Skip to main content

World Cup hosts Brazil have work cut out to win sixth title

By Tom McGowan, CNN
February 7, 2013 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Ronaldinho was making his first appearance for Brazil in over a year, but he struggled. The two-time World Player of the Year missed a penalty before being substituted at half-time in a 2-1 defeat by England. Ronaldinho was making his first appearance for Brazil in over a year, but he struggled. The two-time World Player of the Year missed a penalty before being substituted at half-time in a 2-1 defeat by England.
HIDE CAPTION
Ronaldinho rumbled
Neymar's no show
Defiant Luiz
Big Phil
Ruthless Ronaldo
History repeated?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil lose 2-1 to England at Wembley Stadium, London
  • The match was the first of Luis Felipe Scolari's second spell as coach
  • Scolari called Ronaldinho into the Brazil squad for the first time in a year
  • Brazil captain David Luiz is confident his country can with the 2014 World Cup

(CNN) -- For Brazil's football team, the pressure is on.

Next year the FIFA World Cup arrives in the South American country for only the second time, with the nation's near 200 million inhabitants expecting to celebrate a record sixth triumph in the tournament.

But all is not well in the land of "jogo bonito" -- the beautiful game.

So much so that with Brazil falling to an all-time low of 18th in the world rankings, a couple of old stagers are back to try and breathe new life into a nation that in many ways represents the very essence of international football.

Read: England stuns Scolari's Brazil

Neymar made his debut for the Brazil national team in August 2010 against the U.S. in New Jersey. The 18-year-old marked his first match for the five-time world champions with a goal in Brazil's 2-0 win. Neymar made his debut for the Brazil national team in August 2010 against the U.S. in New Jersey. The 18-year-old marked his first match for the five-time world champions with a goal in Brazil's 2-0 win.
A samba star is born
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Samba star Neymar Samba star Neymar
Luiz Felipe Scolari first took over Brazil in 2001, turning around their 2002 World Cup qualification campaign and leading them to a record fifth tournament win in Japan and South Korea.
Luiz Felipe Scolari first took over Brazil in 2001, turning around their 2002 World Cup qualification campaign and leading them to a record fifth tournament win in Japan and South Korea.
Joy in Japan
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
The career of Luiz Felipe Scolari The career of Luiz Felipe Scolari

Luis Felipe Scolari, the coach of Brazil's 2002 World Cup winners, has been drafted in to replace Mano Manezes. And one of Scolari's first actions was to recall a hero of the triumphant campaign in Japan and South Korea 11 years ago.

Against England in Wednesday's Wembley friendly, Ronaldinho, a two-time World Player of the Year, was back in the famous gold shirt for the first time in over a year as he looked to enhance his chances of making the squad for 2014.

'Craque'

But the plan failed. Scolari, Ronaldinho and co. slipped to a 2-1 defeat, with England playing more of the slick, attacking football Brazil has made its trademark.

For Ronaldinho, now plying his trade with Atletico Miniero in his homeland after dazzling for Barcelona between 2003 and 2008, it was a miserable evening.

Read: Burkina Faso reach fairytale final

Off the ball, his laid back, border-line lazy approach was as recognizable as the beaming grim beneath his abundant curly locks.

But in possession, the bursts of acceleration which helped him become the world's most feared player during his halcyon days with Barca were less apparent.

His killer instinct in front of goal also seemed to have deserted him.

When his 19th-minute penalty was saved by England goalkeeper Joe Hart, suspicions grew that the 87,000 plus spectators inside the stadium were watching a ghost.

After 45 minutes Scolari had also seen enough and Ronaldinho did not emerge for the second half.

Sex workers take English lessons
Brazil's World Cup countdown

"He's very important, he's a 'craque'," Brazil and Chelsea midfielder Ramires said after the game, using a term which refers to a technically gifted player.

"We all know about his great quality ... we all know how important he is and we just hope he's OK physically," added Ramires.

Despite a low key performance which saw Ronaldinho out ran and out thought by England's midfield trio of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley and Steven Gerrard, Brazil captain David Luiz also hailed the qualities of the 32-year-old.

"It's a privilege to play with him," said the Chelsea defender. "No doubt about it. Not only for his football, but also for the person he is.

"You saw when Ronaldinho came on the screen, everyone was raving and that just shows how big he is in world football."

As well as past stars like Ronaldinho, it was also a tough test for the emerging crop of Brazilian superstars.

Oscar, the third of Chelsea's Brazilian trio, Paris-Saint Germain's Lucas Moura and playmaker Paulinho of Club World Cup winners Corinthians all struggled to live up to their lofty billing.

Mohican-clad attacker

But most worrying of all was the performance of Neymar.

If Ronaldinho is yesterday's hero, the Santos schemer has long had the billing of today's A Selecao shining star.

Yet the Mohican-clad attacker was subdued throughout - as he had been in Brazil's Olympic final defeat by Mexico in August at Wembley -- struggling to shake off the stubborn defensive work of England right back Glen Johnson.

Rio secures favelas ahead of World Cup
Michael Owen's Liverpool regret?

So if Brazil are to lift the World Cup next year, the player widely regarded as the third best in the world behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will have to lift his game considerably.

"It did not go as I had expected or wanted," the 21-year-old Neymar told reporters. "I would have liked to help the team more, but today was not my day. Next time."

Wednesday's defeat might stir memories of the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950.

Needing just a draw to be crowned world champions in the final game of the tournament, Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay and missed out on a first World Cup triumph -- an event referred to by playwright Nelson Rodrigues as "our Hiroshima".

That loss scarred Brazilian society -- a similar failure next year is unimaginable.

"Our chances of winning the World Cup are big," said Brazil's Bayern Munich defender Dante. "That's our mentality, that's what we are focused on. In our heads we can't go there and think if we finish second or third that's enough.

"The fans will be very important. You can expect every game to be 60,000, 70,000 people together with us, and we are going to use their emotion to make us stronger on the pitch.

"We have great players who are used to pressure and our motivation is really high."

Ramires was is similarly defiant mood.

"We are going to be ready," said Chelsea midfielder. "We are going in to win the World Cup."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
French former football player Zinedine Zidane reacts during the gala football 'Match Against Poverty' organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on March 4, 2014 in Bern.
Some of the biggest names in football lined up for a charity match, but CNN's Tom McGowan wonders if they can help beat poverty.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
Real Madrid hasn't won the European Champions League in over a decade, but the Spanish club is invincible in one field -- making money.
The naming of the world's best footballer is not all that it seems, says CNN's James Masters.
ADVERTISEMENT