Past perfect, future tense

Brazil’s Hernanes (left) fights for the possession of the ball during a friendly match against Russia.

Brazil’s Hernanes (left) fights for the possession of the ball during a friendly match against Russia.

With less than 15 months to go for the 2014 World Cup, there is a sense of foreboding about hosts Brazil’s chances at the quadrennial event. The record five-time winners don’t appear to have the tools to be crowned champions on home soil.

As things stand now, even the most loyal supporter of Brazil wouldn’t believe that a sixth title is on the horizon. A 1-1 draw against Russia in London on Tuesday only helped reinforce fans’ doubts. There is a big question mark over the potential of Brazil, as disappointing results in friendly matches are piling up.
The Selecao don’t excite anyone these days. They send Brazilian fans’ blood pressure soaring instead of sending their pulse racing. Where are the established big names and promising fresh faces? Has the talent tap gone dry in the spiritual home of the sport? While Argentina can count on Messi, Aguero, Higuain and Di Maria, Brazil can only trot out Neymar. Neymar, like his national team, is still a work in progress. He hasn’t done anything of note at international level to merit comparison to Pele.
The past is perfect while the present and future are tense for Brazil. Even the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari has failed to inject dynamism into the Brazilian team. Big Phil, who masterminded the World Cup triumph in 2002, is still waiting for his first win in his second tenure. The charismatic coach says his team is on the right track. But not many people are sharing his optimism. Scolari had Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho to call on in 2002. More importantly, the trio were at their peak in Japan and South Korea. Scolari doesn’t have extraordinary talent at his disposal. But the task in front of him is massive. Winning the trophy is as important as playing attractive football. The current Brazilian team is neither efficient nor aesthetically pleasing.
The early signs are anything but encouraging. Scolari would be a worried man deep inside. He knows he would be the fall guy if Brazil fail to go all the way. For a country that is still smarting from the unexpected loss at the hands of Uruguay in 1950, another blow at home will be unacceptable. The only mitigating factor is Brazil’s dire form before the 2002 World Cup. Scolari somehow managed to coax his team into giving its best. Can he do it again in the face of mounting odds and unbearable pressure?

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