilian fans get impatient extremely quickly, so in any game where the team is struggling, you may hear some boos from the crowd.
Brazil drew a spot in a very manageable competition group featuring Cameroon, Mexico, and Croatia. Yet, any slip up in the group stage could lead to a duel with current World Cup champions Spain in the first round of knockouts, something every Brazilian and Spaniard would prefer to avoid.
Other teams to watch for are the usual favorites. The all-powerful Germans, with arguably the best team on paper coming into the competition. The Italians, who always play defensively and rely on a great striker to get the wins, have Mario Balotelli up top for Italy this year, one of the world’s most polemic yet talented players. Other teams and players to watch for include Lionel Messi and the Argentinians, who are ready to win the cup on their biggest rival’s soil. Cristiano Ronaldo, the highest-paid — and best, as FIFA voted last January — player in the world, and the current best player in the world (as elected by FIFA last January), will try to bring his home country of Portugal into the fold.
The World Cup will be filled with excitement. Besides the great stories that unfold on the field, the lack of preparedness will certainly add a degree of tragic humor. We all saw how athletes and journalists alike reacted to Sochi’s installations, and it won’t be surprising if similar stories come out of Brazil this summer.