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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Dion Fanning: Mounting sense of dread that Brazil will crash out

In Sun and Shadow – An Irish Letter from Brazil: Day 22

Dion Fanning

Published 04/07/2014 | 13:22

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FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JULY 03:  Brazilian football fans crowd outside the gate as their national team arrives for training session at the President Vargas stadium on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter-final match between Brazil and Colombia in Fortaleza on July 3, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Brazilian football fans crowd outside the gate as their national team arrives for training session at the President Vargas stadium on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter-final match between Brazil and Colombia in Fortaleza

In Rio this week there has been mounting expectation ahead of today’s quarter finals, a mounting expectation that, once again, we will discover that nobody knows anything.

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William Goldman was right, something most people acknowledge at this stage, but if there was any doubt, this World Cup has removed it.

The eight group winners meet in the quarter finals but even this is not as straightforward as it appears as Costa Rica’s presence in Saturday’s game testifies.

In Brazil, there are times when all these matters seem secondary. The World Cup that people watch and the World Cup that we are very lucky to attend are very different things. Most journalists who are here for a month will admit to a mounting sense of dread at the thought that Brazil might go out of the World Cup today.

The qualities the world admires in Colombia are not unnoticed in Brazil by locals or the rest of us. We were not unaware of Chile’s qualities either but the idea last weekend that Brazil would be knocked out of the competition with two weeks to go was enough to provoke feelings of high anxiety and even a sense of impending doom.

After the penalty shoot-out, plenty of conversations included the words “and I’m not even Brazilian”.

Even though this was palpably obvious, it seemed necessary to say it as we had been taken by surprise at our own terror at the prospect of Brazil’s elimination.

Afterwards there was a sense that this was enough, that Brazil reaching the quarter-finals was all we could expect and we could freewheel to the final if Brazil were knocked out nine days before the end. That feeling hasn’t survived the week.

I have met one Brazilian who has sounded confident about today’s game. He made a series of dismissive hand gestures but then added that Brazil shouldn’t be worried about Bolivia so I felt he might be one of the few people not fully engaged.

Of course, this is nothing compared to the local anxiety, an anxiety which seems, quite strangely, to be even more pronounced among the players than in the population.

The emotional state of the team has been the main concern this week after the fraught manner in which they handled the penalty shoot-out.

The number of people wearing Brazil jerseys on match day is one of the notable features of this World Cup. This week they have been wearing them all week, taking solace in the calm this comforter brings. Brazilians are soothed by Colombia’s record against their side but this looks like a different Colombia. This is a side that many expect to beat Brazil and, outside Brazil, that would be pretty popular.

But we are embedded now so it seems important for Brazil to win again, especially for this team that is compelling despite their mediocrity. We used to worry about what would happen to the country and the World Cup if they lost, now we worry about the team.

There is a lot to worry about even without Colombia’s form. There is the suspension of Luiz Gustavo, the anarchy of the defence, Fred, Hulk...Jo. That feeling of impending doom may well be impending doom.

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