On 30th June, Brazil faced Spain in the final of the 2013 Confederation Cup.
Spain, current World Champions, current European Champions, current world No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings and unbeaten in a competitive match for 27 games, stretching back over three years.
Brazil, currently ranked 22nd in the world (their worst position ever). And with three wins, five draws and one defeat before the tournament, under Scolari’s second stint as manager.
There was only ever going to be one winner right? Right. Brazil.
An incredible Maracanã atmosphere spurred Brazil to their third consecutive FIFA Confederations Cup, with a brilliant 3-0 win. Fred grabbed a brace and Neymar scored yet another spectacular goal.
So, how can you explain this incredible result going so against current form? How can you explain Brazil being pre-tournament favourites? Simple. Brazil were playing in Brazil.
Think of Brazilian football as a brand. It is the most recognised and most revered national football brand in the world.
Their famous yellow jersey with green trim and blue shorts with white trim – designed by a nineteen-year-old in a national competition, following defeat in the final in Maracanã at the 1950 World Cup, after which the team colours of all white with blue collars were criticised for lacking patriotism – is the most recognisable brand identity in football.
Their brand personality – skillful, creative, flair football – has made them the most successful football team of all time. For over twenty years they enjoyed virtually uninterrupted supremacy in the FIFA world rankings from 1995 to 2007 (with the exception of brief spell by France in 2002). Sine then they have ceded the top spot to Italy, Argentina, Holland and, most recently, Spain.
So, what has gone wrong? Well, Brazilian football has been a victim of it’s own success.
It’s employees (the players) have been poached by other companies (top European clubs). The desired affect has been achieved by these clubs: more attractive football, their existing players learning from some of the best talent in the world, better attendances, more shirt sales.
But the opposite, could be claimed, has resulted for the Brazilian players. They were slowly being influenced by the European style of play. European footballers are getting used to playing against them and working out how to play against them.
While Brazilian footballers were having a positive affect on Eurpoean football. European football was having a negative affect on Brazilian footballers.
Take the Brazil v Russia friendly on 25th March. A last minute side-footed goal from Hulk, saved the Brazilian’s the embarrassment of losing to their opponents for the first time in 33 years.
The Brazil starting eleven included eight players currently plying their trade with European clubs.
The Confederation Cup being held in Brazil, was like a well-overdue brand seminar for Brazilian football. The players were re-familiarised with the brand essence, the brand personality and, most importantly, their core target audience.
Brazilian football fans expect the game to be played the Brazilian way. They enjoy it that way week in, week out at club level. And they demand it that way from their national team.
Fortunately, for everyone (and I’m not just talking about the Brazilians, I’m talking about every fan of football) the team got back ‘on brand’ and got more and more Brazilian, as the tournament went on.
With next year’s World Cup Finals being hosted by Brazil, who will be betting against them now?