Who says chivalry is dead? A Germany fan consoles a Brazil supporter
Who says chivalry is dead? A Germany fan consoles a Brazil supporter Reuters

Back on 18 February 2014, Scott Murray in The Guardian wrote a piece for his 25 Stunning World Cup moments series. This episode describes the previous occasion when Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1950 at the then newly opened Maracanã Stadium.

The Brazilian Press had already proclaimed the host nation the winners against the underdogs, Uruguay, on the morning of the event. A new anthem, Brazil The Victors had been composed and rehearsed for the closing ceremony and the match itself attracted a world-beating crowd of 200,000 though only a hundred had made it from Uruguay.

Uruguay won 2 – 1.

Apparently there were suicides reported and doctors had to treat 169 at the ground for hysteria but my favourite quote is:

"...FIFA President Jules Rimet, ushered onto the field by hysterically crying policemen, let the winning captain and man-of-the-match Varela, get his hands on the trophy, though he was advised against raising it..."

The Brazilian national football team, often called the Seleção, has easily made up for that slip since by winning the World Cup on five occasions but the Maracanazo, the Maracanã Blow, has never been forgotten.

Just as well then that Brazilian expectations, though very high, were more realistic in this year's World Cup after the drubbing their team suffered at the hands of Germany, losing 1 – 7 at the Estádio do Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, the match now nicknamed the Mineirazo.

The Germans did not crow over their victory and many of them tried to comfort the tearful home supporters, yet football is so important in Brazil that this defeat and the team's relegation to seventh in FIFA's ranking, are matters that concern the highest echelons of government.

Failing to get into the final raised questions about whether the country should have hosted the event at all given that the stadiums, new or greatly improved and other infrastructure on highways and airports, set Brazil back between $13.5 and $15.5 billion.

Until shortly before the World Cup started, work was continuing to complete some of the stadiums causing much of that support work to fall behind or be abandoned altogether. Worse still, there is a suspicion that some of the work has been rushed and therefore shoddy.

On 4 July in the host city of Belo Horizonte, an overpass under construction and which was meant to have been completed before the World Cup started, collapsed onto an avenue which itself was being widened. Two were killed and a score injured. An official report on the incident is due to be completed by early August.

Belo Horizonte will host the training camps for TeamGB and ParalympicsGB for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and the city authorities had been very proud of the fact that the Mineirão Stadium had been completed in December 2012, on time and on budget.

Despite all the problems, President Dilma Rousseff claimed that "her country had proved the doubters wrong" and Manuel Martinez of Associated Press agreed that "the World Cup has been hailed as a sporting success and hundreds of thousands of fans in Brazil have roundly applauded the warmth of the Brazilian people and the lively party atmosphere".

All of which should go some way to offset the humiliation inflicted upon the Seleção and latest reports suggest that it will have but slight impact on the President's chances of re-election later in October.

One reason for the poor performance of the Brazilian team that has been suggested by President Rousseff, is that Brazil exports all its best players to Europe though Michael Royster in The Rio Times said the same goes for Argentina. The article does however go on to highlight a serious problem with all Brazilian football clubs being unable to pay the taxes they owe the Government.

The amount owed by the country's largest clubs exceeds $1 billion but the Government is unwilling to press payment because the clubs can't pay and "...all major...football clubs would be shut down", including Flamengo (Rio) and Corinthians (São Paulo). Could this limit the amount that these clubs can pay the home grown talent fleeing to Europe?

The Rio Times by the end of last week could also report good economic news for the city coming from the Ministry of Tourism with a boost to the city of 886,000 tourists travelling to the city of which 471,000 came from abroad. Value to the city's economy is estimated at about $1 billion daily in the run up to the Final. Surveys of the football tourists were all very positive and the Ministry is most encouraged for the forthcoming Olympics.

Meanwhile back in Blighty, the first big fallout after England's exit at the Group Stage of the World Cup was the resignation from international football of Captain Steven Gerrard, announced on 21 July. Speaking to reporters, he told them how he had "agonised" over the decision:

"Most importantly...I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field.

"To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool..."

The player, a real gentleman, was paid a very warm tribute by England Manager Roy Hodgson:

"He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer... (with)huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard...an exceptional role model for everyone..."

Others commented in similar vein and although agreeing that he was "One of the greatest players of his generation", Martin Samuel, Sports writer for The Mail, added a dampener:

"He came to epitomise the shortcomings of the national team, its inexplicable failings, its one consistency: the ability to disappoint.

"...It says something for the parlous state of the England team... (he) leaves such a big hole on the occasion of his retirement... such a void in England's midfield."

Going to the heart of the problem for England's national football team:

"Ultimately, no footballer of modern times better encapsulates the growing disconnect between club and country than Gerrard. He was always committed to England, but in the red shirt of Liverpool he was a different class..."

The pressure from the clubs on their players is very real. SkySPORTS on 1 June in a piece titled: "Chris Coleman (Wales' Manager) wants Gareth Bale to play more for Wales", quoted the Manager saying:

"...there was a lot of pressure from Manchester United for him not to come and play."

If releasing players from Manchester United for national team sides was difficult in June, my guess is that it got worse after the appointment of their new manager Louis van Gaal. All eyes will be on the ex-Netherlands Manager, as his will be on every player at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena CA, when his team take on Los Angeles Galaxy on 24 July.

It is not just that Mr van Gaal has a different style and harder edge than previous manager David Moyes. Earlier this month, Chevrolet concluded a £51 million per year, seven-year deal; AON a £17 million per year, eight-year deal; and after 13 seasons with Nike and concluding a deal with their rivals Adidas which will commence next year, a £75 million per year, ten year deal.

That's an awful lot of sponsors and their shareholders to keep happy and answering Roy's call to release players to go once more to the breach for England - well your guess is as good as mine as to where that will be on the Dutchman's radar.

Maybe being Brazil manager isn't quite so troublesome after all!