RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - As they stared into the bottom of their beer glasses, stunned at being thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup semi-final, many Brazilians expressed frustration at yet another false promise and a history of over-inflated expectations.
The national team’s coach, Felipe Scolari, had long told his countrymen he would deliver soccer’s most prized trophy on home soil, Brazil having already won the World Cup five times. The team bus, which drove an inconsolable squad away from the stadium in Belo Horizonte, had “brace yourself, the sixth is coming” painted across its side. Even President Dilma Rousseff expressed confidence in the team.
But on Tuesday it all came tumbling down, illustrating what many here and beyond say is a national trait toward over promising and under delivering, on the soccer pitch and off.
Finance Minister Guido Mantega, for instance, is often lampooned for optimistic economic forecasts that have usually fallen short in recent years more characterized by stagnation. State-run oil firm Petrobras has also missed production and startup targets for Brazil’s vast offshore oil reserves.
“Over-promising erodes credibility over time and ultimately means investors are going to look at other markets,” said David Rees, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, a London investment firm. “It’s virtually every day that you see something ticking down on the newswires where Mantega is doing an interview saying growth is going to accelerate.”
Disappointed, investors have turned their back on an economy they could not get enough of during a recent decade in which growth reached an annual average exceeding 4 percent.
Foreign direct investment in Brazil fell 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, making it the worst performing target for investors out of the BRICS - a group of emerging market countries comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
No surprise, then, if soccer-mad Brazilians feel more than a little let down by the drubbing from Germany on Tuesday, especially during a blaze of four goals scored in six minutes of the punishing first half.
“We were promised so much and it’s been a disaster,” Hernani Pennino, an I.T. worker, said pouring himself a healthy measure of Johnnie Walker in a Rio de Janeiro bar during the match.
The media is full of soul searching, finger-pointing and full-page headlines and graphics reminiscent of wartime newspaper extras. #EmbarrassedBrazil is trending on twitter.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s coaching staff were contrite at a press conference, during which assistant coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said “it was an obligation to be optimistic” before the tournament. “You don’t say we are going to war but we are going to lose it.”
Addional reporting by Jeb Blount and Walter Brandimarte in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Paulo Prada and Grant McCool