Zico, Brazil’s most celebrated playmaker and former number 10, has predicted his country will not win next year’s World Cup on home soil, and fears fan disengagement from the sport.
The star of Brazil’s 1982 World Cup squad – which also included the likes of Falcão and Sócrates (“a brilliant man who was tragically unable to apply his intelligence to dealing with his own problems”, according to Zico) – often hailed as the best team never to win the tournament, believes the lack of experienced star players who have a track record of competing at the highest levels, will be a contributing factor to next year’s failure.
The group of players we have now look unlikely to win the World Cup, even with home support,” stated the former Flamengo midfielder in an interview with The Guardian. “The main problem is that we are a year from the World Cup and we still don’t know who the first 11 is.
The Brazil team is still very young. A whole new generation came in at once. So now you get all the responsibility on a player like Neymar, who is only 21 and has never played in a World Cup before.
“We need some players who have been there and done that so the spotlight is on them rather than the young, up and coming players.
Arthur Antunes Coimbra – as he is more formally known – was also critical of the CBF in their handling of former coach, Mano Menezes, who was sacked late last year. He was replaced with 2002 World Cup winning coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has since failed to stem the national team’s poor run of form.
They switched at the wrong time; just as Menezes’s team was starting to come together. Now Scolari is having to start all over again,” he said.
The now 60 year old Zico is still passionate about the game he helped make beautiful, and is arguably Brazil’s most famous number 10 – second only to Pele, of course. Living in Rio de Janeiro’s Barra district, his home includes a five-a-side grass pitch and a personal trophy room crammed full of memorabilia and awards won from his illustrious playing career.
Far from just sitting back and living off his name, Zico is still very much active in Brazil’s footballing community, urging people to stay active (he, himself still plays beach football with other national team veterans) and to go to stadiums to watch live football. However, he senses the gap between the common fan and the sport could be widening due to the many scandals that continue to dog the game, along with the corporate control.
The population of Brazil seems distant from the World Cup, because of what people see as corruption, they lose faith and think the World Cup is just a way for people to line their pockets.
I talk to Ronaldo, who is on the organising committee, and I say: ‘Do something to rebuild public trust because it is important for people to reconnect.’
The World Cup will be OK. We’ll find a way to ensure that. But it won’t be all it could be unless there is a change.
So, if Brazil are not going to claim their sixth World Cup in 2014, who will?
Zico tips his country’s arch-rival, Argentina – the team that boasts the current best number 10 in the world – just as long as another Brazilian nightmare scenario doesn’t unfold:
If they [Argentina] win, I just hope it is not in the final against Brazil, or we will suffer just like we did against Uruguay in 1950. Then the Maracanã [stadium] will seem a cursed place.