Brazil wins, comes alive for World Cup despite protests

Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:46pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil exploded with street parties as its soccer team won the World Cup's opening game on Thursday but scattered violent protests were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the billions spent to host the tournament.

Millions of fans dressed in Brazil's canary yellow, green and blue home colors, cheered throughout Brazil's victory over Croatia in Sao Paulo and continued the revelry into the night, with a heavy backdrop of police and troops to maintain order.

The country briefly fell silent when Croatia took an early lead, but fireworks, horns and drum beats reached a crescendo as Brazil rallied for a 3-1 win.

Despite worries over traffic and the Sao Paulo stadium, which was completed six months late and wasn't fully tested before the game, there were no reports of major logistical before or after the game.

Brazil's coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, after the game praised the stadium as "incredible" and "fantastic."

The smooth first game, and the victory, seemed to raise the spirits of many who feared the worries of the past year could spoil the party. "Despite all the controversy, this is the World Cup and we are Brazilians. We need to forget about all that now and cheer," said Natia Souza, a fan in downtown Sao Paulo.

President Dilma Rousseff, who attended the game and has defended the Cup against criticism ahead of her bid for re-election in October, was jeered by many in the stadium crowd and by fans at big-screen viewings across the country.

The tournament's run-up was largely overshadowed by construction delays and months of political unrest with many Brazilians furious over $11 billion being spent to host the Cup in a country where hospitals and schools are often poor.   Continued...

A woman pose for a picture under street decorations on the public square where the fan zone for soccer matches will be held at Pelourinho neigborhood ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Salvador June 11, 2014.   REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci