Brazil's jailed former president criticizes World Cup team

AP , Tuesday 19 Jun 2018,
former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Reuters

Brazil's jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made his debut as a soccer pundit, writing a column from behind bars in which he criticized Brazil's performance in the team's 1-1 World Cup draw against Switzerland.

''Qualifying is one thing. The World Cup is different,'' da Silva wrote in comments that were read by a reporter on the ex-president's Workers' Party TV on Monday.

''Switzerland was strong in defense, playing rough, and didn't allow Brazil to perform,'' da Silva continued. ''They also stopped Neymar by fouling him again and again.''

Da Silva, known by his admirers as ''Lula,'' began serving a 12-year sentence for corruption in April. He remains the Workers' Party's candidate for president in October's elections and he leads presidential preference polls, but he likely will be barred from running.

The former president can still appeal his conviction, which he calls politically fabricated.

Da Silva also provided some analysis of other teams.

''The first week of the World Cup proves Germany is not unbeatable and, among the top players, only Cristiano Ronaldo proved his value,'' he wrote.

Germany lost 1-0 to Mexico in its opener in the tournament and faces a possible elimination game against Sweden this week. Ronaldo scored three goals in Portugal's draw with Spain.

Da Silva warned Brazil for Friday's match against Costa Rica: ''Be careful, because we all know one day the little David can defeat the giant Goliath.''

Da Silva has used soccer metaphors and his love for Sao Paulo-based club Corinthians to prop up his popularity.

In a plea bargain signed last year, executives of construction company Odebrecht said they built Arena Corinthians to open the 2014 World Cup as a gift to the former president.

Da Silva also denies wrongdoing in that case. Corinthians still claims it is owed more than $400 million for the stadium.

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