Brazil in World Cup swing as goals fly in, protests ease

Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:50pm EDT
 
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By Brad Haynes and Mary Milliken

SAO PAULO/CUIABA (Reuters) - World Cup fever intensified across Brazil on Friday as violent protests subsided, fans streamed to a second day of riveting matches and a crushing defeat for defending champions Spain set the tournament alight.

Despite a last minute scramble to get some venues ready and heavy rains in northeastern cities that hosted two of the day's three games, dramatic on-the-field action eclipsed most of the concerns outside stadiums.

Raucous fans watched the Netherlands humiliate Spain, the team that beat the Dutch for the title four years ago, with a 5-1 pummeling.

A plucky Mexican team coped with having two goals controversially disallowed and went on to beat Cameroon 1-0 under a downpour. Chile then defeated Australia 3-1 in the third fast-paced match of the day.

After years of construction delays, alleged corruption and sometimes violent protests over the $11 billion spent by Brazil to host the World Cup, the tournament has had a good start.

Widely-fancied Brazil won the opening game against Croatia 3-1 on Thursday and, with 15 goals in the first four games and Spain unexpectedly demolished, no one was complaining about a dull start.

A lack of major problems or street demonstrations on Friday also helped organizers breathe easier. Still, security forces remain on the alert after a year of protests contrasting the high cost of the tournament with the poor state of public services and investments in Brazil.

Although demonstrations have progressively grown smaller since mass protests last June, small but more radical groups of activists continue efforts to disrupt the tournament and they have planned marches for the weekend.   Continued...

 
Brazilian fans celebrate after Brazil scored against Croatia during their 2014 World Cup opening match, at a FIFA event in Manaus June 12 2014.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko