World Cup humiliation another blow to Brazil's confidence

Wed Jul 9, 2014 1:21pm EDT
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By Brian Winter

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The World Cup was supposed to be Brazil's coming-out party, the soccer superpower finally revealing itself to be an economic and geopolitical one as well.

Visiting fans and TV viewers would witness not only a month of fabulous soccer, but also the torrid economic growth that lifted 35 million Brazilians from poverty last decade.

Images of glimmering stadiums, specially built bullet trains and newly peaceful shantytowns would showcase Brazil's brand of leftist but market-friendly policies, winning new imitators in Latin America, Africa and beyond.

And, of course, the host team would also win for a record sixth time.

As such, Brazil's 7-1 loss to Germany in Tuesday's semi-final was more than just one of the most shocking results in sporting history. It was a huge blow to the nation's confidence, the latest of several dreams that have failed to come true.

Brazil's once-soaring economy has been stagnant and plagued by high inflation for three years now, with no end in sight. Its diplomatic influence has receded, as other Latin American countries witness its troubles and embrace a more aggressively pro-business path of reform.

The Cup itself was plagued by severe overspending on stadiums, unfinished infrastructure projects and the deaths of nearly a dozen people in construction accidents. Just last week, the collapse of an overpass killed two people in Belo Horizonte, the same city where Brazil's soccer team unraveled on Tuesday.

The news hasn't been all bad. The tournament has showcased some of the most memorable games in years, while the Brazilian people have won universal praise as warm, enthusiastic hosts.   Continued...

A Brazil soccer fan walks in the rain after watching a broadcast of their team's loss against Germany in their 2014 World Cup semi-final match, in Rio de Janeiro July 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva