SAO PAULO (AP) — The World Cup held potential disaster for Brazil — the country, not the team.
Yet the country pulled off a magnificent tournament, albeit with a few bumps. It's the team that has left many Brazilians wondering what went horribly wrong.
The Cup was widely seen as theirs for the taking, especially on home turf. They finished in fourth place with their star badly injured and the brutal memory of a 7-1 rout by the Germans in front of a global audience.
The most successful nation in World Cup history has been eliminated in three straight tournaments, enough to raise questions about whether it's doing the right things to keep up with countries that have dominated the sport in recent years.
It's already clear Brazil won't be the same after the home tournament.
A change in coach is certain after the confederation announced Monday that Luiz Felipe Scolari will not be returning, and new players will be joining Neymar and Oscar for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Critics say bigger changers are needed, including in the local football confederation.
The resounding 7-1 loss to Germany, which embarrassed the nation, could become a turning point for the national team. The semifinal defeat has everyone thinking about the need to rebuild.
"We failed. We didn't play up to expectations, we know it wasn't a good tournament," said striker Neymar, who missed the last two matches because of a back injury. "We didn't play the kind of football that the Brazilian national team plays. It was just regular, and that's why we still reached the semifinals, but it wasn't Brazilian football, not the kind of football that enchants everybody."
Brazil never displayed its traditional "Jogo Bonito," or "Beautiful Game," and ended the tournament with three wins, two draws and two losses, including 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place match on Saturday.
"Brazilian football has to evolve in general," right back Dani Alves said. "We can't discredit the work that has been done by this team, but we have to find a way to start restructuring our football from the youth levels up."
Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo blamed some of Brazil's failings on young players moving early to European clubs. He said parents were given jobs with clubs, and brought their children along.
"I have already denounced this," Rebelo said Monday. "This is a type of football colonialism exercised by rich teams in Europe."
The president of the Brazilian confederation, Jose Maria Marin, had said that losing the World Cup at home would be like "going to hell."
"We need to think football differently," said Brazilian coach Paulo Autuori, who led Sao Paulo to the Club World Cup title in 2005. "We need the Brazilian confederation in the hands of people from football. We need people in charge who can think football."