In the summer of 2002, in the sweltering Japanese heat at the Yokohama International Stadium, Brazil astounded the football world by becoming the most successful nation in the history of the men’s World Cup, beating Germany 2-0 to win their fifth trophy. Blessed with the embarrassment of wealth – from Rivaldo to Ronaldinho, Cafu and Golden Boot winner Ronaldo “O Phenomeno” Nazario – it was the perfect end to a perfect tournament. Luis Felipe Scolari’s men repeated the legendary victory of 1970, also winning every match in the tournament, and gave the Brazilians a sense of redemption against mighty Europe after losing to France four years earlier.
“I feel the pleasure, the joy that the people of Brazil are now experiencing.” Scolari said after the match. “It’s a joy to know that we did our job, but it was full of very hard work. Brazil is world champion again – it’s not something we can forget.”
Back in Brazil, the people on the streets were celebrating for days on end, rejoicing not only in the victory, but in the fact that the Seleção were finally back in their place: the pinnacle of football royalty. (By the way, Japan’s Emperor Akihito was unable to attend the ceremony due to national customs, but it didn’t matter to the Brazilians as Pelé, their football king, presented the trophy to Cafu instead.)
“An amazing event happened in my life. Based on the mix of players we had, the generation [of those players]how we won it… I can’t fully describe what I felt that day, but it was a special day for me.” — Kleberson, who was a member of the historic Scolari team and is now an assistant coach at the MLS defending champion and recently crowned winner of the NYCFC Campeones Cup, Sportzshala told Sportzshala. It was the midfielder’s decisive run and Ronaldo’s pass (including a lovely puppet from Rivaldo) that secured the second goal against Germany. “The fact that I shared this with the best players in the world was an important moment in my life,” he added.
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Brazil set to end World Cup trophy drought
Twenty years later, with a new World Cup on the horizon, Brazil still holds memories of Japan and South Korea, hoping to use them as fuel while the drought continues. If they lose in Qatar, it would mean 24 years without winning the coveted trophy, and despite some successes (three America’s Cup titles and Olympic gold) and a few giant setbacks (see the 2014 World Cup semi-finals), two decades without lifting the most valuable silver item in the game is simply unacceptable to Brazilians.
“We know it’s been a long time since we won it. We were close in 2006 and also in 2010 and of course the result at home against Germany… no one wants to remember that,” Kleberson says of the match. A nightmare in 2014 when Brazil lost 7-1 in the semi-finals at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte. “However, I believe that it is all about generations, and a lot changes. Many Brazilian players have changed during this time and thanks to the younger players now playing in Europe, Brazil has a great chance to win again. World Championship. It’s a process and we need to continue this process to see Brazil play the way they can.”
This Tite-led process has produced some impressive players to choose from. So much so that there’s a shaky feeling about his squad choice. From an offensive standpoint, at least, there are too many chefs in the kitchen and Tite, in his last World Cup as a manager, has to get it right. But one thing is for sure: this Brazilian team, which easily qualified in record form (10 wins, three draws, 30 goals scored and only five conceded), can crush anyone in Qatar. And it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the talent not only matches the line-up of 2002, but may well surpass it.
“This [current] the team is bringing back the same style as before, when the team had Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, now we have players like Neymar, Vinicius Jr, even Rodrigo… they bring so much talent to the team,” Kleberson says. “But I don’t think we should compare too much. These are two different squads. The players of 2002 were a different generation than we are now. I think Brazil ultimately wants to play with freedom, one on one on the pitch, with really creative, fast and strong players.”
Neymar leads the way
All of these attributes start with the obvious leader of the team, Neymar Jr, who is the undisputed headliner of this team.
“Neymar Jr is the best player in Brazil and possibly the world. The way he plays with passion and the way he contributes on the pitch,” says Kleberson. “He can bring a lot of qualities to Brazil and I think he will probably push himself and Brazil a lot to have a perfect World Cup.”
