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Euro Cup 2012 Aftermath

Soccer fans had to be happy with the Euro 2012 tournament. The level of play was excellent and we may be watching one of the greatest all-time dynasties in action. Spain’s Tiki-Taka style was on full display throughout the tournament. Any doubts about their lack of dominating play were put to rest with a 4-0 thrashing of a resurgent Italian side in the final. The Italians were playing excellent football, but they ran into a Spanish side that had even more talent and was ready to rise to the occasion.

Many think that Spanish dominance won’t end here. With an unprecedented three straight major tournament victories, Spain is now going for number four with the 2012 World Cup two years from now in Brazil, and many experts think they can do it. It would be a huge accomplishment, as it would be unprecedented for a European team to win a World Cup in South America. No South American team has ever won a World Cup in Europe, so location matters.

It will be interesting to see if Spain can break this streak as well. If they do, coupled with their recent string of success, there will be nobody arguing which is the best soccer dynasty ever. Spain also has one built-in advantage – the Spanish heritage of many South American. Of course that doesn’t apply to Brazil where Portuguese is spoken, but we should expect many Spanish-speaking South Americans rooting for Spain as their number two choice following their home country. This could galvanize the Spanish side and give them the extra motivation needed to pull off this accomplishment.

We can expect to see the fruits of this recent winning streak everywhere. Memorabilia and Spanish jerseys are flying of the shelves all over the world. Readers can join in and get huge discounts on soccer merchandise. We can expect Spanish fans to invade Brazil two year from now, but how many fans from South America will also be wearing Spanish jerseys? That will be very interesting to watch. If Spain can turn their Brazilian adventure into a mini-home crowd advantage, they might be unbeatable.

Of course there will be many other national teams ready to take on the mighty Spain. The home Brazilian side will be geared up to win the World Cup in their home country. Argentina is always a force on the word stage as well, and all of the South American teams will have some advantage.

As for the other European countries, we can always expect several of them to emerge as real threats. Germany always looks strong, and despite their continued frustrations against Italy in major tournaments, you can’t ever count them out. As for the Italians, they showed that they are resurgent again, and Mario Balotelli is the ultimate wild card. He’s only 21 years old now, and the sky is the limit with his talent. If he matures and works harder after the embarrassing loss against Spain, then the Italian side can be a real threat as well.

It’s been fun to see the renewed interest in these tournaments since ESPN started making the World Cup and the Euro Cup featured programming, so expect plenty of hype and interest as we watch Spain go for the four-peat.

Challenge of World Cup preparations in Brazil

Issue like corruption, crime and poor infrastructure still present problems in Brazil, and many of these issues are getting attention in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup:

For all those reasons, we should not overhype the economic effects of World Cup 2014. There will obviously be short-term gains for Brazilians working in construction and other industries, but the tournament will probably not deliver a permanent boost in income or employment levels. Indeed, many of the hugely expensive stadiums that are being built for the World Cup may sit empty and unused after the festivities are over, much like the stadiums that were constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Even if the 2014 tournament does produce the economic windfall that government officials are promising, World Cup preparations have drawn attention to embarrassing Brazilian corruption scandals and also reminded foreign observers that South America’s aspiring superpower suffers from poor infrastructure, excessive regulation, bureaucratic waste and inflexible labor markets.

Given that Brazilian politics is plagued by rampant corruption, it is not surprising that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) is similarly afflicted. CBF president Ricardo Teixeira, who assumed that position way back in 1989, has been accused of massive embezzlement. These charges are receiving much greater scrutiny now that Teixeira and the CBF are playing such a big role in the World Cup planning, and they are currently being investigated by Brazilian federal police. (A decade ago, the general secretary of a Brazilian congressional commission declared that Teixeira ‘is directly responsible for creating an environment which is ripe for an administrative disaster.’)

Meanwhile, the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court is probing claims that Orlando Silva, a former senior government official, embezzled up to $23 million. On Oct. 26, Silva resigned from his job as Brazilian sports minister, becoming the fifth minister in President Dilma Rousseff’s government to leave office amid corruption allegations. (The Rousseff administration has been in power for less than a year.)

Brazil is on the verge of becoming a world power, but the Brazilians need to step up in this case.