Goal Deficit: a note on Brazil’s loss and David Luiz’s tears


The World Cup is an intensely produced spectacle. Each goal is a world-defining event. The televisual audience watching from home, thousands of miles from the stadium, luxuriates in the experience of proximity to the match. We race down the pitch behind an attack, we are inside the goal as the ball hits the back of the net. Players rush across the field to celebrate, a camera suspended from wires flies behind and above them, like a bird. Suddenly, we’ve parachuted into the celebratory huddle. We are as close to the players’ ecstasy as they are to each other. Cut to views of jubilant crowds watching in public parks and in bars across the country. A goal yields a surplus of joy.

But oh, when the event goes sour!

A goal is only pleasurable in an economy of scarcity. In a match like today’s, in which a team is simply annihilated, a surplus of goals ruins the story. One side takes what it wants; the other is helpless.

There is no suspense, there is no release. First there is only shock, and shame. Then we settle into the grim situation. Perhaps a cold curiosity takes over. A team knows that it is lost, and there are still 70 minutes to play. We watch the rest of the match, bearing witness to the humanity of the losing side.

A realism shadows the broadcast. It is the shadow of an alternate world to the World Cup—the shadow cast by the world in which we live.

David Luiz, in a post-match interview, cries openly. (The women in Émile Zola’s novels grow more beautiful as they are beaten by their lovers; something about this scene reminds me of this.)

Through his tears, Luiz apologies. He “wanted to bring joy to the people who suffer so much.” He and his team failed—of course they did. Not even the people running this event—the show runners—believe that the success or the failure of the World Cup rides on any single team’s performance, or even that it will be measured by the quality of the spectator’s pleasure. It will be measured by the seamlessness of the production and the direction of capital flow.

As Luiz cries, he and his teammates are carried away by the tide.


  1. This match reminded me of the 2003 NL CS Game 6. Having watched both games the similarities are uncanny. A home team burdened by the weight of history collapsed under pressure as soon as something went wrong. You should not see five goals in the first half of a WC SF anymore than you should see eight runs in one post season inning. Both games were the best examples of “mental disintegration” I’ve ever seen in sport.
    An interesting question. If a SF in Canada next year ends 7-1 do you think the pres reaction will be diferent?

  2. Today’s match. (Ger! Arg!) The “big story” ought to be that ugly soccer does not win tournaments. Brazil has a history of alternating between exciting, offense and skill intense, approaches and brutal, cynical, and kinetic approaches. Scolari won in 2002 with ugly in mind. His hiring reflected a diagnosis that they had been too nice. My worry is that Brazil will make the same diagnosis this time and move even further into hades. Then, you will have to look elsewhere for Brazil.


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