Opinion – The World is a Ball: Champions of America, but not of the world


Brazilian clubs have proven to be dominant in South America. So much so that, of the last ten Libertadores (from 2013 to 2022), they won six, including the four most recent.

Another edition of the main continental tournament is starting –it is the 64th–, and I have a strong feeling that it will be a national team to win it again.

Athletico-PR, Atlético-MG, Corinthians, Flamengo (current champion), Fluminense, Fortaleza, Internacional and Palmeiras are in contention.

The dominance of national teams is so great that since 2020 the duel in the decision is brasuca (Palmeiras x Santos, Palmeiras x Flamengo and Flamengo x Athletico-PR, in this sequence). It doesn’t have River Plate or Boca Juniors, the two Argentine giants, that it has been able to bother.

While doing well in South America, Brazilian teams disappoint with recurrence in the final step to glory: winning the Club World Cup.

None of the six who have won the Libertadores since 2013 have been able to lift the trophy in the competition organized by Fifa, which has had different venues (Japan, Qatar, Morocco, United Arab Emirates).

In this way, the brightness is limited, it is “only” regional, it does not illuminate the planet. Faced with the enormous expectation of shining even more, the result is a “blackout”. The light loses intensity and is like a low-battery flashlight.

In this year’s World Cup, which ends this Saturday (11th) in Morocco, the disappointing team was Flamengo, who held strong favoritism against Al Hilal, from Saudi Arabia, in the semifinal.

It fell by 3 to 2. There were complaints about the refereeing, who scored two penalties for the Middle East team and expelled midfielder Gerson at the end of the first half, but the technical difference is so great that they blame the referee sounds like a testament to incompetence.

It is expected that, at the World Cup, the South American representative will reach the final. It is seen as an obligation, since the opponents are always inferior, when it comes to the squad.

Except that the Brazilians, incredibly, manage to stumble in the semifinal. Before Flamengo, Atlético-MG won 3-1 against Raja Casablanca (Morocco), in 2013, and Palmeiras lost 1-0 against Tigres (Mexico), in 2020.

In my view, the causes are primarily high heels, pride, the “already won”.

Recorded vexations, comes the dispute for third place, which only serves to reinforce in the fan’s head the memory of the misfortune of days before, making him ruminate on pain, frustration, sadness, anger.

Coming, the bronze medal, for someone who should be in the dispute for the cup, is of tremendous bitterness. In fact, only Brazilians went through this, the dispute for third place. The European champions, since the FIFA World Cup began to take place every year (from 2005), have always reached the decisive game.

In the 2000 edition, the opening of the World Cup, in Brazil, the representatives of Europe did not reach the final. Manchester United (group stage) and Real Madrid (semifinal) were on the way, and Corinthians overcame Vasco in the decision and became champion.

This event was very unusual. It had the feel of a “vacation tournament” (it was at the beginning of the year), somewhat experimental, with some of the participants being defined by Fifa without the expected requirements, which did not contribute to giving credibility to the competition.

Corinthians, for example, played without being the winner of the Libertadores the previous year, won by arch-rival Palmeiras, who did not participate – Vasco, champion of the Libertadores in 1998, did.

That is, in a paradox, Corinthians saw itself as world champion without being champion of America.

With that aside about the 2000 World Cup, the fact is that in the ten years since 2013, the European representative has not failed in the competition. He has always won, whether from Brazil (Real Madrid x Grêmio, in 2017, Liverpool x Flamengo, in 2019, Chelsea x Palmeiras, in 2021), or from any other (Argentine, Mexican, Japanese, Moroccan, Emirati)..

(A parenthesis: I write before Real Madrid x Al Hilal, the 2023 decision; Real losing, will be one of the greatest upsets in the history of football; winning, reinforces the lines of the previous paragraph.)

Finally –and it is not possible to say that it is worse than falling in the semifinal, but it is also worrying–, when advancing to the decision, the Brazilian team is visibly inferior to the opponent from the old continent.

It happened, in recent years, with Palmeirenses, with Flamengo supporters, with Gremistas. Even losing just a little, they played very unconvincing football, leaving no room for the argument that “they deserved to have won”. On the contrary. They deserved defeat, given the superiority of Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid.

Thus, Brazil completes ten years without a club world title. The last one was Corinthians, in 2012 – this one having Libertadores on its curriculum.

Adding to the lack of more than 20 years of the Brazilian team in the World Cup, the scenario is gloomy for the so-called “country of football”.

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