How Brazil’s hubris jeopardizes its World Cup

The line between confident and conceited was pretty thin in Brazil in October of 2007.

The South American giant was in the midst of a boom that would make it the world’s sixth largest economy. Massive new oil reserves were being discovered off its coast. It considered itself a global player that deserved a permanent seat on the ultra-exclusive U.N. Security Council.

And it had just been awarded the 2014 soccer World Cup.

“God,” then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared, “is Brazilian.”

But the gods have an unkind way of deflating that sort of hubris. And they couldn’t have picked an unkinder time to deal Brazil some humility. Namely, the start of the World Cup, which began Thursday when the host team kicked off against Croatia in the Arena de São Paulo.

An event meant to showcase Brazil’s arrival as a developed nation has so far served as a reminder of the flaws that thwart its aspirations. Dysfunctional bureaucracy, brazen corruption, neglected infrastructure and not a little arrogant complacency — our country is already paradise, in case you haven’t seen our beaches, so what else do we need to prove to you? — have conspired to make Brazil’s Cup preparations a source of ridicule.

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