The FIFA World Cup soccer tournament is set to kick-off one week from today in Russia. A total of 32 teams will play 64 matches against each other. The first match is the host team, Russia vs Saudi Arabia. According to the experts, the top three contenders for the prestigious Cup are Brazil, Germany (the defending champion), and France. My hunch though is that Argentina (with the world’s greatest player Lionel Mesi) and Belgium are legitimate contenders.
For Brazil to be considered a top contender is remarkable when you consider that they were humiliated by Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-final (7-1). Germany went on to win the cup by defeating Argentina 1-0). The pundits say that Brazil has made tremendous improvement to get to this World Cup soiree with impressive victories over their rivals.
Brazil being considered a top contender and with the form to back this is good news for me. I have been a fan of Brazil from the time of Pele, Garrincha (The Little Bird), Jairzinho (OK except for Pele many of you youngsters have probably never heard of the last two players). Brazil should not have any problem getting out of the first round as they are in what seems to be a weak group (Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia). Still Costa Rica and Serbia could pull the upset.
Since the US did not qualify for this World Cup, I will not have any guilt feelings rooting for my favorite team Brazil. In the 2014 World Cup I watched all the Brazilian games with my Brazilian friend, Ciro. We alternated games by me hosting him and his wife and then at his house.
For the semi-final match between Germany and Brazil I watched it a Ciro’s house with his wife, and his daughter. We drank Chimarrão (hot water and erva-mate) tea with snacks. The start of the game was filled with anticipation of a Brazilian victory. This anticipation began to fade after the first three goals. They were making too many mistakes and Germany was taking advantage of those mistakes as they continued to score goals. With each mistake or goals scored Ciro’s adult daughter would let loose with some real curse words. Ciro promised that she won’t be present this time – not that it bothered me.
Brazilians had a lot to cheer for when they hosted the Summer Olympics in 2016. The FIFA World Cup tournament should give them a lot more to cheer for again as Brazil starts its quest for a sixth World Cup title. That quest will begin on Sunday, June 17 when they play Switzerland. This will be a quest to add to their 5-win record titles– they won the title in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. Brazil also has the distinction of being the only country to date to have played in every World Cup.
I hope Brazil will not disappoint in the 2018 World Cup and that they will demonstrate the soccer skills and creativity they are known for to give us a great performance. Good luck to Brazil on their quest for a 6th World Cup title.
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