Growing up in Sao Paulo, Des Moines Menace midfielder Fernando Machado learned soccer can mean everything to people.
Though he is not able to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup in his home country, Machado carries the pride of Brazil with him wherever he goes.
“Soccer is present every day there,” Machado said. “It’s a way of life.”
Machado, a sophomore at Ashford (Clinton, Iowa), left his home nation to play collegiate soccer last summer. In 2014, he has debuted with the 4-1-0 Menace, starting three games and racking up 181 minutes for the Premier Development League team. His first start of the season came in Des Moines’ 2-0 season-opening win in Springfield, and Machado has been a strong link in the central midfield ever since.
Brazil has been in a World Cup drought since winning its fifth title in 2002. The Brazilians were knocked out in the quarterfinals of the past two World Cups, falling to the eventual runner-ups, France (2006) and Netherlands (2010). Those results have not swayed the team, as the hosts are favored heavily to win the trophy again.
“Most of the nation is with the team,” said Machado. “We believe we can win the whole thing.”
It is fitting the birthplace of soccer and the home to a few of the greatest soccer players in history would host the milestone 20th World Cup. With names such as Pele, who changed the game of soccer, Ronaldo, the goal scorer of both goals in the 2-0 win over Germany in 2002, and Ronaldinho, another player considered to be the best of his generation, Brazil’s rich history and futbol culture make the 2014 World Cup a unique experience for everyone involved.
While the atmosphere in the 12 host cities promises to be a party, the distance between the sites could cause problems for the teams. The Brazilians are scheduled to travel 3,027 miles for their three-group stage games. The team has started with a 3-1 win Croatia in Machado’s hometown of Sao Paulo on Thursday, June 12, and a 0-0 draw against Mexico on Tuesday (June 17) in Fortaleza – 1,794 miles away, or the equivalent distance of Des Moines to San Francisco. The team finishes out with Cameroon on Monday (June 23) in the capital, Brasilia – 1,232 miles away.
The 2014 roster is made up of many high-profile players. Neymar, arguably Brazil’s best player, has won numerous club, country, and continental awards, including the 2011 and 2012 South American Footballer of the Year. Just 22-years-old, he has garnered attention from Pele and Ronaldinho. In addition to Neymar, Julio Cesar, a name Major League Soccer fans may recognize, has been the starting goalkeeper for Brazil. Cesar went on loan from his club, Queen’s Park Rangers, of the English Premier League, to Toronto FC in the offseason.
Machado will wait on pins and needles for Brazil’s next game against Cameroon. Unfortunately, he will have to watch from a bus travelling east on I-80 as the Menace will depart on Monday for its Tuesday-night game against the Chicago Inferno. Before Machado and the Menace hit the road, the team hosts the Springfield Demize on Saturday at Valley Stadium.
Video and story by Matthew DeWitt
BRAZIL QUICK FACTS
Currency: Real (R$)
Size: 3,287,597 sq. miles
Largest cities: Sao Paulo (19,683,975); Rio de Janeiro (11,835,708) and Belo Horizonte (5,414,701)
FIFA World Cup winners: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002)
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Captain: Thiago Silva
Current FIFA ranking: third (behind No. 1 Spain and No. 2 Germany)