Brazil comes to a halt as the World Cup party begins

Brazil comes to a halt as the World Cup party begins


Dressed in yellow and green bikinis, Neymar shirts and sparkling carnival tops, Brazilians dropped everything on Thursday to watch the national team celebrate their much-anticipated World Cup debut and celebrate their opening win.

Packed in front of a giant screen on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach, in the middle of a normal working day, fans of all ages cheered Brazil’s 2-0 soccer win over Serbia – and allowed themselves to dream of a record. The extension of the sixth world title could be in sight.

Construction worker Benildo Ferreira, standing on the seafront in his Brazil jersey, erupted with delight at the second of two goals, both scored home by Tottenham Hotspur striker Richarlison.

“I was worried,” Ferreira, 51, told AFP during the goalless first half as fireworks exploded overhead.

“But Brazil will reach the final and we will win.”

It has been an agonizing wait for many in football-mad Brazil, whose fevered World Cup-time passion is often compared to a nation going to war.

Milton de Souza nervously stirred his caipirinha in a seaside bar while waiting for the opening goal.

“We’ll have to be patient,” said the 58-year-old retiree, who appeared to be wearing green and yellow across most of the country.

He was reluctant when asked whether the “Selecao” could end their 20-year title drought.

“Nothing is certain in football.”

Others have dared to dream.

“There is no doubt that the trophy is ours this year,” said 23-year-old Marcos Vinicius, who accurately predicted a brace from Richarlison before the game.

– ghost towns –

Meanwhile, city centers in Rio, Sao Paulo and other hubs of Latin America’s largest economy turned into ghost towns as Brazil ground to a halt to watch the game.

Street vendor Kaua Suarez, 19, and three customers huddled around a cell phone he had placed at his hot dog stand and watched the game in Rio’s almost deserted city center.

“I had to work, so I still found a way to watch. I’ll watch every game, no matter what time it is,” he said.

“Football is every favela kid’s dream in Brazil. We’re crazy about it. Brazilians are born with a love of football.”

Even President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took time out from political horse-trading to watch ahead of his inauguration on Jan. 1.

He tweeted a picture of himself and his wife in national team shirts, with a TV in the background, with the message: “Happy birthday Brazil. On the way to title number six!”

– enough politics –

Meanwhile, the small army of merchants selling jerseys, flags, scarves, hats and endless other World Cup gear were happy that Lula’s victory in October’s contentious election in Brazil had finally ended the taboo on wearing yellow and green, the colors that defeated the far right President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters had embraced.

“People were unruly. They really waited until the last minute to buy (yellow and green gear) because of the political situation,” said vendor Giselle de Freitas, 41, who sold a plethora of earrings, tiaras and other accessories on Copacabana.

In the end, World Cup fever won for most of them.

However, not for everyone.

Hotel porter Osvaldo Alves, a slight 74-year-old with balding white hair and a bright red uniform, was one of the few not watching the game.

“The country always drops everything when the ‘Selecao’ plays. We sit and watch football and don’t solve any of our problems,” he said of his post at the downtown hotel where he works.

“It’s a disease that Brazil has. Brazilians are just crazy about football.”

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