The 2014 World Cup in Brazil got off to a shocking start Thursday afternoon, when the home team and heavy favorite to win the whole tournament went down 0-1 early -- and by its own doing, when defender Marcelo kicked the ball past keeper Julio Caesar and into his own team’s net.
The goal, the first of this year’s Cup, was heard round the world, and it puts Marcelo squarely in the spotlight if Brazil loses the match to Croatia in the first round. But many fans believe it was not his fault that the ball happened to slip past other players and in his immediate path as he charged toward the attacking Croatians.
Marcelo Veira, best known as simply “Marcelo,” is one of Brazil’s leading football lights. The left back has played for Real Madrid, one of the strongest teams in the world, since 2007, and has been hailed as one of the most athletic players on this year’s national team.
Born May 12, 1988 in Rio de Janeiro, the 26-year-old has built an impressive resume, being known as similar to Roberto Carlos, a Sao Paulo-born legend who has said “Marcelo possesses a better technical ability than me.” Marcelo is hailed for both his defensive and offensive abilities, having proven himself as both a top-grade left wing and left back.
Whether or not that claim is true remains to be seen as Marcelo’s career progresses, but the Olympic medalist is also known as a versatile and smooth dribbler. He’s scored 15 goals in his tenure at Real Madrid, a remarkable number for a defender.
The own goal Thursday night against Croatia, which silenced the cheering fans at Arena de Sao Paulo, will go down in history as the Brazilian national team’s first in a World Cup.
Brazil, which has poured more than $11 billion into its preparations for the 2014 World Cup, was gunning to win the event at home, an occurrence that would help to assuage some residents’ anger over the high price the nation paid to host it.
But if the team ends up losing the match tonight, it will go down as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, and a national tragedy of epic proportions.
Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup Finals 2-1 to the underdog Uruguay team at home in Rio de Janeiro, a result that many older Brazilians have yet to get over. The event, dubbed the #2 “most stunning moment” in World Cup history by The Guardian, set off a wave of suicides across Brazil.
Marcelo’s own goal isn't as bad -- Brazil could still advance to the next round even with losing a game -- but it's still a shocking event in Brazilian soccer.
It also, and perhaps unfairly, called to mind the case of Andrés Escobar, the Colombian national team player who was killed back home in Colombia after he scored an own goal in the 1994 World Cup against the United States.
Brazil is one of the most soccer-crazed nations in the world, and winning the World Cup -- the most popular sporting event on Earth with an expected TV audience of nearly 1 billion people -- was the goal since 2007, when the country secured the right to host the tournament this year.