Flaunts n’ taunts are all the rage in Brazil

When you go to Brazil you don't need to pack many clothes. But do bring lots of feathers. That way you will be well under your allocated luggage allowance.

Boots and all: When you go to Brazil you don’t need to pack many clothes, apart from lots of feathers. That way you will be well under your allocated luggage allowance.

The good news this week, as far as this blog is concerned, is that Australia finally qualified for football’s next World Cup, to be hosted in Brazil next year. Or Brasil, as the country is called in the Portuguese language. This means that here in Australia we will get a lot more coverage of Brazilian culture, language and society – hopefully beyond the stereotypical view that it is the land of samba and carnival – and we should get some good armchair travelling in too as broadcasters provide television footage of the 12 host cities and background scenes. If we hadn’t qualified (I use the term “we” because I always like to claim some of the credit) then we (um, I)  would have felt deflated and probably our (um, my) interest in the Portuguese language would have waned, certainly in the lead-up to the event. Once kick-off comes I doubt anyone with a love of football and Brasil can remain aloof.

This protesters message is "Health and education ... the Cup no"

This protester’s message is “Health and education (yes) … the Cup no”

In the meantime, Brazil is currently hosting the Confederations Cup (a contest between the champions of soccer’s six regional confederations, plus the World Cup winners and the host nation, which is usually the country that will host the next World Cup) and is generating unwanted publicity because there have been massive protests across the country against recent hefty increases in the price of public transport, and the cost of staging these international sporting events. The police have responded with teargas and rubber bullets, and there have been accusations of police brutality. The Brazilian authorities have been very naive: one of the main laws of political deviance is that you never announce anything unpleasant just before you are about to go into the international limelight. The authorities should have kept quiet until the Confederations Cup was over and then hit the pesky public with the fee increases. D’oh!

Bend it like Bedlam: the warm-up to the World Cup in Brazil. A protester uses his football skills (using the left foot, no less) to kick away a teargas canister. Brazil scores an own goal!

Bend it like Bedlam: the warm-up to the World Cup in Brazil. A protester shows off his football skills (using his left foot, no less) to kick away a teargas canister. Brazil scores an own goal!

So, what other countries will be in Brazil in 2014? The four qualifiers from Asia are Japan, South Korea, Australia and Iran. No surprises there, although poor old Uzbekistan (one of the “-stan” countries that I have a soft spot for, for no logical reason) were unlucky. They had the same number of points as South Korea but an inferior goal difference, and will now have to play off against Jordan (another country I am fond of, owing to a previous visit) first, then the winner of that match will play off against the fifth placed team in South America.

In the other regions there are still many qualifying games to play and a much clearer picture should emerge by September and October, but this is how it looks at this stage.

  • In South America, the nine nations competing in the qualifiers still have three or four games each to play. However, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile look to have secured the four qualifying spots, while one of Uruguay, Venezuela or Peru will meet the winner of Uzbekistan v Jordan in a two-legged play-off in November.
  • In the North and Central American region, the six teams each have four games to play and anything could happen. But the United States and Costa Rica are on track to clinch one of the three automatic qualification spots. Mexico, Honduras and Panama are vying for the third place, and the fourth placed team will meet Oceania champions New Zealand in November for the right to be in Brazil.
  • In Africa, the winners of 10 qualifying groups will go into five play-offs to decide which five teams will be in the finals. Already into the play-offs are Ethiopia, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt and Algeria. The other five places will be decided in the next and final round on September 6.
  • In Europe, 50 teams are still mathematically in contention for the 13 qualifying places available. There are nine groups, the top group in each will qualify and the next eight best teams will have to play off to eliminate four. However, the ones that look certain to qualify at this stage are Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

dance posterIf you are going to Brazil for the World Cup or Carnival or the 2016 Olympics, you had better start practising your dance moves. You might be called on in public parks and on beaches to join in an impromptu prance around, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. And you should be familiar with not just Samba, but Axé music, Pagode, MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), Forró and other genres too. It is very important that you get into shape and practise your hip movements and pelvic thrusts in particular. Watch these videos and you will understand why.

Hopefully, by the time the World Cup starts a lot more people in the world will have come to realise that in Brazil they speak Portuguese and not Spanish, and public transport will be more efficient and more affordable for the masses.

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