Germany, Argentina and the other national soccer teams that competed in Brazil this year are only the most obvious winners and losers of the 2014 World Cup. But beyond the competition on the pitch are numerous subsets of winners and losers, many of which are specific to Brazil, which almost everyone expected to drop the ball as World Cup host. In fact, Brazil the country won, though Brazil the team lost.
Brazil walked away from the tournament empty-handed, but the country proved itself an outstanding host. It pulled off a feat that many said couldn’t be done and set the stage for the Summer Olympics in two years. There were questions about whether Brazil could accommodate millions of tourists from around the globe and meet FIFA’s strict criteria for hosting the event, and whether the country would descend into violence whether its team won or lost. None of those concerns proved well-founded.
Now, world leaders are more optimistic about Brazil’s ability to host the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics. “I think that the world has seen the organizational skills of Brazil in this World Cup,” Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, told reporters. “Many were surprised, but you could see how well this went.”
Brazilian tourism was also a winner. The South American country has all the right ingredients for a world-class travel destination – sandy beaches, tropical weather, mountains, historical cities and countless attractions, and the tournament gave the country a chance to showcase those assets.
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Protesters across the country were also winners, with a few exceptions. There were protests over how the government spent billions on World Cup infrastructure, including mega-stadiums that will be little-used afterward, while basic amenities such as public transportation were neglected. Organizers capitalized on the attention Brazil received to make the point that many Brazilians are disillusioned with the status quo -- and in some ways, the message was received.
Just days before the tournament’s first kickoff last month, officials agreed to protesters’ demands that a tract of land adjacent to Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians stadium occupied by thousands of poor families be used for low-income housing. "The conquests … will mean benefits for the millions of families that suffer due to Brazil's housing problem," the Homeless Workers Movement, which organized the protests, said in a statement.
Other notable World Cup winners included the USA's Tim Howard, who proved he's one of the best goalies in the world, even if his team couldn't score.
The same goes for German Mario Gotze, who managed to stand out even among his own stand-out team, executing a beautiful goal that won his country the championship while he was playing as a substitute.
First, FIFA, which got tons of negative attention in regard to the World Cup for a myriad of infractions, including pushing aside local vendors in favor of its own corporate sponsors.
Then there is Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, who, after Brazil’s World Cup defeat, is expected to have a difficult race for re-election. Many predict voters will take their frustrations over Brazil’s loss to the polls. As Vox.com noted, happy voters tend to vote for incumbents; unhappy voters get rid of them. Any hopes that a World Cup win for Brazil would distract the country from some of its economic woes were dashed by its team's defeat.
Also among the World Cup losers were Cristiano Ronaldo, of Portugal, whose knee injury diminished his performance, and Brazil's Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who was taken out of World Cup competition by a back injury.
Finally, there is Axelle Despiegelaere, the attractive 17-year-old Belgian fan whose viral image led to her being offered a modeling contract by cosmetic company L’Oreal. That spotlight quickly dimmed after other photos of Despiegelaeire surfaced on Facebook that showed her with a gun in her hand standing over a dead animal with the caption: “Ready to hunt Americans.”