Sit Back And Enjoy The World Cup Ride

Brazil has some well-publicised socioeconomic problems bu, whilst Daniel Storey isn't ignoring them, he's also not apologising to anyone for being pretty bloody excited...

Last Updated: 12/06/14 at 07:49 Post Comment

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It has been a World Cup countdown continuously dampened by unavoidable and substantial concerns. Fans will fly into airports that are yet to be finished, watch matches in stadiums that will fail to meet intended specifications and use transport systems left worryingly incomplete. Only five of the 35 city rail schemes have been finalised, intentions for metro lines have been left unfulfilled, and the airports in Fortaleza and Sao Paulo are both behind promised timescales.

As Helio Guravitz, editor of Brazilian magazine Epoca, states: "We are the country of winging it. We plan poorly, monitor even worse, leave everything to the last minute and believe it will work out in the end. Until one day, it doesn't." That summation certainly rings true right now.

That is not to say that Brazil have scrimped in their budgets for the tournament. It is estimated that the World Cup will cost Brazil close to £7billion, more expensive than any other in history, and ten of the 20 costliest stadiums in the world are now based in the host country. Instead, there is the overwhelming sense that Brazil has bitten off more than it could chew, unrealistic undertakings made that were never likely to end in success.

The infrastructural issues are nothing compared to the criticisms that Brazil has received from its own people. More than half of Brazilians have claimed that they did not want the tournament, and in a recent survey over 60% insisted that it will not have a lasting positive effect on the country. That 75% of people believe corruption played a part in construction projects for the tournament indicates the inherent distrust entrenched between the levels of Brazil's class system.

There may be plenty of defining on-field images generated in the next five weeks, but few will be as powerful as those depicting the strikes, riots and protestations by a society that feels its own contentment has been compromised in favour of an exercise in sporting d**k-swinging. Brazil has one of the world's weightiest tax burdens and yet many people still suffer with poor hospitals, education, transport, sanitation and widespread poverty.

Brazil is a country famed for loving football perhaps more than any other, but the eye-watering financial demands have transformed the game from staple to luxury status. Football may be an existence to so many, but the very basic necessities of life must come first. Many Brazilians feel that food and facilities have been de-prioritised in favour of FIFA.

In fact, it almost feels as if there are two World Cups in Brazil, one played on the field and one away from it, where the constant struggle between power and population threatens to ruin FIFA's party. As a football supporter and writer, that potentially creates a moral quandary. Can we truly enjoy a tournament organised by (and of benefit to) a governing body that seems so untouchable?

Well yes, we can. As Brazilian sports commentator Juca Kfouri said, "There is certainly a mood of 'we've already paid for the party so we might as well enjoy it'." Kfouri admits that many Brazilians will not wear the shirt as a protest against the over-spending, but for the rest of the world, this is still a footballing Christmas that comes but once every four years. Whilst we can pay relevant respect to the off-field World Cup, now is the time when football can become the principal spectacle.

There is little doubt that since 1990 the World Cup has often flattered to deceive. Last time in South Africa, only two of the first 13 matches saw more than two goals as the tournament struggled to ignite. Of the 64 matches in 2010, 37.5% contained one goal or fewer - that's pretty dire. The 2006 showing in Germany was the best of the five since, but something about Italia '90 felt inherently magical - a Brazilian World Cup could surely see a repeat of such an enchanting atmosphere.

There is plenty of reason for whetted anticipation. European and world champions Spain are generally viewed to be past the peak of their powers, Brazil's attack largely relies on Neymar, Argentina's defence is potentially suspect and the South American climate will provide difficulties for at least occasional European contenders Germany, Italy and France. The Premier League title race was so consuming last season because each of the contenders had evident flaws - this tournament promises to be no different.

What's more, England are not consumed by a fever of over-expectation that clouds all realistic assessment. Roy Hodgson has an immensely tough task to battle against two of the world's top ten teams at the first stage, but also takes a blend of talented youngsters and expert experience to Brazil. For now at least there is a sense of what might be rather than what should be - that's a very pleasurable feeling indeed.

And anyway, this is the World Cup. It's 32 days of football, 5760 minutes of televised action where all programmes are re-scheduled just because Colombia v Uruguay has gone to extra-time. It's the easy excuse to stay up on the sofa until 2am. It's seeing the best players in the world on the same stage. It's discovering Bright Young Things, Next Big Things and dodgy goalkeepers and treating all three with the same fascination. It's entire nations coming together in the hope of one unlikely possibility. It's the iconic commentary, the penalty angst and the horrible comedown on the first day after the group stages. It's the meticulous planning of television schedules, fantasy teams and prediction competitions. And it all ends in the majestic Maracana.

There are relevant concerns over Brazil's socioeconomic problems that will continue to blight the country long after football's biggest circus arrives in town, but those do not have to inhibit our enjoyment of a potentially magical month - the two ideals can be mutually exclusive. The World Cup in Brazil promises to be memorable journey for the football obsessive. Despite the country's problems, we should not feel ashamed for enjoying the ride.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

I agree with jamesmac. His point is supported by the fact that every World Cup since has boasted a higher goals-per-game average. The idea that Italia '90 was a classic tournament is, I suspect a rather Anglocentric one. This is probably rooted in a combination of factors including England's glorious failure; the emergence of an emotionally fragile once in a generation English talent; the fact that for a large number of journos it would have been an early football memory and (perhaps most importantly) the indelible association of that tournament with the hauntingly beautiful Nessun Dorma.
- jonnywishbone2

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