Even with Champions League winners like Vinicius Jr and Rodrigo, or the showmanship of Rafinha or Anthony, this is Neymar’s team, and just like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he represents the latest chapter of the current nobility of the World Cup, knowing full well that young the stars are ready to take over. It may not be his last World Cup, but it could be the last time he completely takes center stage, and in terms of contribution, Kleberson argues, it comes at the perfect time.
Under new PSG manager Christophe Galtier, Neymar is having one of his best campaigns ever, leading the scoring table with seven goals and tied with Messi for seven assists in seven Ligue 1 matches. but more importantly, Neymar plays like the Neymar we’ve known since Santos: free, bold, uncompromising. It’s like Ronaldo in 2002, who, after recovering from an injury, decided to say goodbye to any kind of braking. Hence, perhaps, and “this” haircut.
Just three goals behind Pelé (77) in the national scoring record, Neymar may have more than one reason to celebrate in 2022.
“I don’t think this will be the last World Cup for Neymar because I think he can play for a long time,” says Kleberson. “But I believe he will put in a lot of effort to be at the top and help Brazil win the World Cup. I look forward to its success in 2022.”
Vinicius Jr needs to keep dancing
Speaking of aiming for the top, no one in the game seems to make more money than Vinicius Jr these days, and like his idol Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup, he comes to Qatar at 22, ready to take on some of the burden. from the shoulders of his other idol, Neymar.
However, Vinicius Jr. will not come to this World Cup as a young prodigy ready to make an impact on the game. He’s already there. A two-time La Liga champion and Champions League winner with Real Madrid, the young striker from Rio de Janeiro is already a star.
However, there is something else that could motivate him at this World Cup and that is the willingness to rewrite the script for Afro-Brazilians. Following grotesque racist remarks by Pedro Bravo, president of the Spanish Association of Agents, about celebrating his goal, Vinicius Jr. responded via social media.
“As long as the color of the skin is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war.” This phrase is tattooed on my body. This thought is constantly in my head. This is an attitude and philosophy that I try to practice in my life. They say happiness hurts. The happiness of a black Brazilian, successful in Europe, upsets much more! But my desire to win, my smile and the sparkle in my eyes is more than all that. You can’t even imagine. I became a victim of xenophobia and racism in one statement. But it didn’t all start yesterday.
A few weeks ago they started criminalizing my dancing. Dances that are not mine. They belong to Ronaldinho, Neymar, (Lucas) Paqueta, (Antoine) Griezmann, Joao Felix, Matheus Cunha… they belong to Brazilian funk and samba artists, reggaeton artists and black Americans… they are dances to celebrate the cultural diversity of the world. Accept it, respect it. I’m not going to stop.
The script always ends with an apology and “I was misunderstood” but I’ll repeat it for you racist: I won’t stop dancing. Be it at the Sambadrome, at the Bernabeu or somewhere else.
The reaction from the football world has been overwhelming as Brazilian stars past and present including Pelé, Ronaldo and Neymar have cheered for their compatriot. Last Sunday, Gabriel Jesus even celebrated the victory of Vinicius Jr. after scoring for Arsenal against Brentford. When Rodrigo opened the scoring for Real Madrid in the derby against Atlético at the Metropolitano, Vinicius Jr. joined him with a corner flag and began to dance. Atlético responded to racist chants from fans ahead of the game.
This collective moment of unity between the national team past and present, teammates and other members of the predominantly Afro-Latino Brazil national team is more than just words of encouragement for the Real Madrid star. It’s a call to action, a battle cry, and perhaps a taste of what’s to come in November. Let’s hope the world is ready for more dancing.
Tite selection issues
In terms of selection, here’s the problem for Tite – and it was similar for Scolari in 2002 – who are you leaving out?
Gabriel Jesus is not in the squad for the September friendly matches, as well as the beloved and often chosen Philippe Coutinho. The latter isn’t quite as shocking due to a recent subpar performance against Aston Villa (although he did improve against Southampton last weekend), but the absence of Gabriel Jesus is puzzling given how well he’s started with the Gunners.
After announcing his squad, Tite stated in a press conference that these omissions were made to allow other players such as Flamengo’s Pedro, who leads the Copa…