For some sides, losing a FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final is a more painful experience than it is for others. Just ask five-time world champions Brazil, so accustomed to negotiating such a hurdle and advancing all the way to the most coveted Trophy in the game. On Friday afternoon, however, their hopes of a sixth title were buried by a defiant Netherlands side.
“It wasn’t just me who had expectations but the whole team, and the only way we could fulfil them was by winning the title,” said a downcast Kaka following the 2-1 defeat at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, expressing the disappointment of the entire Brazil camp. “No matter when we lose or how, there are always going to be broken dreams. And now that we’re not going to win the World Cup, everyone’s suffering.”
Brazil’s superb FIFA World Cup record makes their untimely elimination all the more surprising. Ten times A Seleção have reached the last four, a record matched only by Germany, and on only three occasions have they missed out on a top-four finish at consecutive tournaments, such a fate befalling them in 1930/34, 1982/86/90 and again at the last two editions of the tournament.
"It’s a real shame we won’t be able to finish off all the hard work we’ve done over the last four years by winning the most important Trophy of them all,” lamented right-wingback Maicon. “Even so, everything we’ve won in that time has been well worth the effort.”
The Inter Milan man is right to point to Brazil's recent achievements. In his four years in the job, Dunga has steered his side to the Copa America 2007, the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, and first place in South American Zone qualifying for South Africa. During their qualification campaign the Brazilians chalked up some hugely impressive results, including a 4-0 win in Uruguay and an emphatic 3-1 defeat of Argentina. In all the former midfield general has presided over 49 wins in his tenure, losing seven and drawing 12 games.
The last of these could have ended his hopes of going out on a high note, as he hinted after the Oranje loss: “As far as my future is concerned, I knew from the start that I would be here for four years.” Losing hurts no-one more than Dunga and his compatriots, especially after their recent string of successes. And the pain they feel is sure to last through to 2014, when Brazil will have the chance to make amends in style as they take their turn to host football’s showpiece event.
“It’s very painful, particularly after everything we’ve done and the group we had,” added Kaka, attempting to put their exit into perspective. “It was a tie that hinged on little details, but that’s what the World Cup is all about. There’s always so much at stake. What we have to do now is wait four years to have another go.
"I don’t know what lies ahead. This is a difficult moment in my life and my career. I have a very strong bond with the national team and this is the toughest situation I’ve had to face. I have to sit down and have a think about my life and my career.”
Just like their star playmaker, Brazil face a lengthy bout of soul-searching over the next four years, more than enough time for them to digest the lessons of a narrow defeat to quality opposition. For most teams, there would be no shame in that. But, then again, most teams are not Brazil.