Brazil's own goals stand out in score-starved World Cup

Brazil's own goals stand out in score-starved World Cup

During the shocking meltdown of Brazil’s football team during the semi-final of the World Cup, the crowd broke into a crude and sustained chant directed at shell-shocked President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. The chant, roughly translated, was ''Hey Dilma, go f--- yourself'', plus another suggestion which I’ll omit. The President is on a first-name basis with her country. Her website is

That was as close to a demonstration as there was within the confines of the cup, given that the Brazilian government spent, officially, $1 billion on security. This did nothing to protect the emotional security of the nation, which was shattered by the end of the tournament. Rousseff, who enjoyed tremendous popularity in the polls after her election in 2010, is now struggling to avoid defeat in the October presidential election. It would have completed the nightmare for Brazil had its great rival Argentina won the cup, which it almost did.

The Brazilian government spent more than $10 billion on the World Cup, including six brand new stadiums.

The Brazilian government spent more than $10 billion on the World Cup, including six brand new stadiums.Credit:AFP

Brazilians are in a mood for revenge. The government spent more than $10 billion on the World Cup, including six brand new stadiums, while failing to curb structural corruption, persistent inflation and wealth inequality. Rousseff may become a symbolic scapegoat.

But the structural flaws revealed in the Brazilian football team, and Brazil itself, are not as deep as the structural flaw in the world’s greatest opiate – football.


Football has a problem and the 2014 World Cup exposed the flaw at its heart. If we remove the remarkable 7-1 demolition of Brazil by Germany in the first semi-final, a scoreline which, by its very freakishness, points to the biggest problem with the game, only six goals were scored in the other six major finals. Six goals in six games. Three of the seven quarter-finals, semi-finals and final ended in scoreless draws. Two remained scoreless after 30 minutes of extra time and had to be resolved by penalty kicks.

Result-by-penalties is a crap-shoot which does no justice to a team which has won the territorial and skill battle. Football gives disproportionate reward to negativity.

Players diving in the penalty box, or feigning injury, or waving imaginary yellow cards, or battering their opponents then theatrically falling to the ground in pain, are other faces of negativity that need to be surgically removed from the game.

The cup final itself was saved from result-by-penalties only by a very late goal by Germany, deep into extra time of another scoreless game. This prevented the 2014 World Cup from setting a dubious record of five games decided by penalties.

Germany saved the tournament in a number of ways. It scored by far the highest number of goals, 18, and played attacking football. As the world media – and the Brazilian public – remained fixated on Brazil’s glorious footballing past coupled with its advantage as host nation, there was a general failure to notice that it is not Brazil which has been the most formidable team in World Cup competition for the past 60 years. It is Germany.

Of the 20 World Cups held, Brazil has appeared in all 20 while Germany has appeared in 18. Brazil won its first world cup in 1950 when Germany was barred from the competition.

Even with this disadvantage, Germany has qualified for all 18 World Cups for which it was eligible and then reached the quarter-finals a remarkable 16 times (Brazil 15 times). Even more remarkably, Germany has reached the semi-finals 13 times (Brazil 11) and the final eight times (Brazil seven). Germany has been the top-scoring team for the past three World Cups, and top-scorer in four of the past seven cups (Brazil once).

Germany’s goal explosion in the semi-final also saved this World Cup from being one of the most goal-deprived in history. As it was, the average number of goals per match was a modest 2.67, fewer than in 12 previous cups, and pale compared with the peak in 1954, when an average of 5.4 goals were scored.

Football has built its march on the growth of the global middle class but the attention span of young men is drifting. Last year, the video game Grand Theft Auto V became the entertainment product to gross $1 billion in sales fastest. It took just three days. Video games, with their manic attention spans and inter-connectivity, now dwarf the movie industry and exceed all forms of entertainment in terms of revenue.

This is the big growth engine of the future, and it is fast. Football needs to retool to try and keep pace.

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