FIFA's Football Grinch Steals Brazil's Christmas

The FIFA Coca Cola ranking is another reminder that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) needs to address management and competition issues that impact on the reputation of the national team.

Defeating Chelsea in the FIFA Club World Cup should have added prestige to Brazil's football fortunes. After all, Corinthians are former president Lula's favorite team and they brought the title back to South America after a five year drought.

But while Corinthians played tougher than Chelsea in a match that saw Brazilian caps suit up for both sides Brazil tumbled into 18th place in the latest FIFA Coca Cola rankings, their worst showing in the history of the international rating system.

Coming on the heels of Corinthians victory over the Blues the FIFA Coca Cola ranking is another reminder that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) needs to address management and competition issues that impact on the reputation of the national team.

While former coach Mano Manezes was sleepwalking the Samba Boys toward a guaranteed slot in the FIFA 2014 Brazil World Cup, Corinthians have been on a roll, winning the 2011 Brazilian National Championship, the 2012 Liberators Cup and now the FIFA Club World Cup.

With Brazilan fans eager to identify with a winner, Corinthians and their impressive record in international tourneys have stolen some of the status traditionally attributed to the national team.

Brazil's unique football culture and the strong role a winning national team plays in shaping the national mood is partly to blame. Then too, the feeder system that was developed by former FIFA boss Joao Havelange and his son-in-law CBF honorary president Ricardo Teixeira exports top Brazilian players to teams in the Premier League, Europe and Asia, weakening the structure and talent pool of Brazilian league football.

Most of Brazil's top stars spend their prime years earning big money, overseas, returning home during the twilight of their careers to coast on their reputations.

Spain used only five players who were contracted to non-Spanish clubs to win the FIFA 2010 South Africa World Cup. Under coach Carlos Dunga, 75% of Brazil squad that failed to make the 2010 finals were high salaried players contracted to teams outside the country.

Now, as agents and impressarios drive up the market for top talent and the Brazilian economy suffering from creeping inflation teams in Brazil are struggling to stay afloat.

In spite of a nationwide following and slick American-style sports marketing techniques Flamengo, a traditional first division powerhouse, has confirmed to sports media that it is unable to pay players their salaries.

Vasco, another old school Rio team that has a nationwide fan base is also facing major financial problems, including salary delays, which have been discussed in the media by club president and former World Cup star Roberto Dinamite and others.

Corinthians win in Japan has put Sao Paulo in the world football spotlight. But right now, the megacity of 18 million with its Crackolandias and drug infested favelas is facing the worst crime wave in its history.

The deaths and drug related violence have increased to the point that president Dilma's minister for cabinet affairs Gilberto Carvalho compared the razzia to the Gaza Strip. Homicides in Sao Paulo increased 71% in November.

Because Corinthians fans have a reputation for rowdiness and outbreaks of violence the chartered jet carrying the team home from Japan taxied to a remote military area of Sao Paulo's Guarulhos airport, transferring the team to busses under heavy security.

The estimated 15,000 fans who jammed airport access roads hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes were turned away by tactical police units.

Stadium security and violence were also issues for Bolivian side Bolivar, who asked the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) to schedule a coming Liberators Cup qualification match at a venue other than Pacaembu stadium, which is used by Corinthians. Even Santos star Neymar has been outspoken in his criticism of the football hooliganism at the big art deco stadium.

After the new year Samba Boys coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be announcing his caps for the 6 February friendly fixture at Wembley against England. The mixture of young talent and old hands will be crticial as 'Big Phil' puts his personal brand on the team.

Getting off on the right footing is important for Brazil now that Scolari has promised victory in the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup. Putting together a solid team that wins decisively and rises in the FIFA Coca -Cola rankings is the only way Brazil can stave off a backlash of frustrated fan expectations and avoid the football Santa putting a piece of coal in their stocking next Christmas.


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