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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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The beautiful game: Brazilian progress spreads joy across the nation

‘Football’s biggest party needs its hosts almost as much as Brazil needs the World Cup,’ writes Mikey Stafford.

Brazilian supporters shows their delight at the penalty victory over Chile.
Brazilian supporters shows their delight at the penalty victory over Chile.
Image: EMPICS Sport

Mikey Stafford reports from Recife.

THE FIREWORKS WERE still exploding outside the window when we sat down for a late dinner last night and the mood around the table was giddy.

Brazil had beaten Chile by the skin of their teeth and the national party could continue for another week at least — thanks to Neymar’s nerves, Julio Cesar’s heroics and the width of the crossbar that denied Mauricio Pinilla a last-minute winner.

Around the table, tucking in to moqueca and caipirinhas, was an eclectic bunch. It included a barista, a university lecturer and the cooking instructor who had prepared our delicious dinner. The only person at the table wearing a Brazil jersey was my girlfriend Adelle, a resident of the country for a little under four weeks.

She, like almost everyone else, has been swept away on a wave of euphoria when Brazil have played. The chef arrived to the apartment during the penalty shoot-out and herself and Adelle only made their introductions after hugging, screaming and celebrating Neymar’s winning spot-kick.

The fact she had taken to the deserted Recife roads during the nerve-jangling extra-time suggested she wasn’t a massive football fan, but she cared enough about the result to embrace a perfect stranger she first met screaming at the television in her friend’s house.

Pretty much everyone cares. Even the Brazilians who claim they don’t must appreciate the effect the football is having on the national mood. Our little party last night benefited from Brazil’s victory, even if it goes down in the record books as a draw.

photo (3) The front pages of Brazilian newspapers hail Julio Cesar's penalty saves. Source: Mikey Stafford

Surely in Santiago, or other Chilean cities, last night there was a similar gathering of laissez-faire football fans that was a little more subdued, a little less fun than it would have been had Pinilla’s shot been three inches lower.

Brazil have no divine right to win this World Cup, which is a shame, because judging by yesterday’s performances it could take intervention from upon high for the hosts to beat a very impressive looking Colombia.

At the same time there is no denying that the further Brazil go the more successful the tournament will be for Brazil and for the hundreds of thousands of visitors, simply because sporting success has an impact on the national mood. That cannot be denied.

London became one of the happiest places on earth two summers ago as it hosted the Olympics, but it certainly helped that native Londoners like Mo Farah were contributing to Great Britain’s remarkable haul of 29 gold medals.

We Irish know the positive effects the likes of Katie Taylor, Jack Charlton’s Ireland, Sonia O’Sullivan and Padraig Harrington have had on the national mood. Even during the brief and painful Euro 2012 campaign the sun seemed to shine a little brighter.

Vasilis Torosidis was celebrating on the streets like millions of Greeks 10 years ago when Otto Rehhagel’s team pulled off the unlikeliest of triumphs at Euro 2004. Since then the Mediterranean country has been turned upside down by a catastrophic financial crisis and the full-back knows a win over Costa Rica this afternoon will give his countrymen an opportunity to once more take to the streets en masse, for a party instead of a riot.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Chile Neymar shows his joy and relief after Brazil won the penalty shoot-out against Chile. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“You saw this after our qualification for the last 16,” he said yesterday. “We saw we gave joy to our people. People took it to the streets and there is no doubt we are experiencing difficult moments. All the players and coaches have the incentive to play well and make people happy because of the situation in Greece.

“We achieved something four or five days ago, now we want to give more joy.”
Greece and Costa Rica have the opportunity to make history today — like Colombia did yesterday — and advance further in a World Cup than ever before.

Those that progress to the quarter-finals will see the good times roll on at home — even those perennial competitors with a sense of entitlement. You can be sure Germany is football daft at the moment and 2010 finalists, the Netherlands, too. Argentina is on tenterhooks and France would love a boost to the national mood like that experienced 16 years ago.

Current French coach Didier Deschamps was the captain who sparked mass jubilation in his country when he raised the World Cup aloft in 1998.

That was one hell of a party, one which Brazil want to emulate next month. As I learned last night, even the smallest gathering is not immune to the charms of the beautiful game.

Football’s biggest party needs its hosts almost as much as Brazil needs the World Cup.

Costa Rica’s Cinderella fairytale faces history-seeking Greek roadblock

Ambitious France out to confirm World Cup credentials against Nigeria

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Mikey Stafford

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