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'Anyone who tells you the party died with Neymar's injury was in the wrong part of town'

Brazil has been shaken by the loss of its biggest star – but Mikey Stafford found that there was no stopping the party in Rio.

Brazilian fans congregate at the bar on Rua Edmundo Lins.
Brazilian fans congregate at the bar on Rua Edmundo Lins.
Image: Mikey Stafford/TheScore.ie

Mikey Stafford reports for TheScore.ie from Rio de Janeiro

THE FIREWORK HAD the same trajectory as David Luiz’s free-kick and came down with an anticlimactic sizzle near the water, but there would be no extinguishing the party on the Copacabana last night.

Not even news of Neymar’s broken back could halt the celebrations as Brazilians enjoyed their side’s return to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 12 years.

Rio’s seafront was a mass of yellow as all manner of incendiary devices were released into the night sky. A potential disaster in Fortaleza had been averted, even if the win over Colombia came at a high price with the suspension of captain Thiago Silva for Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany and the injury to the talisman, which has ruled him out of the remainder of the tournament.

Details, mere details, and anyone who tells you the party died last night with news of Neymar’s injury was in the wrong part of town.

This was a city of six million last night desperate for a release from the tension that had been building ever since the penalty shootout win over Chile in the last round.

photo 4 (2) Source: Adelle Hughes

At least Luiz had the decency to score a goal of such ferocity and velocity that even those of us stood hundreds of yards away from the big screen, outside the Arena Hotel, could see the net billow.

Queue mass hysteria, a spike in caipirinha sales, and a pyrotechnic display to make the many American visitors feel at home on 4 July.

The evening had not started so promisingly and as myself and a colleague stood on the world’s slowest metro train, realising that we, our fellow passengers and the seemingly football-phobic driver would be among the only people in Brazil not basking in the warm glow of a screen for kick-off.

A journey that should have taken 25 minutes from the Maracana was now more than an hour old and even the “Super, Super Deutschland!” chants of the victorious Germany fans at the other end of the carriage were dying down.

After their dull 1-0 win over France they were now awaiting the winners of the day’s second semi-final but it was hard to distinguish German jubilation from Brazilian optimism.

photo 3 (2) Fans party on Copacabana beach Source: Adelle Hughes

Most neutrals did not share their faith in the Selecao and as five Brazil fans, lubricated by excitement and vodka, talked loudly on the crowded carriage one forlorn France fan stood amongst them, staring miserably into the middle distance.

He would have shared the same optimism as those Brazil fans just hours earlier but saw his dreams crushed like those of 25 other countries thus far. The prospect of this country collectively feeling as miserable as that French man was frightening.

We needn’t have worried, of course, and by the time the world’s slowest train finally arrived at Siqueira Campos station Brazil were already one up following the second goal scored via the knee of a centre-half in as many games.

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Apart from the 15 people gathered around a television at a newspaper kiosk, the street was deserted. Outside a bar on Rua Edmundo Lins we found two televisions (one with the almost obligatory two-second delay) and a bunch of Australians, who were dressed appropriately in their yellow shirts and had pleased the locals further by sticking a Neymar jersey on their inflatable kangaroo.

Whichever TV and timezone you watched that first half in, you could not deny Brazil’s dominance and to a man, woman and marsupial we were satisfied at the break that the hosts would not be joining that French fan in his despair.

Down on the beach a party atmosphere was already taking hold with 45 minutes still to play as thousands watched in the FIFA fan fest and thousands more, including ourselves, gathered at the second big screen on Copacabana.

There was no zip line, no Coca Cola stands and no Hyundais to inspect at the unofficial fan zone but there were men working their way through the crowd selling caipirinhas that tasted suspiciously like lime juice and more selling bags of candy floss, popcorn and cans of beer.

Many were sitting on towels and deck chairs as the second half began but by the time James Rodriguez made it 2-1 from the spot with 10 minutes remaining everyone was on their feet.

It was an hour or more after the final whistle that news of Neymar’s fractured vertebra came through but by then the city was already in the throes of a celebration that they hope will only intensify after Tuesday’s meeting with “Super, Super Deutschland” in Belo Horizonte.

The big yellow train trundles on and is gathering pace. Neymar or no Neymar, we can expect more fireworks.

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About the author:

Mikey Stafford

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