As anyone who has watched the World Cup can testify, no television commentator has used the phrase joga bonito — to play beautifully — to characterize the team of Brazil in this tournament. Only in historic footage can we see the Brazil of fable, bringing the ball up field in a flow of crosses and searching arcs that settled on waiting recipients, a game that seemed like streams parting and rejoining, as much in the air as on the ground, like a leisurely but joyous fast break in basketball. If you want to see that game, you might watch Colombia or Spain, according to http://www.axonpotential.com/the-new-soccer-metric-flow-centrality. But those teams are just a faint echo of the old Brazil, and besides, they are out.
The play of the Brazilian national team is not only not beautiful, it could be considered offensive. Neymar went down only when the Colombians couldn’t take Brazil’s egregious fouls anymore. Tripping, pushing and kicking is the style of Brazilian soccer these days. Thirty-one of the fifty-four called fouls in the game were by Brazil. Fernandinho committed six fouls in one game. No one wanted to see Neymar hurt, but what goes around, comes back around. A considerable portion of the soccer world will be rooting against Brazil in the next round, hoping it loses in its disgraceful thuggery.