Pressure on hosts to perform in monument to excess

By Ewan Mackenna in Brasilia

The overblown budget of the Mane Garrincha stadium makes it the second-most expensive ever football ground. Photo / AP
The overblown budget of the Mane Garrincha stadium makes it the second-most expensive ever football ground. Photo / AP

It's the altar to the excess of the World Cup, the outstanding symbol of the culture of corruption that has left so many torn during this tournament, the monument to waste in a country of so much pain and poverty. Close to the roomy and pre-planned centre of Brasilia, with its neat rows of office blocks, each comprising a different government department, sits the Mane Garrincha stadium. It is a stunning sight, but not as stunning as the numbers behind its existence.

Consider this. Originally expected to cost about 175 million ($341 million), it ran to treble, making it the second-most expensive football ground ever built, behind only Wembley. The blown-apart budgets are hardly a surprise when, for example, 2700 was allotted for the transportation of prefabricated grandstands but when the bill was handed to the taxpayer, it was nearing 900,000.

And what will happen after the circus has left is unknown as none of the capital's three main sides play anywhere near top-flight football.

Yet it all makes sense when you realise just down the road, some watchdogs claim 40 per cent of Brazilian congressmen have criminal cases pending against them and construction companies are some of the biggest political contributors. In fact, the company responsible for the Mane Garrincha, Andrade Gutierrez, donated more than 20 million after it was awarded contracts for about a quarter of World Cup stadia, a jump from 43,000 in 2008.

It's about as subtle as a David Luiz tackle. That's why it's such a contrast this morning as the Brazil so beloved by the people comes together with the Brazil so despised by its masses. And it's why there's been even greater pressure on the side to not just win, but to do it in some style.

However, you got the feeling that being pre-tournament favourites was more to do with being hosts and the flaws of others than their own strengths because this is a Brazil side with issues. The limitations of striker Fred, in particular, mean there's a need for Neymar, Oscar and Ramires behind him to perform.

As for this morning's game with Cameroon, it's hard to imagine anything other than the goals flowing.

Cameroon have won just once in 14 games at World Cup finals since 1990. But it's the way they've conducted themselves that has been so poor.

From trying to get more money out of the national association to Benoit Assou-Ekotto butting heads with teammate Benjamin Moukandjo, some sources suggest this could be a high-risk game in terms of betting patterns because the Africans have nothing left to lose.

- Independent

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