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In yellow and green bikinis, Neymar jerseys and sparkly tops straight from Carnival, Brazilians dropped everything on Thursday to watch the national team make its long-awaited World Cup debut, exploding in celebration at the opening win.
Packed in front of a giant screen on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach, in the middle of what would normally be a working day, fans of all ages cheered Brazil’s 2-0 soccer victory over Serbia – and allowed themselves to dream of a record. extending the sixth World Cup title could be on the horizon.
Standing on the seafront avenue in his Brazil shirt, construction worker Benildo Ferreira erupted in joy at the second of the two goals, both scored by Tottenham Hotspur striker Richarlison.
“I was worried” during the goalless first half, Ferreira, 51, told AFP, as fireworks exploded overhead.
“But Brazil will reach the final and we will win.”
It was an anxious wait for many in football-mad Brazil, whose fevered passion at World Cup time often draws comparisons to a nation at war.
Milton de Souza nervously stirred his caipirinha in a seaside bar as he waited for the opening goal.
“We just have to be patient,” said the 58-year-old retiree, who was dressed in green and yellow – like pretty much the entire country, it seemed.
He was cautious about whether the “Selecao” could end their 20-year title drought.
“Nothing is certain in football.”
Others already dared to dream.
“The cup is ours this year, without a doubt,” said 23-year-old Marcos Vinicius, who accurately predicted a Richarlison position before the game.
– Ghost Towns –
Downtowns in Rio, Sao Paulo and other hubs of Latin America’s biggest economy, meanwhile, turned into ghost towns as Brazil stopped to watch the match.
Street food vendor Kaua Suarez, 19, and three customers huddled around a mobile phone he had set up on his hot dog stand, watching the match in Rio’s almost deserted city centre.
“I had to work, so I found a way to watch anyway. I will watch every game, no matter what time,” he said.
“Soccer is the dream of every favela kid in Brazil. We’re crazy about it. Brazilians are born to love soccer.”
Even President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took time out from political horse-trading ahead of his Jan. 1 inauguration to watch.
He tweeted a picture of himself and his wife in national team jerseys, a TV in the background, with the message: “Congratulations Brazil. On the way to title number six!”
– Enough with politics –
The small army of vendors selling jerseys, flags, scarves, caps and endless other World Cup paraphernalia were jubilant as Lula’s victory in Brazil’s divisive October election had finally ended a taboo on wearing yellow and green, the colors that defeated the far- President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters had adopted it as their own.
“People were resistant. 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 variety of earrings, tiaras and other accessories on Copacabana …
For most, World Cup fever won out in the end.
Not for everyone though.
Hotel doorman Osvaldo Alves, a small 74-year-old with thin white hair and a bright red uniform, was one of the few who did not see the game.
“The country always loses everything when the Selecao plays. We sit there and watch football and solve none of our problems,” he said from his post at the downtown hotel where he works.
“It’s a disease that Brazil has. Brazilians are just crazy about soccer.”