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Next year’s World Cup finals cast long shadow over 2013

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Brazil fans walk in the direction of the main stadium during the 2013 Confederations Cup

Brazil fans walk in the direction of the main stadium during the 2013 Confederations Cup. In the background are anti-riot policemen. 

By  AGENCIES

Posted  Saturday, December 28  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Angry Brazilians targeted the Confederations Cup warmup event in June to gain maximum publicity for their grievances about the paucity of government funds for health, education, public transportation and welfare while billions were being spent on stadiums.

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The World Cup finals are not taking place until the middle of next year but they cast a long and, at times, disturbing shadow over Brazil and the world of soccer in 2013.

As countries battled to qualify for the finals, Brazil was convulsed by protests in more than 100 cities about the vast amount of money being spent to stage the tournament.

Angry Brazilians targeted the Confederations Cup warmup event in June to gain maximum publicity for their grievances about the paucity of government funds for health, education, public transportation and welfare while billions were being spent on stadiums.

The building of those stadiums has caused no end of problems too, falling behind schedule to cause more headaches for world governing body FIFA and Brazil’s World Cup organisers.
An accident which killed two workers in Sao Paulo in November means the stadium being used for the opening match in June will not be ready until April. Fan violence at Brazilian championship matches is another worrying development.

The authorities are under no illusions about what could happen off the field next year, but what may happen on it will preoccupy the rest of the world.

Under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil are emerging as favourites to win the World Cup for the sixth time. Victory on home soil would go some way to alleviate the pain of what is still regarded as a national tragedy - failing to win in 1950, the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil.

Scolari has spoken at length about how the crowds at the Confederations Cup inspired players like Neymar, Fred and Paulinho to take the trophy with a scintillating 3-0 victory over world champions Spain in the final at Rio’s Maracana.

Spain will be back to defend the title they won in South Africa in 2010 and attempt to become the first European side to win a World Cup in Latin America.

Vicente del Bosque’s side qualified comfortably, coming through their preliminary matches unbeaten, and remained top of FIFA’s world rankings throughout the year.
But Spain face tough competition from Brazil and the improving South American sides of Argentina and Chile, and also from much closer to home.

Emerging Germans
This year’s outstanding European side were Germany who ended the international year on a high while Bayern Munich regained the European club title.

Joachim Loew’s youthful squad cruised through their World Cup qualifying campaign, winning nine and drawing one of their 10 matches to raise expectations they can become world champions for the first time since 1990.

Ranked second to Spain in FIFA’s world list, Germany’s inventive midfield boast attacking talents like Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller and are able to take the pressure off a sometimes less than impressive backline.

They ended the year with a 1-0 win over England at Wembley, the same venue at which Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in an all-German Champions League final full of drama and attacking football. The game had a twist in the tail as Arjen Robben, who missed a penalty when Bayern lost to Chelsea in the 2012 final, scored his club’s late winner.

Bayern, who also claimed the German title and cup, and Dortmund had emphatically proved Germany’s club superiority over Spain in the semis.

Bayern thrashed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate while Dortmund beat Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg to go through 4-3 on aggregate. Whether these results reflect a switch in the balance of European power from Spain to Germany will be seen next year.

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