Why South American Rivals Pose Threat to Brazil 2014 World Cup Hopes

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Why South American Rivals Pose Threat to Brazil 2014 World Cup Hopes
Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

Brazil will be playing against Chile in the Round of 16, and whatever team goes through will face the winner of the Colombia against Uruguay match.

The 2015 Copa America was scheduled to be played in Brazil, but since the Amazon country is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, they decided to give the honor of hosting it to Chile.

Who would have thought that Brazil would end up hosting a mini-Copa America inside the World Cup? Basically, Brazil is set to play a Copa America-like bracket until the semifinals.

The oldest national team tournament is Copa America, and CONMEBOL’s qualifiers have been played in a round robin format since the France ’98 qualifiers—therefore Brazil knows its rivals very well.

The problem is that its South American rivals also know it very well; it’s almost like a sleeping-with-the-enemy situation.

This is the first World Cup in South America since Argentina ’78. A lot of things have changed in the world since, including the popularity of the FIFA tournament. This is the first time, for at least one new generation since that tournament in Argentina, for South Americans to see its countries play at “home” in a World Cup.

Fans from Chile, Colombia and Uruguay have flooded the streets of Brazil and made them their own with their chants and folklore. It is said that European teams, and sides from anywhere else for that matter, have trouble playing in South American World Cups because of the conditions under which they face there. Unluckily for the Selecao, the host country advantage won’t be a factor on the next two rounds, as its CONMEBOL rivals feel at home in Brazil.

Worldwide, Brazil will come as the favourite against any of those South American rivals, but internally the Brazilians know these might be the most dangerous opponents they might face on its road to the championship.

Let’s start with Chile.

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La Roja has been eliminated by Brazil in the last two World Cups they have played. Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano’s generation suffered a 4-1 elimination at the hands of Ronaldo in France. Marcelo Bielsa’s team lost 3-0 in South Africa. And not even in 1962 when Chile hosted the World Cup and had its best run in the tournament were they able to escape elimination at the hands of its South American neighbors.

To add to that, a shameful event and one of the darkest periods of Chilean football took place in 1989, during an Italy ’90 qualifiers game against Brazil. The episode ended with Chile being banned from the qualifiers for Italy ’90 and USA ’94.

Chile has had some glorious moments against Brazil, including a 4-0 victory during the Copa America 1987. Apart from that, if anyone has a pending debt against Brazil, it has to be Chile. What better time or chance for Chile to take revenge than during Brazil’s own World Cup? That will certainly close some wounds in Chile’s football history.

I obtained a letter from Chilean fans that has been circulating in Brazil which portrays how tired the fans are of losing against the Selecao. The fairly long and emotional letter is for their national team.

This is a small extract of the letter.

“If you can beat Brazil, a sedentary can exercise. If you can beat the host country, the indecisive can ask his platonic love to be his girlfriend…This letter is for you (Chile’s coaching staff) and your players. It wasn’t written in 1998 or 2010. It was written in 2014 because this is the year that we can win…We don’t want to die without ever winning anything. Without never celebrating anything…”

If Brazil beats Chile, the next opponent will not be any less difficult.

Colombia has played the most spectacular football in this World Cup, and they also have one of the best players in the tournament in James Rodriguez.

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Brazil and Colombia have not faced each other as many times as other CONMEBOL teams have, but Brazil has an overwhelming history of beating Colombia. The last time Colombia was able to beat Brazil in an important match was back in Copa America 1991, when Colombia’s golden generation was at its peak.

However, this Colombia is different. They have already destroyed any records past Colombian teams had when playing in World Cups, and they have done it without this generation’s most symbolic player—Radamel Falcao. This Colombia could have easily felt sorry for itself after Falcao’s injury, and could have used that as an excuse for failure, but they didn’t and instead have shown that they are ready to take on the big stage.

And then there’s Uruguay.

The tiny little country that has won two World Cups. The country that looks at itself as the minority of minorities. The team that has won the most Copa America’s, above Argentina and Brazil. The team that was given no chance to make it out of Group D after losing to Costa Rica. The team that had to win two “finals” to make it out of the group-stage against two historic European powers. The team that will now be facing the rest of the tournament without its main striker, Luis Suarez.

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Does anyone dare to discard Uruguay?

It is almost like La Celeste was made to live on the edge, to be the ultimate dark horse, the underdog of underdogs. And if there is any team that knows how to beat Brazil in important tournaments, that is Uruguay. After all, there is only one team responsible for the entire Brazilian population's tears after the Maracanazo “tragedy”.

More than half a century has gone by, but the phantom of the 1950 World Cup is still very much alive in the minds of Brazil fans. They might deny it, but by watching how happy they got after Uruguay lost to Costa Rica, you can tell that the resentment is still there.

The Brazilians say that God is Brazilian. And according to what can be read inside the Brazilian football museum in Sao Paulo, He freed them from natural disasters and instead gave them the Maracanazo. If Brazil and Uruguay are able to make it to the quarterfinals, it will be interesting to see if God’s will has changed lately regarding the Uruguayan myth.  

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