There are some very good reasons why Brazil and their fans have every right to be confident going into their second FIFA Confederations Cup match against Mexico in Fortaleza on Wednesday - 30 of them in fact.
That is the number of games A Seleção have gone unbeaten on home soil, a run that stretches all the way back to 21 August 2002, when Paraguay won 1-0, also in Fortaleza, in what was Luiz Felipe Scolari’s last game in his first spell in charge of the national side.
The sequence is made up of nine draws and 21 victories, the latest of them last Saturday’s emphatic 3-0 defeat of Japan. In that time the Brazilians – making light of the burden of expectation that is always placed on them when they play at home – have scored 72 goals, an average of 2.4 per game, and conceded 18, a mere 0.6 per match.
“It shows how strong we are here, even with the pressure that’s on us, which is only to be expected,” striker Fred told FIFA.com. “Quite apart from those stats, what’s surprised us more than anything is the support we’ve had from the fans. Obviously that all depends on how we perform on the pitch, but we hope to carry on winning so that we can keep the run going and, most importantly of all, keep the fans on our side.”
A Seleção have faced some stiff tests during that impressive unbeaten run, taking on their biggest South American rivals Argentina and Uruguay four and two times respectively, while also lining up against the Netherlands, Portugal and, in recent weeks, England and France.
All of which begs a simple question: why have there been so many doubts about the team of late? Surprisingly for someone who has just started making his way at senior level, 21-year-old midfielder Oscar has a convincing answer. “Brazil haven’t been winning titles lately and that’s put a little bit of pressure on us,” he told FIFA.com. “But we’ve always been very strong at home, as the statistics show.”
That strength was clear for all to see at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia on Saturday. Urged on by a capacity crowd, Brazil lifted the tension just three minutes in, thanks to Neymar’s spectacular strike.
Goals do not always come so early, however, and regardless of Brazil’s superb home record, the patience of players and fans alike could well be tested should future opponents prove harder to break down.
“There were certain stages of the game when we held off a little, and maybe the fans didn’t understand that, though they were really important for us in that opening match,” said midfielder Paulinho. “Their support is so important for us. You could see that in Brasilia. We have to do our job and we’re winning the fans over little by little. We need to work as hard as we can to get the Brazilian people right behind us.”
Scolari’s men have succeeded in doing that so far and will hope to strengthen their bond with the supporters further in Fortaleza and then in their final group game against Italy in Salvador.
As a smiling David Luiz told FIFA.com, however, the players are looking much further ahead: “We want it to continue, don’t we? We want to keep the run going and make sure it isn’t broken. After all, we’ve got the Confederations Cup this year and the World Cup next.”