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Euphoria quickly turned to anguish after the country loses 2-1 to the Netherlands.
SAO PAULO, Brazil — In busy Sao Paulo, the signs of Brazil’s quest for a sixth World Cup title are everywhere — giant Brazilian flags painted on the streets, ubiquitous pictures of the national team’s smiling stars and graffiti proclaiming the slogan voiced around the country: “On course for the sixth.”
But those signs now can only serve as a reminder of what might have been. In one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far, the Netherlands defeated Brazil 2-1 in their quarterfinal match in Cape Town today.
The defeat brought a staggering halt to Brazil’s hopes of lifting the World Cup trophy once again and the devastation was written on the teary-eyed faces of fans in Sao Paulo, who after the final whistle blew, quietly poured out of packed bars and restaurants mostly refusing to comment on their despair.
“I really thought they were going to win,” said Anderson Gunhu, a 30-year old resident of Sao Paulo, barely raising his eyes from the ground. “It’s inexplicable. I feel like the Cup was in our hands, and we lost it.”
Nearly all of Brazil’s 195 million people had been transfixed as the drama unfolded on televisions and radios across the country. Shops were empty and bars were crowded. Even schools were closed so that kids could watch with their families.
Firecrackers exploded and cars blared their horns as Brazil’s ace forward Robinho scored a goal early in the first half. But for the rest of the game, the Brazilian team failed to convert opportunities into goals and was eventually sent home.
When the Dutch goalkeeper dove, barely blocking an on-target shot with his fingertips, 30-year-old Luiz Guilherme Santos, sitting in his apartment thousands of miles away, turned away in disgust.
“They are winning now, but you can never be sure against Holland,” he said nervously, wincing after each missed opportunity. “In 1994 we were beating them 2 - 0, and they scored two goals in the second half. This could be very bad.”
Brazil ended up winning that match, but it was not to be this time around.
With each fumble, the streets and bars of Sao Paulo would erupt again and again in disdain. Disappointed Brazilians cursed out of apartment windows and shouted inside crowded restaurants.