Brazil’s road to becoming the best nation in football again

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MARCH 28: Brazil's Neymar Jr. in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying group match between Brazil and Paraguay at Arena Corinthians Stadium on March 28, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Leonardo Benassatto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MARCH 28: Brazil's Neymar Jr. in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying group match between Brazil and Paraguay at Arena Corinthians Stadium on March 28, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Leonardo Benassatto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

Brazil’s rise back to the top

When people talk about Brazil and football, all they can think about now is the 7-1 game now. And who can blame them. On July 8, 2014, Germany handed Brazil it’s most outrageous, humiliating lose in its history. Even more embarrassing than the 1950 fiasco when they lost to Uruguay at home in the World Cup Final.

As a life-long fan of Brazil, the Germany game was the most painful football match I ever witnessed. To this day, I avoid watching the highlights of the game, but it’s not 2014 anymore and the Brazil team of 2017 is much better than that team, but it’s been a long road back to the top.

Since 2014, It’s been a bumpy road for Brazil since that fateful day in July. When the World Cup ended in 2014, Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari resigned and Brazil re-hired Dunga, a coach they fired back in 2010. Dunga’s first real test as coach again would be the Copa America in 2015. Beyond the massive pressure Dunga was facing to provide Brazil with a championship and restore some severance of happiness to a nation, the Copa America would be played one year after the World Cup disaster. Anything but a win would be a failure.

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In The Copa America, Brazil started off rocky with a 90 minute winner needed to beat Peru in the first game. In the second game of the tournament, history repeated itself, but in a slightly different way. In 2014, Neymar played Colombia, got injured and would never play again in the rest of the World Cup. When Brazil played Colombia in the second match of the Copa America, Neymar would get into an altercation and be suspended for the remainder of the tournament.

Two summers in a row Neymar would be taken out of a tournament. Because of this, Dunga would need to win the tournament without his best player, but he ended up failing. Brazil crashed out in the Quarters against Paraguay on penalties. The nation wept for the second year in a row.

Luckily for Dunga, he wasn’t fired. His next tasks as a coach would be to win games for World Cup qualifiers and win the Copa America Centenario. Before the Centenario tournament would start in the summer, Dunga coached six World Cup Qualifier matches from October 2015 to March 2016. Brazil’s record in the games were two wins, three draws and a loss.

After the first six games were done and with the Centenario looming, Brazil were facing the realization that making the 2018 World Cup was not a given. Which is hard to believe since Brazil are the only nation to appear in every tournament since it’s inception. Considering this, Dunga was on thin ice as a coach heading into the Centenario tournament.

And Barcelona weren’t giving him any favors. Barcelona had told Brazil that Neymar would only be allowed to play in one tournament in the summer; either the Copa America or The 2016 Summer Olympics. Because Brazil had never won an Olympic gold medal and the Olympics were being hosted by Brazil, Neymar decided to forgo the Copa America and represent his country in the Olympics. Dunga was then tasked to win without Neymar again.

And he failed horribly, again. Brazil crashed out of the Copa America in the group stage. On June 14, 2016, Brazil fired Dunga. And though nobody knew it then, in the same month, Brazil made a change that would bring them back to the top of the football world. In June of 2016, Brazil hired Tite to replace Dunga. One of the first things Tite did as coach was to announce that he would not coach Brazil in the Olympics, as Dunga was going to and that Rogerio Micale would coach them as he had more experience with the players.

In the Olympics, Brazil drew 0-0  in the first two games. And everybody was prepared to say here we go again! And then something changed against Denmark in the third match. Brazil was scoring and they never stopped all the way to the finals. It went from Brazil can’t score to Brazil hadn’t allowed any team to score on them. There was renewed hope. And then, it was found out that Brazil would be playing Germany in the Olympic final. Only this time, Neymar would be playing, unlike in the World Cup.

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Then in the final, Germany did what nobody managed to do all tournament long, they scored on Brazil and tied the game at 1-1. For a country that witnessed so much heartbreak over the years, it was amazing to see them get a Cinderella moment, as Neymar was tasked to scoring the game deciding shot in the penalties. And just like that, history was made. Brazil, led by Neymar won it’s first ever gold medal in the Olympics. In 2014, Brazil lost the World Cup at home. In 2015 and 2016, Brazil lost the Copa America, but finally in 2016, there was celebration for Brazil.

Tite’s decision to make Rogerio Micale the coach instead of him, was the first sign of Brazil’s smart decision of hiring him. Tite’s next tasks as coach would be to fix Dunga’s mistakes and make Brazil a winning team in the qualifiers and nobody was prepared for what would happen. Since Tite’s overtaking of Dunga, Brazil have won 8 straight qualifiers and have qualified for the World Cup in 2018

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And because of these wins, Brazil are now the top team in the FIFA rankings for the first time in almost a decade. It’s been a long time coming for the samba kings to regain their form and only time will tell if they will finally get that crown jewel of a sixth title in 2018.