RIO DE JANEIRO — These were emblematic scenes on Rio’s Copacabana beach as Brazil’s World Cup campaign stumbled to its conclusion, and the whistle blew on its 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the third-place game.
In front of a giant screen on which the game was broadcast, thousands in gold Brazilian shirts stood on the sand watching silently and solemnly, while an impromptu Argentine street carnival made a jubilant racket just a few hundred yards away.
Brazil had been sidelined at its own party. But its guests were having one hell of a time.
While Brazilians watched their team file off the field, hundreds of Argentine fans leaped up and down to the pounding rhythm beat out by a group of drummers. A forest of sky blue and white flags waved. Girls climbed on the shoulders of the young male fans and waved air horns in the air. A giant banner declared Messi God.
The Argentine carnival did not skip a beat when the Netherlands scored its final goal. The tens of thousands of fans Argentine here were focused on victory in Sunday’s final. “It’s too much. It’s the whole country,” said Gisela Carbone, 27, a waitress from Rosário, Argentina, working in Brazil’s Búzios resort. “We want to win. Even more, we want to win in Brazil.”
The Brazilians scarcely reacted. The air had long since gone out of their World Cup campaign, deflated like a burst balloon. At least, some mused, it had been fun while it lasted.
“It’s been a pleasure to receive the world in our house. The party was very intense until the Germany game. Now it’s much less exciting,” said Cauby Fonseca, 38, visting from the Amazonian city of Manaus.
Whether Brazil finished in third or fourth place made little difference to fans like him who had expected to win this World Cup — and then been humiliatingly ejected from it. “The disappointment is the same size of the optimism,” he said. “I was very optimistic. So I am very disappointed.”
As crowds thronged the street alongside the beach, people took photos of the flag being held up by a group of Germans, which combined their national colors with the globe from the center of the Brazilian banner. Despite the thrashing they gave Brazil, Germany has become the default rooting option in Sunday’s final for Brazilians, who simply cannot bring themselves to support Argentina.
The Germans wth the flag beamed at this. “Brazilians told us they root for the team that beat them against Argentina,” said Rene Paragnik, 23, from Hamburg. “The whole trip, people were very friendly to us and supported us,” said his friend Tim Lessau, 25.
The German team has won hearts and minds in Brazil — YouTube videos showed players hanging out with locals and enjoying the beaches near their Bahia base. One was even soundtracked by a Brazilian pop hit. And its players all but apologized for Tuesday’s blowout. “I consider the attitude of your team very elegant,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told a German reporter at an informal gathering of journalists on Friday in Brasília.
Plus, suggested Andreas Beckmann, 52, from Lubeck, Germany, the team played good soccer. “This time we played like Brazil in 1970. We celebrate the game. We don’t play, we celebrate,” he said.
Brazil’s last chance to wrest some of its frayed credibility from this tournament had begun badly when it conceded a penalty kick that the Netherlands converted after just a few minutes of play. But unlike the cries of what sounded like pain when Germany began scoring in the semifinals, the penalty was received in a limp silence.
On the beach, with the Netherlands up 2-0, Argentine shirts outnumbered Brazilian. Vendors passed by hawking trays of caipirinha cocktails. As the rustle of conversation got louder and interest in the game waned, children dug holes in the sand while disinterested parents in Brazil shirts took advantage of an excuse to look away from the screen.
All around, Argentine fans celebrated a final yet to be played, singing, dancing, waving flags and swigging Fernet liquor mixed with Coca-Cola and poured into plastic family-size bottles ripped in half to make makeshift tankards.
As the sun went down, Jean Senas, 39, from Manaus, reflected on Brazil’s World Cup. The stadiums and airports all worked and he had met lots of nice foreigners, he said. “On the pitch, it was a disaster. Off the pitch, it was a success,” he concluded.
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