Ask a Brazilian how their national team will fare at the World Cup and chances are they will predict a run at least to the July 13 final, if not a win. Understandable optimism, given that Brazil will be playing at home and has won more World Cups (five) than any other football power.
But what if the host nation is booted out early? Very possible with defending champion Spain or 2010 runner-up the Netherlands looming for Brazil in the first knockout game and a tough path beyond that. Are Brazilians good losers? Would they sour the tournament mood in defeat? Or swallow their disappointment with a few morale-boosting caipirinha cocktails, crank up the samba and party on?
Like a kid who picks his scabs, Brazil has never allowed the wound of its last World Cup loss at home to fully heal. That was way back in 1950, before most Brazilians alive today were born. But the national pain of Brazil 1, Uruguay 2 has been handed down from one generation to the next like an heirloom. Seemingly everyone knows about the stunned silence of 173,000 people who packed the Maracana Stadium expecting to see Brazil lift the trophy, how fans wept and never forgave goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa for letting Alcides Ghiggia score Uruguay's winner past his left-hand post.
''We carry this trauma. It's really a trauma,'' Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said in an interview with a small group of reporters, including The Associated Press. ''Probably around 90 percent of the Brazilian population wasn't born in 1950 and we still carry this trauma. I wasn't born in 1950 and this trauma, I've been socialized, brought up in terms of this trauma.''
A kid of six in 1950, former player Barcimio Sicupira recalled how ''my dad punched the radio and broke it in half'' after Ghiggia scored in the 79th minute. Rubens Minelli, who became a national championship-winning coach, was playing an amateur tournament that July 16 afternoon, his attention focused not on his game but on the unfolding drama being broadcast by radio from Rio de Janeiro.
''Everybody was sad, they couldn't believe what happened,'' he said in an interview. ''It was a national disgrace.''
For a sporting mega-event like the World Cup to become truly memorable, host nation success can be vital. Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah put the wow into the 2012 London Games when