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Brazil Dealing with Enormous Pressure to Win Their 6th World Cup on Home Soil

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Brazil Dealing with Enormous Pressure to Win Their 6th World Cup on Home Soil
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They say playing at home brings the added pressure of expectation. Never will that statement be truer than during next year's FIFA World Cup for Brazil.

Between June 12 and July 13, hosts Brazil have a huge burden upon their broadly successful shoulders. The five-time world champions head into June's tournament as one of a handful of potential winners.

But there is a vociferous and demanding fanbase who will only be satisfied with one outcome. The Brazilian public want to see their side lift a sixth world title, and they want to see it done at the Maracana.

In Brazil, tales of 1950 still haunt people. That was the last time the country hosted the World Cup, and it was supposed to have a fairytale ending.

Successive thrashings, 7-1 and 6-1 against Sweden and Spain respectively, in the competition's second round—the first and only time a two-round format has been used—meant Brazil only needed a draw against Uruguay to bring the trophy home.

But a 2-1 reverse shocked the nation. Brazil have, of course, gone on to have numerous successes, but the demons of 1950 can only be exorcised with a World Cup win at home.

“It does still hurt, yes. I'm only 35 but you grow up hearing stories of that final from 1950. It's like you are conditioned from a young age to feel the pain of that defeat,” said Bruno Vasconcellos, a civil lawyer who has followed Brazil at every World Cup since 1986.

Unusually, up until the Confederations Cup, expectations of what the Selecao would be able to achieve at the World Cup were fairly low. But suddenly, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side clicked. Ever since Neymar's third-minute rocket against Japan in the tournament opener, pretty much everything went right for Brazil.

They smashed four past Italy in their final group game before taking Spain apart 3-0 in the final. That triumph has given fans a surge in belief, even if it is curtailed by the realisation next year's effort will be a far greater undertaking.

During the competition, well-documented protests had added a different kind of pressure. They gave victory a political as well as sporting redemption.

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Brazil's win tore the cameras away from the movement that swept through the land. Protest groups have promised further action throughout June and July next year; again, Brazil don't only need to win the trophy to satisfy a sporting narcissism.

Brazil is a vast country, both in terms of geographical space and population. More than 170 million people call the country home, and while not everyone follows football fanatically, it is nigh on impossible to find someone who doesn't take an interest in the national team at the World Cup.

Scolari's side has the solid foundations of experience and talent. It is further forward, in attack, where the line-up becomes a relative novice.

The likes of Neymar and Oscar may well be potentially world-class talents, but at 22, both will be playing their first World Cup with extremely high stakes at risk.

That sort of pressure can crack anyone, not least a player with the global spotlight on his back as he tries to unlock opposition defences or beat one of the world's best goalkeepers in a one-on-one situation.

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The pressure on the side has not been helped by coach Scolari. In the immediate aftermath of Brazil's 5-0 thrashing of Honduras in Miami last month, Felipao was unequivocal in his assessment, as reported by ESPN FC.

"There is no pressure on Brazil. Brazil are not under pressure to be the world champions. Brazil will be the champions," he announced in his post-match press conference. 

There is pressure from the country's media, from the public and from their status as hosts. For Scolari to sweep this under the carpet and declare Brazil a ready-made champion hints of press pampering, as well as shovelling unnecessary onus on to his players.

Because this time around, Brazil must not only live up to expectations but also rid the country of a 64-year-old ghost.

No pressure? Who's he kidding?

 

All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.

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