Nickname: A Seleção, The Samba Boys

World Ranking: 3

World Cup history: Five times Champions, appeared in all World Cup tournaments since 1930

As Brazil tries for second time to win the World Cup for the on home 64 years later, there’s a lesson most countries, and South Africa in particular, can learn from Brazil, and that is: Never forget your roots! The first time they hosted the tournament was in 1950, but The Selecao lost to Uruguay in the final.

After decades of being the dominant force in world football, the temptation to supply the European market with more and more players saw Brazil develop players for that market. In so doing, Brazil moved away from their own samba identity which had initially made them the football powerhouse with the likes of Garrincha, Pele, Socrates, Jairzinho, Zico, Junior, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka. Their prowess in international football took a serious dive. It is by no accident that it has been more than a decade since Brazil last won the World Cup. In the last two World Cup editions, 2006 and 2010, the once-feared football giants failed to proceed beyond the quarterfinals of the tournament – a far cry from the team that still hods the record of being the most successful team in the world with five titles to their name.

That was enough a clarion call for Brazilian football and afraid that history would judge them harshly, Brazilian technical brains like Filipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto-Parreira decided it was time to revert back to what had made Brazil a powerhouse in the first place – the samba roots! From that initiative highly-skilful, dynamic and very versatile players like Neymar, David Luiz, Robinho, Luiz Gustavo, Marcelo, etc. were developed. Gradually, Brazil reclaimed its rightful place in international football – the highlight of which was humbling the World Cup defending champions in the 2013 Confederations Cup last year, by three goals to nil in Maracana – bring Spain’s 29 games without defeat to a screeching halt.

Since they crashed out of the 2011 Copa America, Brazil have improved in leaps and bounds, positioning themselves as favourtites to win the tournament

But that only set expectations high for the Sellecao going into a tournament to which they play hosts. Having missed on qualifying matches by virtue of automatic qualification as hosts, Brazil toured the world in preparation of a tournament in which they are expected to emerge victorious. Out of 29 matches, they won 24, five draws and five defeats. Following that impressive record in preparation of the tournament, Brazil – the only team to have participated in every World Cup tournament since 1930 – go into the contest as favourites. Since they crashed out of the 2011 Copa America, Brazil have improved in leaps and bounds, positioning themselves as favourtites to win the tournament. Not only do their solid form – from defence with David Luiz, Dante, Dani Alves, midfield with Paulinho, Willian, Ramires and strike-force with Neymar, Fred, and Hulk – give them the edge, but playing on home soil is expected to give them an added advantage. But memories of the 1950 World Cup when they hosted the tournament and regarded as favourites to win the cup, but eventually losing to Uruguay in the final should send a cold sweat down the Brazilian players’ spines.

Players to watch:
Neymar, Fred, David Luiz, Marcelo

Know Your Coach: Filipe Scolari

Winning the World Cup would not be something new to Brazilian-born Filipe Scolari. He won the cup with The Samba Boys in 2002, with the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Dennilson, etc. He is a strict, pragmatic coach who does things his way and never bows down to pressure. In 2002, he flatly refused to include Brazilian striker, Romario, in his squad despite immense public pressure and a sobbing plea from the player himself. But Scolari was vindicated when he went on to win the tournament jointly hosted by Korea and Japan.

Following his 2002 success with Brazil, Scolari left to coach Portugal. He led the Portuguese side a Euro 2004 finals where they lost to an ultra-defensive Greek side. He led the team to the World Cup in Germany in 2006, but failed to go beyond the semifinal stage. There they lost to eventual champions, Germany. Germany was going to prove a hard-nut-to-crack to the Brazilian two years later when they lost to the Germans in the quartfinals of the Euro 2008.

After the tournament, he left Portugal to join English Premiership side, Chelsea, become the first World Cup winning coach to coach in the Premier League. However, it was not going to be a stay with much to write home about with the team struggling to get decent results, forcing the club management to relive him of his duties a year later.

He returned to Brazil in 2010 when he coached local club, Palmeiras, where he won Copa de Brasil with the team. In 2012, he left the team and later returned to coach the Brazilian national team.

He has set high expectations for himself having led A Selecao to the Confederations Cup success in 2012, when he demolished World Champions, Spain.

Country Profile:

Brazil is the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The country has the largest population and land in Latin America. It is the world’s seventh wealthiest economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worth of US$ 2.253 trillion.

Analysts were concerned about the high inflation rate and the slow economic growth that prevailed between 2011 and 2012. GDP growth of 7.5% slowed to 2.7% in 2011 to 0.9 in 2012.

Although the country has made progress in eradicating poverty there are still deep inequalities with the growth of the middle class. Corruption in the country has resulted in protests with people demanding delivery of services.

The government has introduced a programme called Mundo Sem Pobreza (World Without Poverty) aimed at addressing poverty and inequality in the country. This follows a Bolsa Familia programme which reduced the poverty by half in the country. Through the programme parents receive stipend for sending their children to school and complying with health check-ups.

The country’s first female president Dilma Rousseff assumed office in January 2011. The Workers Party leader Rousseff was chosen by her predecessor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula was the most popular president for his implementation of the Bolsa Familia programme.

Under Rousseff’s reign there has been a slow economic growth, higher inflation and protests during 2013. She is also faced with dealing with the overrated currency and the improvement of infrastructure ahead of the 2016 Olympics games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Brazilian society is multi-cultural and multi ethnic as a result of the Italians, Germans, Ukrainains , Polish, Arab and Japanese immigrants who settled in the country in the 19th and 20th century.

However most of Brazilians culture is derived from the Portuguese culture. In June 2013 the Free Fare Movement, a non-governmental organisation led a protest calling for the reversal of the increase in transportation fares.

The protests attracted over one million people and led to clashes with the police. The protests moved on to the 2014 World Cup. Citizens are unhappy about the money spent for the 12 new refurbished stadiums. The country is spending US$S11.7 billion. The violence and deaths during the protests has led to doubts that the South American country will host the cup successfully.

Rouseff has, however, said that measures are being put in place to ensure safety during the event.

• Full name: Federative Republic of Brazil
• Population: 198.3 million (UN, 2012)
• Capital: Brasilia
• Largest city: Sao Paulo
• Area: 8.55 million sq km (3.3 million sq miles)
• Major language: Portuguese
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 real = 100 centavos
• Main exports: Manufactured goods, iron ore, coffee, oranges, other agricultural produce
• GNI per capita: US $10,720 (World Bank, 2011)
• International dialling code: +55

– By Sipho Kekana and Lerato Matlala