As backdrops go, it wasn’t ideal. People were in the streets. Shops and car dealerships were being looted. Tear gas drifted mournfully on the breeze. The advice on the news was fairly unequivocal: Unless you really have to, don’t go into the centre of Brazil’s cities.
The country’s politicians took note. They couldn’t afford not to. What had begun as a dispute over an incremental rise in the cost of public transport ended up at the door of the legislature, in the sparse, Niemeyer-designed public spaces of Brasília.
No, the circumstances did not seem perfect for Luiz Felipe Scolari and his Brazil players. If the Confederations Cup was designed to be a dry run for the host nation on a logistical level, the Seleção were also keen to get into good habits. After the disappointment of the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 Copa América and the 2012 Olympic Games, 2013 was always likely to be important. The political situation initially seemed like an unwelcome distraction.
Read the rest of this article, my opening contribution to ESPN FC's network of World Cup blogs, here.