News ID: 217934
Published: 0214 GMT July 07, 2018

'Checkmate': Brazilian media reacts to World Cup exit

'Checkmate': Brazilian media reacts to World Cup exit
Brazil's Philippe Coutinho (L), Roberto Firmino and Belgium's Axel Witsel (R) react at the end of the quarterfinal match at the 2018 World Cup in the Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia on July 6, 2018.

No horror, no overreaction, just a wistful sigh: this was, by and large, the tone of Brazilian press reaction to the Seleção's quarterfinal defeat to Belgium.

Four years ago, Brazil's World Cup elimination at the hands of Germany prompted primal howls of grief, newspaper headlines riffing on the "shame" and "historic humiliation" of that 7-1 shellacking, The Independent reported.

But while every loss leads to an inquest in a country that defines itself as the país do futebol, there has thus far been precious little bloodletting after what was, by comparison, a noble defeat.

Which isn't to say that some blame has not been apportioned.

"Brazil feels the pressure and push the 7-1 generation toward retirement," read the home page of the Folha de São Paulo, with Fernandinho – one of the survivors from that 2014 meltdown – coming in for particular criticism.

In Folha, Paulo Vinícius Coelho was left frustrated by Brazil's decision-making in the final third. "You need to dribble," he wrote, "but Brazilian players make the error of thinking it's the best plan even when faced with two or three markers. That's what led to Neymar diving near Toby Alderweireld, asking for a non-existent penalty."

Questions were asked of the coach, too, not least for his unshakeable loyalty to Gabriel Jesus. "You like Tite. So do I," wrote José Luiz Portella in Lance. "He's the best manager in Brazil and made me believe in the Seleção again. But Tite is not perfect. Brazil is out of the World Cup because Belgium played better than us. Some of our players made mistakes. They failed. But I'm not afraid to say it: it wasn't just them. Tite made mistakes too.

"Yes, he's very good, but he's so stubborn. He was prepared to go to the grave with Gabriel Jesus, even as he underperformed. Don't come to me saying that he was important tactically; the best tactic for a striker is to put the ball in the net."

Tostão, the former Brazil forward, was similarly downbeat. "After the victory over Mexico, the cheerleading crowd was euphoric," he wrote in Folha. "The arrogance had returned: Brazil was the country of football again, all the best players were ours and Tite was the best coach in the world. What we got was another disappointment.

"Douglas Costa should have come on earlier. Neymar had plenty of chances to shine, but made poor decisions. And Brazil still lacks a Kevin De Bruyne – a true star midfielder, who plays from one box to the other."

There was both dejection and optimism in the pages of O Globo, whose front page spoke of a "checkmate" in Kazan. For Martín Fernandez, the last month has underlined the growing – and, for the rest of the world, worrying – dominance of European nations at World Cups.

"The lessons for Brazilian football in particular and South American football in general are crystal clear," he wrote. "Brazil couldn't beat Switzerland; Argentina couldn't find a way past Iceland. Colombia and Uruguay fell the moment they faced teams with a minimum level of organization.

"While Europe knocks down football's borders, Brazil's right-back spent half of the year playing in the São Paulo state championship. And come 2022, when Brazil starts the World Cup as the favorite, as usual, the chasm will only have grown."

Yet Márvio dos Anjos, Fernandez's colleague, struck a more positive note, calling on his countrymen to note that, for all the disappointment of a quarterfinal exit, the trajectory of this side over the last two years has been upward.

"Brazilian football has been presented with a great opportunity," he wrote. "We must look at the state of the team two years ago and recognize the transformation into the side we see know, knocked out of the World Cup after a memorable game against one of the best sides.

"It's a chance to leave behind the tradition of breaking up projects with every defeat. We have to stick with Tite and the spine of a team that proved that our problem isn't a lack of talent or a 'lost generation', but the temptation to live by improvisation, to always be starting again, never knowing what kind of football we want to play."

On that point, Tostão agreed, "Tite has done excellent work and should continue in charge," he added. "Just without being deified."


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