There can be little doubt that the members of the Spain squad that triumphed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will forever have fond memories of the city of Johannesburg – where the historic Final was played. That must surely be the case for most world champions, but few cities enjoy as close a relationship to another country’s national team as Guadalajara does with Brazil.
A genuine footballing hotbed, home to domestic heavyweights such as CD Guadalajara (best known as Chivas), Estudiantes and Atlas, the Mexican metropolis occupies a special place in the hearts of Brazilian fans - despite the 7,000-plus kilometres that separate it from Brasilia. With this fondness largely due to the success A Seleção have enjoyed on its soil, what better place for the rising stars of Canarinho football to set up camp at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2011?
Indeed, as Brazil prepare to kick off their Group F campaign against Denmark on 20 June, in a section also containing Australia and Côte d’Ivoire, they will be buoyed by a highly impressive record at FIFA tournament matches in Guadalajara. Spanning two FIFA World Cups, one U-20 World Cup and a Confederations Cup, Brazil have not lost in open play in a total of 18 encounters in the city.
Where it all started
The strongest memories can arguably be traced to A Seleção’s triumphant campaign at Mexico 1970, where Pele and Co won all six of their games to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for the third time. And though the title itself was clinched in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, the rest of their matches, from their opener against the former Czechoslovakia to their semi-final against Uruguay, were played at Guadalajara’s Estadio Jalisco.
This feat has been honoured by the naming of a square, the Plaza Brasil, in front of the stadium in tribute to A Verde e Amarelo – who struck 15 goals in their five Mexico 1970 victories there, some of which have gone down as among the greatest ever seen in FIFA World Cup history. “The good thing is that Brazilian and Mexican people are almost like brothers,” said current U-17 coach Emerson Avila.
“We’re always treated very warmly every time we come here and even more so in Guadalajara, which brings back memories of the 1970 World Cup when Brazil won the title. We know that the Mexican public are very fond of Brazilians, and we’re hoping lots of them will support Brazil here.”
On the evidence of the sizeable crowd there to welcome the Canarinho players on their arrival at the Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Airport, coach Avila’s wish could well come true. What is more, media interest in the squad has also been keen, with reporters present at every training session thus far.
A Brazilian national squad once again found themselves playing in Guadalajara at the 1983 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Back then, a team featuring the likes of Jorginho, Bebeto and Dunga won two and drew one of their group games in the city before bidding farewell to Guadalajara with a quarter-final win over Czechoslovakia. A semi-final victory against Korea Republic in Monterrey followed, before A Seleção clinched the trophy with a 1-0 win over Argentina in the Estadio Azteca.
It was not long before Brazil were back once more for the 1986 FIFA World Cup. However, the Jalisco was eventually the scene of Brazilian disappointment when coach Tele Santana’s side were knocked out by a Michel Platini-inspired France in one of the most enthralling quarter-finals ever played. At least Santana and his charges could take some consolation from winning their opening four games of the tournament in Guadalajara, and the fact that Les Bleus - at the time the reigning European champions - only emerged victorious on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
A Amarelinha’s run of avoiding defeat in open play at the Jalisco was extended into the 1999 edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup. After picking up three group wins in Guadalajara, Brazil stayed in the city to thrash semi-final opponents Saudi Arabia 8-2. In the final, back at the Azteca, the South Americans lost a 4-3 thriller to hosts Mexico.
Now in 2011, in Brazil’s fifth FIFA tournament in the city, A Seleção are set to discover a new venue in the shape of the Estadio Guadalajara. Will the modern, imposing home of Chivas, officially unveiled in 2010 and with a capacity of 49,850, prove an equally happy hunting ground as the Jalisco? With the Brazilians set to play all three of their Group F games there, the answer will come soon enough.