Brazil can do better; so can Ronaldo

Brazil’s Juan, right, and Brazil’s Lucio, left, compete for the ball with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, center

By CHRIS ZIEMER

(Editor’s note: Chris Ziemer, Sonoma Academy athletic director and head girls soccer coach, is blogging for The Press Democrat at the World Cup in South Africa).

June 24 & 25, 2010

DURBAN, South Africa –
Brazil vs. Portugal … Brazil fans, not team lives up to the hype.

The Germans and Australians tried hard and should be proud. The Dutch, Japanese, South Koreans and Nigerians too. Spain and Switzerland should be applauded. Hats off to Portugal as well. All of these countries rolled into Durban and created a fun and lively environment.

But, when it comes to the World Cup, nothing compares to the swagger of Brazil. Brazil rode into town and Durban was aglow with the Gold & Green. Nobody else came close.

Brazil weren’t worried about Portugal. They want to know who they are playing in the final. Seriously, that came directly from a Brazilian fan. He equated Brazil to our Olympic basketball team, who fears nobody. Bring it on he said, WE ARE BRAZIL!!!

As if they didn’t bring enough Brazilians with them, virtually everybody in the stadium, who wasn’t of Portuguese ancestry, cheered for Brazil.

I would estimate 75 percent of the 62,000 fans wanted Brazil. And, probably half of the other 25 percent, secretly wished they were Brazilian. It’s a guess, but probably not far off. Brazil is the World Cup, their team and fans are the envy of every country and anybody who says otherwise is lying.
Unfortunately, both teams failed to realize the hype of the game and, aside from the festive atmosphere, the game itself was average.

It could have been such a great game, with loads of talented players and two very capable teams. If this was the only game you saw, you might feel cheated. I understand Brazil had no reason to extend themselves, as a 0-0 tie saw them through as group leader.

In the end, their fans were not impressed, so although they won the group, they lost some points with the Samba faithful, who started to boo and whistle in the final minutes. They expect better. And, they should.

Portugal had something to gain, but when the Ivory Coast score was announced 2-0 at the half, they too knew they were good to go and seemed content not losing. Shame on them. Their fans deserve better too.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who was voted player of the game, might be my least favorite player. Is he talented? Yes. Can he change the game on his own? Certainly. Did he? Not even close.

Unless you consider changing the game yelling at his teammates if he didn’t get the ball, losing the ball and walking, standing around and shanking set pieces into the crowd. I saw tonight why he is one of the most photographed players in the World – he stood around most of the game.

Granted he is talented enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, but it is too much to ask to transition and play some defense on occasion?

Plus, I have never seen an athlete so aware of the cameras. Anything he could do to have his image blasted across the World, he did. He is arrogant and a poor role model for youth players. Today it was apparent that he feels if you are talented you can treat your teammates like crap and not work as hard as the rest of your team.

So, the game that was billed as the top game in first round, albeit good fan atmosphere, was a dud.

I have watched five live games and it was the least exciting game I have seen. The only thing it had going for it was the hype and the fact that you felt like either team could break it open at anytime. When that failed to happen, it soured the entire game. I hope both teams can turn it back on in the knockout rounds.

Actually, neither made enough of an impression for me to care. USA and South Korea all of the way, at least they cared enough to leave it all on the field.