A sea of yellow and green engulfed Rio de Janeiro, as it did across the rest of country, as Brazil expected to move easily into the semi-finals. After all, Brazil had made it to the last three World Cup Finals.
But buried by Thierry Henry in the only goal of the game, as France won 1-0, Brazilians could barely conceal their shock to lose to the team that robbed them of victory in the final of 1998.
‘Revenge’ was the word that morning and confident fans were only talking about who they would prefer in the final – Germany or Italy.
“Brazil never arrived at the World Cup. We had everything to show, the best team in a decade, and now we are out, said Roberto da Silva, watching the game in Flamengo, in the shadow of the famous Christ statue.
Brazil’s no.10, Ronaldinho Gaucho, failed to score despite being heralded as the new Pele and Maradona rolled into one. His efforts make for an unfortunate history – he hasn’t scored for the Brazilian team in more than a year despite being voted FIFA’s player of the year two year’s running.
A common pose around Brazil
Brazil’s coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, had the highest confidence vote of all time going into the France game. 83 per cent of Brazilians believed that the team would bring home their sixth title and 66 per cent believed that Parriera was the man to do it – the highest ever poll.
After winning the world cup for Brazil in 1994, Parreira could scarcely believe that his team had gone out.
“I made the right changes at the right time, but it didn’t work out, ” he said. “I don’t have this worry about continuing or not, ” he said, leaving the issue in the air if he will continue as coach.
“We are proud of our struggle. We are very sad today, ” said Ronaldo, who became the highest scoring striker of all time in World Cups, with 15 goals, beating Germany’s Gerd Muller with 14 and Pele who scored 12.
Brazil’s President Lula Inacio Lula da Silva spoke by telephone with Parriera after the game and pledged his solidarity with the coach and players. His own future, with elections looming in October, have been hurt by Brazil’s loss.
Even the streets in the smallest towns are painted and decorated with a fervour that is beyond peer anywhere around the world. The caricatures of Ronaldinho et al will take time to fade, as will the disbelief that Brazil – Brazil – are out of the World Cup.
Team-mates at Real Madrid, Ronaldo and Zinadine Zidane exchanged smiles and hugs in the tunnel at the beginning of the game. It was eight years ago that the Brazilian striker had been rushed to hospital hours before the decisive game in Paris and ended failing to shine in a team that lost 3:0.
After the game, the only plus point for proud Brazilians was the continuation of Felipao, ‘Big Phil’, at the helm of Portugal who beat England on penalties to reach the semi-finals.
Felipao won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and has now broken all records for the coach with the highest winning World Cup run – seven with Brazil and five with Portugal.
But it is poor consolation for a country that believed so much in their exceptional players.
The country simply stops for the World Cup – including the Presidents’ agenda, courts and supermarkets. It will be a tough return to normality in the hangover to come.