August 15, 2012

Direct Kick: Brazil has two years to get its act together

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — To many in the United States, soccer doesn’t even register on the sports radar. Football, basketball and baseball are far more popular than the Beautiful Game.

But in the rest of the world, soccer, or football as it is properly called, is numero uno. Well, except for Canada, where hockey rules. But go to any other country, industrialized or not, and you are more than likely to find children playing soccer, whether on a green patch of grass, the street, or a dusty road. The world loves the sport.

In Saturday’s Olympic men’s final, two teams that have never won gold in the event squared off when favored Brazil met Mexico. When it was over, the Mexicans captured a 2-1 victory, again denying the Brazilians a gold medal.

I found it surprising that Brazil had never won a gold medal. I mean, we are talking about a country that has captured five World Cups. Since 1930, there’s been 19 World Cups contested, with only eight countries winning: Brazil (5), Italy (4), Germany (3), Argentina (2), Uruguay (2), and England, France and Spain with one each. Brazil is the only country to have appeared in every World Cup, and they will host the 2014 event.

I have a Brazilian friend who was heartbroken after the loss to Mexico. Almost cried, they told me.

“They act like super stars off of the field and on the field they don’t honor the jersey they wear,” they said.

I think that is the key word: Honor. Wearing the national jersey of your country, especially the golden yellow of Brazil, should be an honor. Some of the greatest names to ever play soccer have worn that jersey: Pele, Didi, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Tostao, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Socrates, Zico and Rivaldo, just to name a few.

Now granted, the Olympic team isn’t the same as the national team. The Olympic squad is comprised of U-23 players, with just three players over 23 allowed on the team. But still, Brazil is Brazil. There’s no excuse why this team didn’t win gold with players like Neymar, Oscar, Marcelo, Thiago Silva and Hulk.

Maybe the youngsters need to look to the past to once again rise to the top of the soccer world where A Selecao (The Team), the most decorated country in world soccer, should take it’s rightful place.

I said to my friend that Brazil better learn from its mistakes or the home crown won’t be too happy during the World Cup.

“Home crowd will invade the field and hurt some people if they don’t take it serious in 2014,” was their response.

That wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

The United States will face Mexico tonight and it will be interesting to see how our national team fares. Another interesting friendly set for Wednesday is Germany-Argentina.

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