Friday, April 30, 2010

Chivas USA's Brazilians celebrate No. 1

Marcelo Saragosa and Maicon Santos hail Dunga's Seleção

Brazil is back on top of the world.

After trading the number one spot in the FIFA World Rankings with Spain over the course of the last year and a half, Brazil has moved back to the top of the list as of Wednesday morning. It’s a move that Chivas USA players Marcelo Saragosa and Maicon Santos, both native Brazilians, are pleased to see.

“I’m really happy that Brazil has returned to the number one spot,” said Saragosa, a native of São Paulo. “I’m really proud.”

FIFA releases a comprehensive ranking of every team in the world each month (see it here) based on results from international matches played across the globe. Spain has dominated the chart of late, taking the number one spot in 16 of the last 21 months.

But a 2-0 victory over Ireland on February 3 of this year, coupled with injury woes for Spain, has pushed Brazil back into the top spot, much to the delight of Chivas USA’s Brazilians.

“For me, it’s more than just being Brazilian,” Saragosa said. “I have a number of friends who play for the National Team. I’m really happy for them.”

Saragosa grew up playing in the youth system of fabled club São Paulo FC and is a lifelong friend of Brazilian National Team phenom Kaká. He insists that the culture of soccer in Brazil is what makes the country such a powerhouse.

“Brazilians are just born with soccer in their blood,” he said. “You’re playing when you’re only a year old. The country just has a real passion for the sport and you can see that in the talent of the players.”

Brazil is currently coached by national team legend Dunga. The team has enjoyed success under the former player, boasting a 37-5-11 record since his appointment in 2006. After a difficult start for Dunga, the team was crowned champions of the Copa América in 2007 and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009. In the latter tournament they overcame a 2-0 deficit to the USA in the final.

“They have a coach who keeps the players grounded,” Saragosa said. “This is the difference that Dunga makes. There will be lots of expectations for the team to become champions at the World Cup, but Dunga will help keep the players grounded and take the tournament step by step.”

Brazil has been drawn into Group G for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, alongside North Korea, the Ivory Coast, and their former colonizers Portugal. The Seleção will have their work cut out for them if they are to become champions for a record sixth time in South Africa.

“Brazil will be confident, but there is still a lot of work to be done before they can be crowned champions,” said Maicon Santos, a native of Paracambi. “The World Cup is never easy. There are a lot of good teams. It’s an incredibly difficult tournament.”

Brazil kicks off its World Cup campaign against North Korea on June 15.


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