The Confederations Cup, which drew to a close with an impressive victory for Brazil on 30 June 2013, has given Brazil a little taster of what lies ahead with next year’s World Cup. We’re not just talking about how victory might feel on home turf, but about what hosting the games in 2014 is going to entail.
Although the Confederations Cup is the smallest of the three major sporting events Brazil will host this decade, it’s had a big impact nonetheless, giving the fans something to be excited about, and bringing the organisers some peace of mind.
Faith in the Brazilian team was low when it made its debut in the tournament; uninspired play coupled with a change of coach in November had raised a number of concerns, and the team was even booed in some of its warm-up games.
But that faith was duly restored when the national side beat the Spanish team in the final, giving the five-time champs their confidence back. Neymar, who needed to prove he could live up to his reputation as the star of his generation, scored four times in five games, also doing justice to his number 10 jersey, once worn by the legendary Pelé.
Even Fred, who wears the number 9 jersey, was commended for his play by Brazil’s modern-day icon, Ronaldo, who made history in that same shirt. Coach Felipão seems to have built the team’s foundation for the World Cup, and should only solidify it in the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Portugal.
But while Brazil surprised as a team, it merely met expectations as a host country. FIFA president Joseph Blatter said the Confederations Cup was a successful test, though he didn’t fail to mention what needs to be improved.
The widespread demonstrations that consumed the country throughout the Cup are cause for concern. Poor public transport, the intial catalyst for the protests, needs to be resolved. Ticket distribution, with people queueing for hours, was considered a failure.
During some matches, the stadiums ran out of food, and were criticised for overpriced refreshments and unreliable mobile connectivity. All this in a tournament that involved just eight teams and six stadiums, as opposed to the World Cup, which will feature 32 teams and 12 stadiums.
The angry protests in June even included calls for the cancellation of the World Cup, criticised for its huge cost to the public purse. That’s highly unlikely; but there’s still room for improvement before the big test.