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Why the World Cup is about more than just football for Brazil

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For Brazil, the World Cup is about more than just football. Every country makes this claim, of course. And to an extent, they are right. The World Cup is arguably the single biggest sporting event on earth and it represents a chance for each participating nation to make itself the talk of the globe.

But for Brazil, it goes a little deeper than being the subject of water cooler chat. The ‘Copa’ is a part of Brazil’s national identity- more than that- their brand. Having lifted the Jules Rimet trophy 5 times, the Seleção are the most successful World Cup side ever. They have also participated in every tournament to date. Take advantage now of the best World Cup Betting Offers

They are more closely associated with the tournament than any other country. Everyone has a collection of personal memories from World Cup tournaments passed and those canary yellow shirts act like a ribbon tying together the global consciousness around the competition. My wife, who is Brazilian, once told me that football is not Brazil’s national sport- winning is.

It just so happens that soccer is the sport they have excelled at the most. Ayrton Senna is a national icon the equal of Pelé, even though formula 1 is not an enormously popular sport. The success of Anderson Silva turned UFC into a sport of national interest overnight. When it comes to sport, what Brazil truly loves are winners- no matter the equipment they wield.

Historically, Brazil is quite ‘young’, discovered and ultimately colonised by Portugal in the 16th century. It has a limited history of military conflict and, for better or worse, wars are a key component of forging national identity and history. Like most Latin American countries, Brazil often, justifiably, feels ignored due to the prominence of Europe and the United States.

So sporting excellence in the global arena, if only briefly, catapults Brazil into the global consciousness. The World Cup forms a big part of this- winning the World Cup is what Brazil do, it’s what they are associated with, it’s their global brand. If you randomly stop any European in the street and ask for the first three things they think about when you say “Brazil”, either the World Cup, or Pelé, will likely form part of their answer, along with “beaches”, “samba” and “carnaval.”

Beaches, samba and carnaval are all, of course, prominent things in Brazil, but a lot of the association with them is rooted in stereotype. The World Cup is different and an altogether more serious part of their national brand. The arrival of another tournament allows Brazil to be spoken about as a national superpower.

This is why the 7-1 semi-final defeat against Germany in 2014 was so much more than a harrowing defeat on the football pitch. It made the Seleção a laughing stock at their own party. The tournament that was supposed to showcase the country as an emerging global economy ended in ridicule and humiliation.

The Petrobras scandal and the impeachment of President Dilma Roussef that followed tore this wound asunder and made it septic. Brazil was in the global news for all the wrong reasons. Political and economic turmoil remains, but Tite’s football revolution has allowed for the Seleção to be talked about as a global superpower on the pitch again. When Brazil kick off their World Cup campaign in Russia on Sunday, the meaning will resonate far beyond the football pitch.


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