The relief that will be kick-off in Brazil

After all the protests, security issues and construction delays, the football is all set to take centre-stage.

    Brazil, with home advantage, look firm favourites to lift the trophy [Getty Images]
    Brazil, with home advantage, look firm favourites to lift the trophy [Getty Images]

    Brazil v Croatia, 5pm, São Paulo.

    What a relief it will be when the ball is kicked, when the world is reminded what the fuss is about – that there's historic football to be played. We hope and expect it will bring great joy to hundreds of millions because we've become all too familiar with the negatives.

    The riots, protests, political and social concerns over the money spent, the serious construction problems, infrastructure and transport problems, the lack of assurances over safety and the technical issues of delivering the World Cup to its global audience. With this backdrop, it's not unreasonable to fear there will be stories made off the pitch around the opening game.

    Is the guarantee of a huge worldwide audience irresistible to those still angry, still worried, still affected by funds being used on a football tournament that might have found their way to housing and healthcare?

    The World Cup starts in just over 24 hours but the stadiums are yet to be completed [EPA]

    Will protests then be met by heavy police resistance. Security around the opening game will be at an extreme level and if and when the tear gas is used....? Just how insufficient will the technology be in and around the stadium? It's extraordinary to think FIFA and the organisers have had to admit things won't be perfect. For an event of this magnitude, wow. That's what the youngsters might call an 'epic fail', particularly the generation that treat 3G and 4G like Oxygen.

    And how is the game going to be 'marked' across Brazil? The proverbial carnival atmosphere from Brasilia to Belo Horizonte or further protest?

    Brazil favourites?

    That said, you may not need the cheerful disposition of Mary Poppins to be positive about the effect the Brazilian team winning could have on the national mood.

    Ultimately, this is likely to be about whether Brazil win or not. The 'tragedy' of defeat on home soil in 1950 is well documented. Imagine the pain of losing a final to Uruguay again. Or Argentina. Or to anyone.

    But Brazil has a great chance of lifting the trophy. My gut feeling has been for years that Argentina could be party poopers, that Messi would have his defining tournament. But Brazil have become clear and justified favourites, not just through their host status.

    The Confederations Cup triumph was quietly impressive. I say quietly as the tournament was overshadowed by the protests. But right through to defeating world and European champions 3-0 in the final, Brazil looked a team going in the right direction.

    Scolari influence

    They are solid, have enough flair and options. No they are not the glorious side of 1982 but we all know what happened to them. Name the winning team from 1994? Not easy is it? They seem to have the right manager too in Luiz Felipe Scolari. When the pressure this big and the stakes are so high you need someone who has seen and done it all before. Fine-tuning a team from the amount of talent and options Brazil has is a far harder task than it seems and he seems to have settled on a team.

    And the host factor is huge. When a top football nation has host status it can sometimes be downplayed. Effectively Brazil will play seven 'home' games if they lift the trophy.

    By my reckoning, eleven times nations have hosted a World Cup with a realistic chance of winning it, as in they are one of the world's best teams. Six times they've actually done it. That's quite a strike rate.

    And at least the Brazil’s love of football will inevitably lead to instant support of the team. When I covered France '98, there was genuinely a coolness amongst some of the French public, the non-football fans. Until the semi-final. By which time I was caught in a frenzied celebration of hundreds and thousands of delirious people in the Champs-Elysees.

    The first World Cup I watched was also in South America: Argentina '78. The ticker-tape, the sound, the kits and the goals. The memories are incredible, to have been watching Gemmill's wonder-goal as it happened was a blessing.

    But when we look back to that tournament, to do so without questioning the hosts would be wrong. To call the political situation in Argentina in 1978 unsatisfactory would be a gross understatement. Just ask Johan Cruyff. Was the win just for the people, or the junta who has seized power? Both would claim it.

    Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could look back on 2014 and acclaim it for the football. Wouldn't it be fantastic if the Brazilian people wanted to regard it as a success. Speaking to my Brazilian contacts, there is a genuine chance this could go very right. Let's hope and pray it does.

    This column also appears on the website where Lee Wellings represents Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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