World Cup: Brazil look to spirit of 1970

World Cup: Brazil look to spirit of 1970
With the 2014 Fifa World Cup less than a month away, courtsiders - just like broadcast delays - can be expected.

From samba stars to sunshine football, whole shanty-towns of cliches have clung to the 2014 World Cup Finals since it was confirmed the competition would return to Brazil after an absence of 64 years.

Five-time winners they may be, but there is only one group of players that has truly come to symbolise the majesty of the Selecao.

And once Brazil got the nod for 2014, evocations of the unforgettable 1970 squad were not short in coming: the goal scoring exploits of Jairzinho; the angled drives of Carlos Alberto; the flawless magic of Pele, who bestrode the successful bid like a true redeemer.

Football folk around the globe revelled in visions of the ultimate football experience, a 32-team Finals stretching from the shores of the Copacabana to the Amazon jungle: a month-long feast of round-the-clock sunny-side-up football.

But no sooner had the Fifa carnival hitched up and left town, taking their "sun, sand and football" soundbites with them, than such idealised visions were replaced by the harsh reality of the physical and economic costs of hosting the games.

Violent clashes marred Brazil's hosting of the Confederations Cup in July last year and protests of various sizes have persisted across the host cities, while building delays have at times left the suitability of a number of venues in serious doubt.

For all the Brazilians' undoubted ability to put on a party, it has created the kind of societal fissures which are unlikely to be plastered over in time for the big kick-off.

Nevertheless, one senses that the decades of unrivalled glory Brazil have brought to the global game has created a situation where the world is willing them to succeed, to lay foundations which could yield more seminal moments such as those seen in 1970.

The onus is on the players themselves, not least a host team for whom even victory would not quite be enough - it is required to go hand in hand with the kind of flair and swagger which has been second-nature to so many generations of Brazilian stars.

PRESSURE

Consider the pressure on the likes of Neymar, the Barcelona striker who was integral in his nation's Confederations Cup success, and whohas what it takes to go down with the all time greats if he can replicate that form on the biggest stage.

Such almighty expectation can hardly be tempered by the knowledge that, if Neymar and Co fail to hit the mark, the noisy neighbours could be the ones to fill their shoes.

Luis Suarez will lead Brazil's age-old rivals Uruguay into the Finals bearing a reputation as one of the most talented and controversial stars in the business, and will no doubt relish the prospect of tormenting the hosts on home soil.


This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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