An Eventful Opening For The Confederations Cup

Brasilia experienced everything a World class event has to offer Saturday. A dominant 3-0 win for the Home team, angry protesters engaging in conflict with the police outside the stadium, and a crowd superior to 67,000 soundly booing FIFA President Joseph Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff.

Over the past week many Brazilians took it to the streets to protest against their government. The spark for the manifestations was an increase on the price of bus fares. The bus fare raise was of 20 Brazilian cents, equivalent to 10 American cents.

It started peacefully, but after a while the first protest, which occurred in Brazil’s biggest city Sao Paulo, became a display of violence. Protesters blocked one of Sao Paulo’s main streets, and when the police attempted to move the mass back and allow cars through, they were answered with a shower of rocks and Molotov cocktails. Police responded shooting rubber bullets and throwing tear gas grenades at the crowd in attempts to disperse them.

After that first spark, the protests spread to other major cities like Rio de Janeiro. And as FIFA President Joseph Blatter said, those protesters wish to use the Confederations Cup as a platform for their causes.

“Football exists here to unite people. This is clear, and I know a little about the manifestations that are taking place here [Brazil],” Blatter said. “I think people are using the platform of football and the presence of the international media here to make certain protests clear.”

Before Saturday’s opening match, Brazilian police stopped all car traffic on a three kilometer radius. So fans had to reach the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha the old fashioned way: walking. A refreshing walk under a scalding Brazilian sun. During that walk, fans whose only objective was to go and enjoy the spectacle of soccer caught a glimpse of what would later occur outside the stadium.

Protesters started gathering three hours before the match, some had their faces painted as clowns to protest against the spending of public money on the World Cup. Everything was peaceful up to that point. Although later on, those peaceful protesters would have to be repelled by police as they tried to impede fans from reaching the stadium.

The stadium itself is a work of art. Like none the Brazilian people have seen before. Estadio Nacional could compete on par with any European soccer stadium, and is without a doubt a stage deserving of receiving World Cup matches.

Before the opening kickoff, fans witnessed a one of a kind opening ceremony. It exemplified the characteristics of the people who will be hosting next year’s World Cup, with lots of singing, dancing, and of course soccer.

After the opening ceremony, an opening speech was to be given by Blatter and Rouseff. If only the fans allowed it to happen. As soon as the stadium announcer called up FIFA President Joseph Blatter on the speakers an uproar started. Children, adults, elderly, men, women, all started booing with all their strength.

Blatter seemed confused at first, but managed to keep his composure and give a quick speech in a mix of Portuguese and Spanish which also did not seem to please the fans. He then thanked the Brazilian authorities who allowed and helped the event. And as soon as he announced President Dilma Rouseff, the booing got significantly louder.

Louder to a point where Rouseff would not be able to be heard over the booing. Blatter got the microphone back and asked the fans to have some respect with their leader. Result: louder booing. Realizing it would not cease, Rouseff got the microphone from Blatter and quickly declared open the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013.

Now it was finally time for what fans really paid to see. The opening match between Brazil and Japan. First time Brazil will play on their Capital’s newly built stadium.

The Estadio Nacional is named after one the greatest players to ever play soccer: Mane Garrincha. For those who don’t know the game, you only need to look into the history books. Pele was the greatest player, but Garrincha was the one who provided the fans with most joy.

He was a dribbler. He would do things with the ball players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would not even think about. If Pele was the greatest player, Garrincha was the greatest dribbler. His resume includes countless broken ankles, two World Cups, and a legacy for the young Brazilians who came after him. The Futebol Arte (Art Soccer).

Futebol Arte, developed by Brazil, loved by Brazilians, played by Brazilians. From kids on the street, to super stars playing overseas their goal is to play their country’s Futebol Arte.

A tradition of beautiful playing, art. An art the rest of the World caught glimpses of from the feet of Brazil’s greatest players through time. Players who were not known for their tactical knowledge or defensive skills, but still brought home five World Cups. Zico, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho. Masters on the art of filling people’s eyes with joy, an art started by the magic legs of Garrincha.

An art that might today have its true heir ready to take his crown and lead his country to a sixth title. Maybe it was an act of destiny that this player’s final stretch towards his first World Cup starts on the Stadium named after the first master, of the wings, of the art of dribbling, of making his people cheer. Maybe it is finally Neymar’s time.

Hated by many loved by more, the Pressure on the 21-year-old is no child’s play. The hopes of over 200 million people lie on his shoulders. Saturday against Japan, that weight seemed to be light as a feather for the youngster.

Three minutes was all it took for Neymar to score the first goal of the 2013 Confederations Cup, and take away all the doubt around his form leading to this competition. A beautiful set up by Fred placed the ball on the perfect spot for Neymar to snipe it into the top left corner of Japan’s goal.

Fans were jubilant for the first 15 minutes of the first half, chanting without breaks, but soon they got bored. Brazil decided to play a possession minded style of match. Let alone some sporadic attempts made by Neymar on the left side and a Hulk long shot that hit the side-netting, there wasn’t much to see during the rest of the first half. The players who mostly had possession of the ball were defenders David Luis and Thiago Silva.

The second half started as boring as the first, but Paulinho gave the fans something to cheer about. After a high cross by Dani Alves found the Corinthians man, he set the ball and buried it into the net.

Brazil then went back to their conservative play. Frustrated fans on the stands started a usual chant during Brazil’s games: Lucas! Lucas! Lucas!

Lucas in place of Hulk. A change Brazilian fans and journalist plead Coach Luis Felipe Scolari to make. It is no news Hulk is still to impress his home crowd, as they have never seen him play on the same level he plays overseas.

Scolari however, seems to keep his faith on Hulk. He gave the people what they wanted, Lucas entered the match, but replacing Neymar. A mix of booing and claps came from the crowd, who had no idea what to do, as they were pleased Lucas was entering the match, but infuriated Neymar was leaving.

Lucas did his part, creating opportunities from the moment he entered. On the Japan side, all their chances were created and lost by the duo Honda and Kagawa, who tried their best during the course of the match, but did not find a way to trespass the iron wall formed by David Luis and Thiago Silva.

As the match drew near to its end, the crowd had already started getting up and leaving the stadium with a ‘we wanted more’ air hovering over them.

Oscar might have felt that. He started a furious counter attack from the left accompanied by the fresh legs of Jo, who replaced Fred late in the second half. Oscar rewarded Jo’s effort with a beautiful through ball, and Jo side footed it into the net giving Brazil a 3-0 lead and the fans a little more to celebrate on their way home.

Next for Brazil is an Olympic final rematch against Mexico, were the home team will look for a little vendetta after their Olympic fiasco in London 2012.

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