Troubles Put Aside, Brazilians Embrace World Cup

In World Cup action Tuesday, Brazil and Mexico played to a draw. Despite the dashed hopes of the home team, Brazilians are feeling more buoyant generally about hosting soccer's biggest tournament.

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We now turn to Brazil and the World Cup. Yesterday, the host country played Mexico, and it was a disappointing performance for home-team fans. It was a draw. Neither side scored. Still, Brazilians are feeling more positive about the World Cup. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Sao Paulo.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Watching the World Cup is better in a group, and Brazilians are no exception. Whether it's at home with family and friends or here at a restaurant hosting a World Cup party - almost everywhere yesterday, this city was gathering to watch their team play. Traffic in Sao Paulo, according to official numbers, jumped 500 percent in the hours before the match, as everyone rushed to get situated.

After the national anthem was sung, the game was on. At this venue, there was a massive screen set up in a courtyard, and everyone was drinking and celebrating. Despite all the issues in the run-up to the World Cup, the delays, the cost overruns, the protests, the strikes, people in Brazil are now embracing the tournament. Lily Silva works as a publicist. She's dressed for the occasion in a Brazilian soccer jersey and matching accessories.

LILY SILVA: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think the World Cup is very worthy, she says. I think we need to support our team, and I think we will be champions this year, she says. As we're speaking, of course, her eyes move towards the screen, where Brazil's many attempts at scoring are blocked by Mexico's goalie.

SILVA: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think now that the games have become, she says, people have understood that the World Cup is important. Look at how much traffic there was today with people rushing to get home, she says. Despite the last-minute scramble to get stadiums ready, they have been usable. The transport infrastructure has been strained, but people have gotten to where they need to go. The protests have been small. Brazilians are relieved. Daniel Cardoso says the games are a success, not because of the infrastructure, but because of the people who are bringing it to life. But he says this is just a hiatus.

DANIEL CARDOSO: I think it's just - just a moment that people just forget about it and worry about just the futbol and to play and to dance, to enjoy the World Cup. But after, I think, there will be elections, and then people have to think about - not just about the World Cup, but about the country - about the future of the infrastructure - about what they want for the future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Elections are coming up here on October 6, and that's when he says people will look at the whole trajectory of what's happened here.

CARDOSO: It's hard to forget - so strong.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fredy Cabeza is an architect who is also watching the game here.

FREDY CABEZA: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Our team has to win, he quips. They wasted all of our money on those stadiums, after all. He, of course, supports Brazil and their championship aspirations. And he says the spectacle of the World Cup is amazing.

CABEZA: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If you see it on TV, he says, it looks great. But outside the stadium, it's still chaotic, he says. And that is the reality here. After I went to this party, I was invited to attend a gathering at Sao Paulo's biggest favela, or shantytown. It was, by far, the most festive place I've been to in the city. Every street was festooned with banners and flags, and everyone was dressed in green and yellow, the colors of the Brazilian flag. But within minutes of arriving, I was mugged by two teenagers on a motorcycle. The World Cup will come and go, but Brazil's real problems of crime, inequality and poverty remain. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.


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