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To be or not to be: Did too much Samba and “Joga Bonito” affect Brazil at Qatar 2022?

For Brazil – not only the team itself but also for the whole country – the FIFA World Cup is a huge celebration, a reason to call for unity, as everybody watches and cheers for a team that is always earmarked as a big favourite to win the trophy. It definitely is not about their heritage, despite Brazil being the team with the largest number of titles in the competition – five – but also because they are always packed with stars and excellent players.

At the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, it was the same story, the same case, everything was going Brazil’s way, the “joga bonito” style in full flow, and the team raking up win after win. Until their luck turned. From the samba dances provided in celebration of the four goals in the Round of 16 match against the Republic of Korea, won by Brazil 4-1, to the tears after the penalty shootout against Croatia in the quarter-finals, there were only a few days in between.

How could it happen, how could this fall from grace come in such a short amount of time? The answer is, well, football. Because football does not forgive and does not forget. And Brazil, while supremely talented, looked to be overconfident and even focused on choosing the dances displayed after goals before the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

“To tell you the truth, we already have dances prepared for up to the 10th goal. We have some 10 dances prepared for each match, one for the first, one for the second, one for the third … If we score more than 10, then we’ll have to start innovating,” said winger Raphinha before the start of Qatar 2022.

The first piece of choreography was based on “Pagodao do Birimbola” by Brazilian group Os Quebradeiras, one of the most popular songs on TikTok in Brazil. Others followed, as Brazil looked better and better. But 10 different dances? Well… Only a small hiccup, though: Brazil only scored eight goals at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and their two penalty misses – coming from Rodrygo and Marquinhos – in the game against Croatia saw them crashing out.

No samba, no dances, no funk moves, only tears and disappointment after an elimination that few could have foreseen. Sure, for Brazil, this definitely hurts, as they were seen as the number one favourites for the trophy even by FIFA’s website during the competition.

But for others, it was just apt that a team that was more focused on showboating than playing real football crashed out. There were immediate critics, as Brazil’s players were branded as “disrespectful” after celebrating their drubbing of Korea, with every goal subsequently followed by a dance sequence.

Even coach Tite, who announced his resignation after Qatar 2022, chimed in, celebrating in Richarlison’s trademark style after the striker scored a goal against their Asian opponents.

“I think it’s a connection I have with the younger generation. I am 61 years old and work with players that are 21-22 years old. They could be my grandchildren and I have a connection with them. And if I have to dance to connect with them, then I’ll continue dancing,” said Tite after the win against Korea.

Sure, it looked amazing, players living their dream on the biggest of stages and sharing a bit of the Brazilian culture that helped them get here. They are not the first and will not be the last Brazilian players to samba their way at the FIFA World Cup.

“The dance is a symbol, this symbolic way to show our joy of scoring a goal. We don’t do it to disrespect, we don’t go in front of the opponent, we don’t to anything. We gathered around, you can see that, everyone is here. And then we started to celebrate, it is our moment, we scored a goal, so Brazil celebrates. If we score another goal, we will keep celebrating,” said Lucas Paqueta before the game against Croatia.

Yet the opposite is also true. Whenever a difficult challenge appeared, would Brazil be ready and thwart the opponent? Eventually, a sobre Croatia, a team built on grit, hard work and efficiency rather than free-flowing football, won the game, after tying the match as late as it could have, in the 117th minute.

“They have their own way, they celebrate how they know how. It’s festive, shows unity, they’re demonstrating their character and tradition, and it’s their right. I would not like to see my players celebrate like that, but it’s a different culture. They like to dance, and it’s nice to watch,” Croatia manager Zlatko Dalić said.

And Croatia duly respected Brazil, never let them out of their sights, and eventually emerged winners from one of the toughest games in the competition, celebrating their second consecutive semi-final at the FIFA World Cup. For Brazil, it was another missed opportunity, another chance thrown out of the window, with a sublime generation trying to impress both on and off the pitch.

Are there any lessons to be learned? Probably not. Brazil will continue to be Brazil and its rivals will watch them under a microscope. Only the samba will forever be present.

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