There are plenty of theories as to why this World Cup has been breaking records in terms of goals, but one factor that appears to have been overlooked is the influence of the Brazilian fans.
The host nation invariably plays an enormous role in deciding the success of a tournament and in Brazil the locals are demanding only the best from the players on the pitch. Their appreciation of high-scoring matches has been conveyed through the raucous atmospheres in stadiums across the country, with teams who intend to attack roared on by yellow-clad supporters.
It is a different football culture here and one that doesn’t value defensive resolve among its primary concerns. Indeed, the cause of the underdog is lost on many Brazilians, who would even prefer to see Lionel Messi curl in a sensational winner for bitter rivals Argentina than cheer Iran’s battling spirit. That fact has become even more apparent in the recent spate of tight encounters as a disgust of attritional football has been readily expressed.
“There’s a famous Brazilian writer, Nelson Rodrigues, who says that the great players need to be booed so they can succeed,” said Brazilian journalist Mauricio Savarese, who agrees that the locals have played a part in the group-stage goal rush. “Since we have very poor matches in the Brazilian league over the last two or three years we didn’t want to see that in the World Cup, so we pressured the players. If you’re the world stars we want you to show that.”
There has certainly been no holding back in the stands. The majority of the crowd may have ‘Neymar 10’ on their backs, but for 90 minutes they are football fans in the purest sense. It took only 10 minutes of England’s clash against Italy for the Brazilian neutrals to start booing as Cesare Prandelli’s side casually passed the ball around the back line. The players were visibly surprised by the whistles and jeers, and the tempo increased accordingly. Patience may be a virtue when it comes to tactics, but it is not always afforded from spectators who expect to be entertained.
“We know players, they can easily get carried away with the influence from the stands and Brazil has done very well in that sense of pushing them,” Savarese continued. “I would say that the more goals you score, the more liked you’ll be even if you’re not Brazilian. Look at Germany, their style is nothing like Brazil but they scored so many goals against Portugal and made such an effort that people were actually cheering them. That’s bizarre for a Brazilian as we have very tight bonds to Portugal, but when Germany kept scoring we were okay with that.”
It is the same reason there was delight at Spain’s shock early exit as the reigning champions were humbled by Holland and then Chile.
“At the Confederations Cup last year Brazilians were booing them everywhere and Spain thought the only reason was that Brazil saw them to be a tough contender who they would fight for the title,” said Savarese. “That’s partially true, but the problem for Brazil is that even during 2010 we were bored with Spain. We could see the beautiful passing but we wanted more. It was like sex without intercourse. It was beautiful to see at some points, but we need goals and Brazilians boo everyone if they don’t score goals. We don’t like scoreless matches.”
That is encouraging to hear as we head into the business end of the tournament with high hopes of standards being maintained. Despite an average of 2.8 goals per game throughout the group stage, the mean in the seven fixtures preceding the knock-outs dropped to 1.4 as impatience in the stands increased. Even this brief respite hasn’t been tolerated, with the Maracana a whistling bowl of frustration during France’s stalemate against Ecuador.
As Savarese concluded: “The expectation at this World Cup is totally different.” In truth, the Brazilian passion for jogo bonito surpasses the very concept of expectation. It is an obligation to impress the fans at the Brazil World Cup, and if the players fail in that regard they are bound to know about it.
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