Policy Alert: Rising Powers Respond to Winning and Losing at the World Cup

Policy Alert: Rising Powers Respond to Winning and Losing at the World Cup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 2014 World Cup games came to a close on Sunday, July 13 after an exciting final match between Germany and Argentina. In our latest Policy Alert, we examine commentary on how the games played out for Brazil, China, Russia, India, South Korea, and Japan.

BRAZIL

Host nation Brazil finished a disappointing fourth in the tournament, punctuated by a humiliating 7-1 defeat to eventual champion Germany in the semi-finals. Concerns about overtaxed infrastructure, unfinished stadiums and massive protests leading up to the games proved unfounded, as the tournament proceeded with relatively few setbacks.

  • O Globo qualified the World Cup as a success for Brazil, commenting that the quality of play in the tournament was high and the games were entertaining while the Brazilian people showed their best face to the world. However, while acknowledging that the infrastructure proved adequate for the World Cup, the paper noted this was due to jeitinho- or improvisation- and reflected that, “a large part of the legacy for the Brazilian people is still to come.”
  • Looking toward October’s election, Raquel Landim of Folha de São Paulo observed that markets rose after Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany, reflecting a sentiment that it will hurt Dilma’s reelection. However she noted that while Aécio Neves could stand to benefit if it contributes to a general negative feeling about the direction of the country, attacking her for it could backfire.
  • João Bosco Rabello argued in Estadão that in the unlikely event that Brazil’s loss affects the election it will be only because it “ended the truce the Cup represented for the government and accelerated the people’s return to reality.”
  • In an interview with BBC Radio 5Live’s Sportsweek, Gilberto Silva, a member of Brazil’s victorious 2002 side, said that Brazilian soccer’s problems run deeper than just the national team. He argued that the entire development system is in need of reform and linked the problems to Brazil as a whole: “There is something also with the country’s problems — at some point that is nothing to do with football but at times they come together.”
  • President Dilma Rousseff wrote a letter to the Brazilian national team congratulating them for their efforts in helping Brazil host the “Cup of Cups” and promising that Brazil can “use the lessons learned today to make our football even better – inside and outside the stadiums.”

CHINA

While China’s national soccer team failed to make the cut for the 2014 World Cup, Chinese netizens watched the games with enthusiasm and noted the large presence of Chinese products and technology at the Cup.

  • An article in the China Daily highlighted the presence of Chinese high-tech companies at the World Cup, including renewable-energy company Yingli Solar and telecommunications giants Huawei Technologies and Comba Telecom Systems. Judy Tzeng, vice-president of global marketing for Yingli Solar described Yingli’s presence at the World Cup as a launching pad to “penetrate the uncharted South American market.”
  • China’s passion for the World Cup “astounded” Valdemar Carneiro Leao, Brazilian ambassador to China, who stated that “the growing bond between the countries will be further strengthened by President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Brazil” during the BRICS summit later this week. China and Brazil will also team up on a deal to strengthen sports cooperation during President Xi’s visit, Brazil’s ambassador to China said.
  • Beijing police seized around 9.6 million U.S. dollars on illegal soccer betting during the World Cup, reported state-run Xinhua. A total of 108 suspects were arrested, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

RUSSIA

Russia’s national team crashed out of the World Cup in the early group stages, failing to record a win in a pool that included Algeria, South Korea, and Belgium. The team’s early exit prompted calls for improved performance in 2018, when Russia will host the next World Cup.

  • Observers expressed concern that the 2018 World Cup will bankrupt Russia.
    • o   “Our football is like murky water, a gateway for corruption. This is not going to go away in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup,” said Alisher Aminov, president of Russia’s National Fund for the Development of Football.
    • o   Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, said the costs of the 2018 World Cup could be “unsustainable for a country already on the verge of recession, with capital flight of $75 billion in the first half of 2014 and possibly facing more Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.”
  • Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said conflict in Ukraine “will not influence preparations for the World Cup at all,” at a briefing on the next World Cup. If Ukraine qualifies for the next World Cup, it could be drawn in a group with Russia, which is automatically seeded as host. Mutko also vowed that the Russian national team will improve its game by 2018.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met briefly before World Cup final to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Both Putin and Merkel called for a “stepping up of peace efforts in Ukraine,” according to Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Following Germany’s victory, President Putin congratulated Chancellor Merkel on her country’s win.

INDIA

Media coverage on the World Cup in India was reserved, commenting mainly on the direction of the sport at large.

  • The Times of India criticized the leniency of referees throughout the World Cup and called for a revision of the process through which referees are selected for the World Cup.
  • The Pioneer tracked the growing popularity of soccer across the globe, comparing the sport’s growth trajectory with that of cricket. Unlike cricket, which requires expensive equipment which renders it inaccessible to many, the main expense in soccer is a pair of shoes and a soccer ball.
  • Viju Cherian compared Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Hindustan Times: “Both are leaders of their sides and have won the hearts of their people…Messi’s genius at league football and Modi’s success story of the much-talked about ‘Gujarat model’ have soared expectations to such a dizzying height that each time both are/[were] expected to not just win but win in a thumping manner.” Because the bar is set so high, Cherian warned that if Modi falls short of “anything but spectacular,” the people will feel let down.
  • The Business Standard criticized the cost of mega sporting events, asserting that “the only real reasons to host such events are non-economic. They are showpieces, meant to demonstrate national pride and achievement…if India ever is blinded enough by national ambition to demand to host, say, the Olympics, the recollection of Brazil 2014 should be enough to deter it.”

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea was eliminated from the World Cup by finishing last in the four-team Group H.

  • South Korea soccer coach Hong Myung-bo resigned on July 10, accepting responsibility for his team’s disappointing performance at the World Cup. Looking back on the World Cup, Hong acknowledged he’d made “tactical” errors in preparation for matches and also took the blame for failing to get his players in shape.
  • An editorial in Donga Ilbo argued, “Korea lacked everything, including experience, personal skills and performance, and time for preparation for the event… the Korean team was far inferior to the rival teams not only in teamwork but also in individual performance and skills.”
  • After a video surfaced on the Internet showing Korean players partying at a Brazilian club following their exit from the tournament, angry fans pelted the team with candy upon their return to South Korea. “Yeot,” a traditional candy, is also a common synonym for a Korean expletive.
  • The Korea Times found a positive angle in Korea’s defeat: “The tournament was taken as something to change the somber mood of the nation still under the sorrowful and angry spell of the sinking of the ferry Sewol…to call Korea’s World Cup Brazil campaign a complete failure would be a mistake. Rather, it was a partial success, as it provided us with a great opportunity to see the waves of fans chanting ‘Go Korea’ together.”
  • Donga-Ilbo debated the merits of hiring a “native” coach if your country seeks to win the World Cup, pointing out that a “foreign coach has never led a country to win a World Cup title thus far.”

JAPAN

Japan was eliminated early on in the World Cup, losing to Ivory Coast and Columbia and drawing with Greece.

  • Alberto Zaccheroni resigned as Japan’s manager after the team’s humbling first-round exit. Mexican Javier Aguirre has agreed to become Japan’s new coach following Zaccheroni’s resignation.
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