Brazil’s do or die

2014-06-22 15:00

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Tomorrow’s clash between World Cup favourites Brazil and the already eliminated Cameroon is do or die for the hosts.

The Seleção need to get back to winning ways following a goalless draw against Mexico on Tuesday, a result that left the two countries on four points each in Group A.

An upset win by Cameroon combined with a Croatia victory in their last game can still knock Brazil out of the tournament, an event that will see them emulate South Africa, who became the first host country to be knocked out in the first round of a World Cup.

Tuesday’s result has already put pressure on coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was criticised for his selection; as well as on striker Fred, whose job is to score but who has not managed a single shot on goal.

Fred has come under fire on media platforms for his lacklustre showing.?Fans claim he has become a “privileged spectator”, watching the game from inside the field rather than being part of the team.

In a similar fashion to 2002, when he eventually went on to win the World Cup, Scolari has reacted angrily to criticism.

For months before the World Cup kicked off, Brazilians had confidence in the national team’s performance and only questioned the readiness of the country to host the event.

The organisation has had some minor flaws, but by and large the World Cup has been executed with near perfection.

Airports are antiquated (bearing no comparison to South Africa’s), but they function well. Access to stadiums is easy and organised. And violent demonstrations have been isolated and have had no impact on the ­average fan.

But since the draw against Mexico, the team has become the headache, with Brazilians now questioning their chances of winning the Cup for the sixth time.?The earlier overconfidence in the team was a result of its good performance at last year’s

Confederations Cup, which Brazil lifted with a spectacular 3-0 win over world champions Spain in the final.

The game against the Mexicans showed that the men responsible for linking the very strong defence with the stars of the offensive sector (especially Neymar) are found ­wanting. Paulinho has had dismal performances and is a shadow of the Corinthians star he once was. Oscar, who excelled in the first game against Croatia, was also weak. Part of the drama is that Jô, Fred’s substitute, is also considered unreliable.

Brazil will likely qualify for the next round as they need only a draw against Cameroon. But in the next round, their foes will be either the Netherlands – one of the best teams so far – or Chile, one of the tournament’s sensations.

Hulk, who did not play against Mexico due to an injury, will probably be back in the team. Fernandinho could get a chance as Paulinho’s substitute and Willian might replace Oscar.

Mexico face Croatia in the other match. Both games kick off ­simultaneously at 10pm.

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