Joyful Brazil turn into a yellow sea

Joyful Brazil turn into a yellow sea

Fans of Selecao celebrate their team’s 3-1 win over Croatia in the opening match with gusto.

Brazil exploded with street parties as its soccer team won the World Cup's opening game on Thursday but scattered violent protests were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the billions spent to host the tournament.

Millions of fans dressed in Brazil's canary yellow, green and blue home colors, cheered throughout Brazil's victory over Croatia in Sao Paulo and continued the revelry into the night,  with a heavy presence of police and troops to maintain order.The country briefly fell silent when Croatia took an early lead, but fireworks, horns and drum beats reached a crescendo as Brazil rallied for a 3-1 win, with goals from Neymar, who scored two goals including a penalty, and Oscar, who netted in the final seconds of the match. 

Despite worries over traffic and the Sao Paulo stadium, which was completed six months late and wasn't fully tested before the game, there were no reports of major logistical problems before or after the game.

Incredible crowd

Brazil's coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, after the game praised the stadium as “incredible” and “fantastic.”

The smooth first game, and especially the victory, raised the spirits of many who feared the worries of the past year could spoil the party.

“Despite all the controversy, this is the World Cup and we are Brazilians. We need to forget about all that now and cheer,” said Natia Souza, a fan in downtown Sao Paulo.President Dilma Rousseff, who attended the game and has  defended the Cup against criticism ahead of her bid for re-election in October, was jeered by many in the stadium crowd and by fans at big-screen viewings across the country whenever  her picture was aired. Protests flared on Thursday in many of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host games, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. 

Good spirit

Elsewhere, the dour mood of recent months lifted. In Salvador, another host city, locals sang soccer songs and beat drums as others hung yellow and green streamers. 

“You can feel the atmosphere building up with fans coming here in good spirits,” said Ben, an English fan in the sweltering Amazon city of Manaus.

Some gathered more than 1,000 people, while others saw just a few dozen.

Late in the morning, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse about 600 demonstrators who gathered in eastern Sao Paulo, about six miles (10 km) away from the Corinthians arena where the game took place.

Roughly 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying "FIFA go home," in a reference to the world soccer body.

Yet the list of possible problems is long. In fact, hosting a successful tournament may ultimately prove harder for Brazil than winning it.

Stressing his desire to have fun during the Cup, Leandro Aguiar, a 25-year-old fan in Sao Paulo, said: “It's too late to complain. In October we'll decide what's good and what's bad.”

Brazil's performance as host will also give clues as to how it might do in two years, when Rio hosts the Olympics in 2016. 

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