Spain coach Vicente del Bosque believes Brazil could crack under the pressure as this year’s World Cup hosts bid to exorcise the ghosts of their 1950 nightmare.
Brazil scored an emphatic victory over del Bosque’s reigning world champions in the final of last year’s Confederations Cup, boosting the hosts’ hopes of a repeat triumph at the World Cup.
However, speaking on the sidelines of a two-day seminar for World Cup coaches on Wednesday in Brazil, del Bosque said the home side’s famously passionate support could prove to be a burden.
“Brazil will have the fans behind them but this could come back to bite them as it heaps the pressure on,” warned del Bosque, who insisted his side’s Confederations Cup loss to the Selecao is “water under the bridge.”
The possibility of Brazilian failure on home soil continues to loom large for the hosts, 64 years after their famous defeat to Uruguay at the climax of the 1950 tournament.
The 2-1 loss before nearly 200,000 fans at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium is regarded as something close to a national tragedy, a traumatic and humiliating defeat that remains one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets.
Croatia coach Niko Kovac, whose side will open the tournament against the hosts in Sao Paolo on June 12, also warned that Brazil might be overwhelmed by the pressure.
“Brazil will have a big support, not only at the stadium but also from 200 million people in front of their televisions. But at the same time it is a pressure for the host, which could be our advantage,” he said.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insisted however that the country had learnt from the past and would be able to cope with the weight of expectation.
“Before 1950, Brazil had never been to the final,” Scolari told reporters. “They acted as pioneers for our five titles won since.”
Scolari, who masterminded Brazil’s last World Cup triumph, at the 2002 finals in Japan and South Korea, had no qualms about setting the bar high for his current side.
Critics say his side is far from the vintage Brazilian teams of old.
“We have to think big and aim to win it,” he said. “Otherwise what am I doing here as coach?”
Wednesday’s seminar opened a day after football’s world governing body Fifa dropped a threat to exclude Curitiba as one of 12 venues for this year’s tournament.
Fifa gave the Arena da Baixada a reprieve after preparations were stepped up over the past month.
Despite concerns over venue readiness and security several coaches said they expected Brazil to stage a successful World Cup, noting that pre-tournament fears at past editions had often proven unfounded.
“People had various concerns ahead of South Africa in 2010,” said Cameroon coach Volker Finke.
“There were the same discussions on how it might be difficult because of organisation, how it (the host nation) wasn’t European-style.
“But I am confident things will go off all right,” said Finke as he and 24 other coaches attended the seminar.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, whose team will play Nigeria at the venue, said he always believed Curitiba would make it.
“I think it can be a great World Cup – with players like (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo we should savour it,” said Queiroz.
Alluding to the controversy over Curitiba, he said: “It’s always like that – part of the (preparations) package.
“There were a couple of situations with frustrating moments, some shaky moments.
“But my gut feeling was there was no way Curitiba could lose this opportunity to be in the World Cup.
“Okay, there were a couple of problems but with due respect 50 per cent was media speculation,” former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Queiroz said.
Brazil’s preparations have been hit by public protests over the cost of staging the event – and the Rio Olympics in 2016 – rather than investing in poor infrastructure.
Several coaches did not attend the workshop, including those of Germany, Algeria, Belgium, Chile, Italy and Japan.
With less than four months to go, the coaches, who will discuss security issues Thursday, looked at a range of logistics topics including medical and media issues, accommodation and marketing.
The coaches will give a final press conference Thursday ahead of Friday’s Local Organising Committee board meeting.