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Brazil's Opening Victory Gets A Raucous Reception


And now we'll go to a far happier place in Sao Paulo, a neighborhood where NPR's Russell Lewis watched the first match on TV. He was in the company of euphoric fans at a samba club and they watched the host team Brazil soundly beat Croatia in the opening game 3 to 1. Russell joins me now. And, Russell, wow, what a combination - World Cup soccer and Brazilian samba, doesn't get much better than that. How many people were there in the club watching with you?

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: There were about a 100 people. And of course every single person was rooting for Brazil, people wearing the famed yellow soccer jerseys of Brazil. There were people who had flags wrapped around their bodies, people with Brazilian flags tattooed onto their cheeks. And they were watching their team, willing their team to go further and further and you can hear the fireworks here in the background just continuing to go off. This has been happening now for at least the last half hour here in this neighborhood of Sao Paulo as people continue to celebrate. But inside the samba club during the game itself, there was such an ebb and a flow of the emotions, watching their team go down 1-0 by Croatia from an own goal that one of their players hit into their own goal, but the people inside did not panic, much like the players of Brazil did not panic. They knew that, you know, soccer is a very careful game that you play very, very methodically, that there's always ups and downs and twists and turns of the game. And like the players sort of keeping their cool, they didn't seem to have any concerns, any worries that they would not end the game with anything but a victory and of course that is what happened tonight.

BLOCK: Well, that first goal - the own goal that you described that gave Croatia the lead early on in the game - describe what happened in the club when that happened.

LEWIS: Well, it was - it had been so full of festive screams and cheers. And then when that happened, people just kind of groaned and it got completely quiet. They sort of looked around in awe, not believing that - what had just happened. They figured - they assumed that a Brazil player would score the first goal of the World Cup, it happened, but unfortunately it happened into their own goal giving Croatia the lead. That was something that they just could not imagine under any scenario, but, you know, as soon as it got quiet, they began stomping their feets and cheering and willing their team to say that's OK, let's pick ourselves up, let's keep moving forward, you shouldn't worry about a setback like that because it's a long game and it's also going to be a long World Cup. It will not be easy for Brazil of course, but something like this is what they were prepared for. And at the end of the day, they got the victory that they wanted and the victory that they needed.

BLOCK: And I'm sure pure jubilation and deafening shouts of joy when Brazil scored.

LEWIS: Especially. And as soon as Brazil continued to score goals, the excitement, the enthusiasm inside the club just got louder and louder with each turn and twist. It was shown on this huge television that was put up on a projector, it was just an amazing kind of thing to sort of see it happen. And to see - again, you can hear the fireworks in the background. It was amazing to sort of see - as each goal happened you could hear the excitement, people got more and more exciting knowing that they wouldn't have any problem to do so.

BLOCK: Now, Russell, we've been hearing about the protests on the streets - before the opening match a protest that took a violent turn today - were any of the fans where you were talking about that or is it all just pure soccer joy and fun now that the games have begun?

LEWIS: During the game it was all pure soccer fun, pure joy focusing on the cup, focusing on the team, focusing on the game realizing how important it is to win the first game of the World Cup in group play. It wasn't until after the game ended that I began to talk to some of the people in attendance and asked them that very question - what do you think about the protests. And what I heard from one lady that I talked to, she said, yes, the protests are important, the protests were important to talk about what happened and why, but she said the World Cup is important, and now that the World Cup is underway, it's time for us to focus on the World Cup, don't worry so much about the protests. Yes, the protests are still important and it's important to talk about the protests, but really at this point, she said, what is important now is to focus on the World Cup to continue willing Brazil forward and hoping that they continue to win games.

BLOCK: OK, Russell, thanks so much.

LEWIS: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Russell Lewis outside of a samba club in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the home team won its opening game in the World Cup. They defeated Croatia 3 to1. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.