Samba turns somber as top-ranked Brazil ousted
Associated Press Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Tears rolled down Paulo Gama’s face and his girlfriend sobbed in his arms as he stared in disbelief at the video screen on Copacabana beach.
The final whistle had signaled that Brazil – colossus of the soccer world and favorite to win the World Cup – was eliminated from the tournament in a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands.
Across the famous beach, heads bowed and many of the 20,000 people there crumpled to the white sand. Grandfathers holding babies cried. Brazil’s colors of canary yellow and green streaked down faces painted with the national flag. Children looked up to their mothers at the grief around them.
“Tomorrow, the sun will not rise,” Gama said.
That was all he could say. It was all anyone could say in this land of Carnival and samba, where a passionate people mourn as acutely as they celebrate.
“It’s over. It’s over. I cannot believe that it is over,” said Luciano Barreto, using the Brazil jersey in his hand to wipe his face. Earlier, when top-ranked Brazil took a 1-0 lead and looked like it was cruising toward an easy victory, that same shirt was proudly waved in the air with the certainty of a win and heading toward a sixth World Cup title.
Robinho, the nimble-footed, goal-scoring wizard, had given Brazil the lead in the 10th minute. Just two minutes before, he had a goal waved off for an offside call.
But the Netherlands found its footing and equalized in the 53rd when a shot bounced off the head of Brazil’s Felipe Melo into his own goal.
The goal that crushed the hearts of 190 million Brazilian fans came in the 68th minute, when Wesley Sneijder scored with a header following a corner kick.
“Oh, my God! Only a miracle can save us now!” Vera Lucia said to the brilliant blue Brazilian sky seconds later. “Oh Lord, save us!”
A minute after the final result, Lucia gathered her two teenage girls in her arms, hugged them fiercely and wept.
“I cannot find the words. I feel so much frustration, so much anger – but I do not know for whom,” she said. “I’m so disappointed. This was our year!”
The nation has indeed been on a roll. After winning the right to host the 2014 World Cup, last year Rio was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is one of the globe’s most popular politicians. Perennially beaten down by economic crises in the past, Brazil weathered the financial meltdown and saw record economic growth in the first quarter of this year.
In short, Brazil seemingly has been winning at everything. Until Friday’s soccer match, when they lost at the one thing they win most. Now, fans will have four years to debate what went wrong.
But if there is any country emotionally equipped to deal with such a defeat, it is Brazil.
In the Portuguese language there is a word that Brazilians swear cannot be translated: “saudades” (sow-DAH-gees)- to painfully enjoy longing, to recognize and cherish the ache of someone or something that is beyond one’s grasp.
The joy Brazil is known for and with which its teams have always played is the direct result of embracing a long journey through agony. Waiting at the end is the moment of elation: the return of a loved one, a long-awaited kiss, a game-winning goal.
That lovely Brazilian trait was on display Friday. Twenty minutes after the game ended, samba drummers took the stage on Copacabana beach, their powerful, familiar rhythm soothing a restive crowd.
“Tears may fall today, but the happiness in the Brazilian heart remains,” said Claudia Ressea, as she moved her hips to the beat. “You will see. The world will see. We’ll be back in 2014, and the cup will be ours.”
Her 7-year-old son, Henrique Miguel, declared he had something to say. Clear-eyed and bearing a striking resemblance to Brazil’s beloved midfielder Kaka, whose jersey he wore, the boy represented what makes this nation ebullient, resilient.
“I’m not sad, I’m happy!” Henrique Miguel insisted in a voice filled with pride. “It was a good game. We played well. We scored a goal! We just got beat, that’s all.”
With that, the boy’s mother scooped him up into her arms, gave him a tight squeeze, and continued her dance.