ARUN RATH, HOST:
Today in Rio de Janeiro, the World Cup final matches Germany against Argentina. But for Brazilian fans the tournament that began a month ago with so much hope for the host country ended yesterday with a thud. The Netherlands beat Brazil 3-0 in a third-place game. This on the heels of the 7-1 drubbing by Germany earlier in the week. It's the first time since 1940 that Brazil has lost consecutive home games. And it's prompted calls for change in a country long associated with soccer splendor. From Rio, NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Copacabana Beach is supposed to be fun. It wasn't last night. As the whistle blew ending the Brazil versus Netherlands match, the reaction was decidedly tepid among thousands who'd crowded onto the beach to watch on a huge video screen. Many actually fled before the end, including Grace Kelly of Rio. She was disgusted by another lackluster, error-filled game.
GRACE KELLY: (Through translator) Brazil said it was going to do everything it could to put a victory on tonight, but it didn't do that. It didn't put its blood on the field like it said it would. This was a big shame for us.
T. GOLDMAN: How much shame can fans take? Before last night there was 7-1, and the score that will live in Brazilian infamy already had prompted some soccer soul-searching.
ZICO: (Portuguese spoken).
TITA: (Portuguese spoken).
T. GOLDMAN: Former Brazilian star players Tita and Zico took part in a spirited forum Friday night in Rio. Among their points - the Germany debacle was an example of how Brazilian soccer has lost its way. Brazil prides itself on having won a record five World Cup titles, Zico said. But in fact, players and coaches have shown an inability to adapt to a changing game. Afterwards Zico, a star in the 1970s and '80s, laid blame on the Brazilian soccer system from the national soccer federation, the CBF, at the top on down.
ZICO: (Through translator) Both the CBF and the clubs have the responsibility to make sure clubs take better care of players so they don't all leave and go play in other countries.
T. GOLDMAN: That care is hard to come by considering the evidence of widespread corruption and wasteful spending within the Brazilian system. But people like Alan Dias Moraes are doing what they can. Alan Moraes runs Estrelas Do Futuro, a futsal school near Maracana Stadium, the site of today's final. Futsal is played indoors with a smaller ball in a smaller area. Moraes says it helps develop the skills essential in today's soccer - quick shooting and ball control.
ALAN DIAS MORAES: (Through translator) I teach my players to control the ball using whatever part of their body is most appropriate at the time. If that ball is coming to you from whatever direction, you need to know what to do and how to control it. So we practice all of that.
T. GOLDMAN: Moraes laments many clubs in Brazil are training kids a different way, emphasizing physical play, the brawn over beauty exhibited by the national team with not-so-good results. Still, Moraes is bullish on Brazilian soccer despite this traumatic week.
MORAES: (Through translator) Brazil is still the country of football. And we have so much talent here. And if you go to a lot of the poor neighborhoods in Rio, you'll see various people who are just as skilled as Neymar.
T. GOLDMAN: Developing that talent, keeping it in Brazil, nurturing it all the way to the national level. When all of that happens more regularly, perhaps Brazil again will be a World Cup winner. And critics like Zico will look back on 7-1 and say, at least we learned from it. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.