What are the expectations for the team?
Ever the favourites, expectations about Brazil’s chances are being tempered by fitness doubts concerning Kaka and Dunga’s apparent reluctance to include Ronaldinho and Santos sensation Neymar. In response to press and public alarm the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) spin machine argues that Kaka will be fine. Brazilians consider Spain, England and, most alarmingly for local sentiment, a Messi-inspired Argentina to be their greatest rivals.
Is the coach popular?
Dunga’s appointment was regarded as a populist move by CBF president Ricardo Teixeira. But a qualifying campaign that sagged in the middle and regular skirmishes with the media mean the coach’s popularity is fragile. His approach has limited appeal to fans who like their World Cup triumphs (and failures) topped with panache. Scapegoated as a player after Italia 90, Dunga could repeat the experience as coach.
Who are the best and worst interviewees?
The most intelligent (or perhaps bland) interviewee is Kaka, but the most quotable players have retired. Expect most to be “on message”, with the rogue elements led by the mischievous Robinho. The Brazilian media won’t let the inanity get in the way of spending loads of time and money chasing players to talk about how they will give cem por cento and won’t underestimate North Korea.
Is the team likely to have any unusual goal celebrations?
If any of his Santos team-mates join Robinho in the squad more time could be spent on choreography than tactics. The most likely remains a sprint for a touchline hug with Dunga, who could be too busy gesticulating at the press or dissident fans to notice. Little though to rival the trademark festivities of Pelé, Careca or Bebeto.
Are any players involved in politics?
None has yet advertised serious political ambitions, although it is debatable how much they would add to the largely charisma-free zone that is Brazil’s presidential election this year.
Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
Brazil’s World Cup campaigns between 1950 and 1970 inspired more music mainly perhaps because of the importance of radio in that era. Impromptu music on the team bus or dressing room has more appeal than lengthy recording studio sessions. Music lovers everywhere rejoice.
What will the media coverage be like?
Various ex-players are expected on World Cup duty. Junior is one of the better pundits, although the overall quality is compromised by the insistence on inviting former referees into the commentary box. There will be intensive television coverage but Brazilian elimination is likely to trigger a massive deflation in public interest with World Cup commercials being pulled early if the team exits before the last week. Success for Argentina would probably prompt a news blackout. Companies are trying to cash in with non-stop World Cup advertising. The efforts to exhort Brazil’s pampered players as “’warriors” was given short shrift by Tostão, who observed that “playing good football will help as well”. Robert Shaw