Back to reality: After World Cup blues, Brazil refocuses on elections and economy
Brasília (AFP) – Its World Cup is over, the national team was humiliated and now it’s back to harsh reality for Brazil: A slowing economy and presidential elections in October.
Brazil had hoped to land a record-extending sixth title in front of home fans. Instead, it was forced to cheer for Germany to defeat rival Argentina in the final — despite the Selecao’s 7-1 defeat to the Europeans in the semi-finals.
While Brazilians were bitterly disappointed by their team’s fourth-place finish, observers concluded that the World Cup had been a success on and off the pitch, with a flood of goals and no major incidents or large protests.
Now the football-mad country has to get back to normal, daily life.
“The mantra here is: Life goes on,” political analyst Andre Cesar of Brasilia consultancy Prospective told AFP.
“Good football is exciting but it is a game and life is much more than that. Now Brazilians will turn to the economy and high inflation,” Cesar said.
Although Brazil is still suffering after the team’s ignominious Cup exit, the country’s inbuilt festive spirit means it will not be down for long.
“Brazilians have a very deep capacity for resisting” when things go against them, said clinical psychologist Dalva Frigulha.
“I was sad but you still want to party, dance, sing and jump about. Deep down, they know the team was not good,” Frigulha told AFP.
“Furthermore, Brazilian have a world-beating capacity to adapt” to the situation around them, Frigulha added.
“That’s good. They lost, they were sad, but this won’t leave deep scars. The worst is over and they can go back to their daily lives.”
– Cup and elections –
Cesar said that from Monday, Brazil “gets back to normal and can focus on local issues and personalities.”
“Next stop, the October elections,” when leftist President Dilma Rousseff, the frontrunner in opinion polls, will be seeking re-election, said Cesar.
Rousseff enjoys a healthy lead over her rivals with the latest poll giving her 38 percent of voter support, compared to 20 percent for Social Democratic Senator Aecio Neves and nine percent for socialist former governor Eduardo Campos.
“Come the end of July, we will have other fish to fry — the focus of discussions will shift to other debates,” Cesar added.
The national team’s terrible tournament may not affect Rousseff in the elections, which coincide with World Cup years in Brazil.
In 1998, when Brazil slumped 3-0 in the final to France, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was re-elected.
Then in 2002, when Brazil won their most recent title against Germany, Cardoso’s ruling party lost to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT).
Lula was then re-elected even through Brazil performed poorly in Germany in 2006.
After Brazil was eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2010 in South Africa, Rousseff successfully picked up the baton from Lula.
“To link electoral outcomes to football is a kind of wishful thinking. There is no proven link,” Cesar said.
– The economic problem –
In the end, Brazilians are more worried about their pocketbooks than the scoreboard.
“I think the biggest risk for Rousseff in this election remains the economy, not the World Cup,” said Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, the Latin America director for the Eurasia Group think tank.
The economy is set to grow barely 1.0 percent this year, marking a fourth straight year of low growth, according to central bank estimates.
Inflation is also on the rise, reaching 6.52 percent over 12 months to June, edging over the official ceiling of 6.5 percent.
Ironically, the Cup was a factor in that rise, pushing up the price of accommodations and flights between 12 host cities.
“The guy who goes to the supermarket and finds high prices is much more indignant than he is at losing the Cup,” Cesar said.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]