Sometimes your biggest blessings can be disguised in your worst moments. That has been proven so many times in life, and football is no exception as we’ve seen many examples of players and teams rising from difficult circumstances, whether injury, tough defeats or self-inflicted adversity, to achieve differing variations of redemption.
For one of international football’s elite teams, July 8, 2014, a day of eternal infamy and shame may very well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them. That day Brazil, five-time champions of the world, were embarrassed, emasculated and emotionally drained thanks to a 7-1 mauling at the hands of eventual world champions, Germany, on their home patch. Though their two most influential players, Neymar and Thiago Silva, were missing that day, the masses were shocked as they witnessed the crumbling of a football giant, leaving fans, commentators and Brazil’s maligned captain on the day, David Luiz, in tears. While some still regard the Maracanazo as the darkest day in the country’s football history, this was a culmination of a national team program that had been on the verge of collapsing for several years.
In truth, Brazil have been far removed from the Jogo Bonito era since Ronaldinho became a peripheral figure in the national setup. During his best years, the Seleção were blessed with an array of game-changing talents possessing outrageous skill, silky movement and strong chemistry. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Kaká, Roberto Carlos; this was a team, no matter if you loved or hated them, you had to respect them. While the 2002 World Cup winning team which featured all these men, under the guidance of Luis Felipe Scolari, didn’t quite match the all-time great 1970 squad in terms of performances, they found a way to balance skill with steel; grinding out results in a similar fashion to the 1994 World Cup winning side spearheaded by Romario.
Scolari was also at the head of the 2014 debacle, bringing the state of the national side full circle and exposing how unrecognisable Brazil were having ditched the identity that made them famous. That team possessed no real skill merchants aside from Neymar, focusing more on players known for work rate like Oscar and Ramires while leaving the likes of Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura home. Additionally, for a country who gave world football arguably the greatest pure striker in the modern era (Ronaldo), they were so bare up top, they had to call on a washed up Fred to lead the line. He was frankly a scapegoat for fans, thrust into a position he had no business being in after the likes of Luis Fabiano, Pato and Leandro Damião were either eased out the squad, perpetually injured or just plain bad.