Brazil wins back fans with convincing victory
Associated Press in Brasilia
Brazil got what it wanted in the opening game of the Confederations Cup. It beat Japan and regained support from demanding home fans after a series of disappointing home results.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari had acknowledged that it was crucial to play well in the first match of the tournament to get the fans back on board, and Brazil did just that in a convincing 3-0 victory with goals by Neymar, Paulinho and Jo.
Brazil was jeered during home matches earlier this year, but this time got the crowd support it wanted.
“It was natural that the fans reacted like that, especially after we scored a goal just three minutes into the match,” Scolari said. “After that, we got them to support us. If we had scored only in the second half or if Japan had played better, then it would have been more difficult.”
With the stands nearly packed and painted in the yellow colour of the Brazilian jersey, the fans got behind Brazil from the start and the support continued throughout the match at the National Stadium in Brasilia.
“What I saw during the national anthem, with the entire stadium singing, was fantastic. That’s how it needs to be,” Scolari said. “When something like that happens, it can scare the opponent.”
The fans loudly chanted “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil” when the match ended. The starters and substitutes gathered to thank the fans, getting another round of applause from the crowd of 67,423 at the 71,000-capacity stadium in the nation’s capital.
Brazil hasn’t won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and local fans have been eager for a triumph at home in the Confederations Cup and then at the World Cup next year.
“It was great to be able to give this victory to the fans,” defender David Luiz said. “I’m happy that they were behind us and that we gave back by playing good football.
There were some boos for Brazil striker Hulk in the second half, and the fans chanted Lucas’ name on a few occasions, wanting him to come off the bench, but in general the mood of the crowd was positive.
Even 21-year-old Neymar, who was jeered in previous matches after failing to replicate his Santos success in the national team, was praised by the crowd on Saturday. The fans chanted his name several times during the match.
The recently signed Barcelona striker got an ovation when he called for the fans’ support before taking a corner in the second half, then was loudly applauded by fans who got to their feet when he was substituted in the 74th.
Scolari had said that a home loss in the opening match would be “horrible” and would most likely turn the fans against the team in upcoming matches.
Brazilian fans have shown their displeasure with the national team several times since Scolari took over the squad in December, especially after the team won only one of its first six matches. Scolari and the Brazilian players were loudly jeered and booed by nearly 50,000 home fans after a 2-2 draw in a friendly against Chile in April.
Fans gave the team a break after a 3-0 win over France in the last warm-up before Saturday’s opener, but Scolari made it clear that it would be crucial for Brazil to play well against Japan and get the victory.
“This victory makes it easier for us to work and prepare for the next match,” Hulk said.
Brazil now plays Mexico in its second Group A match on Wednesday. It then will play Italy.
The only loud boos from the crowd on Saturday came for FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. They were jeered during their pre-match speech, prompting Blatter to call for “respect” and “fair play” from the “friends of Brazilian football.”