RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — Brazil exploded into collective celebration Friday night after its soccer team won a hard-fought World Cup quarterfinal match against Colombia, 2-1 — then mourned that an injury to star striker Neymar means he’s out of the tournament.
As the final whistle blew, thousands of fans wearing Brazil’s canary-colored jersey and watching the match on Copacabana beach in front of a giant TV screen jumped and screamed with joy.
“After this game, I think that all Brazilians are feeling much more reassured about the team,” said Luiz Almeida, a university student who celebrated the final whistle by joining in a bouncing group bear hug with friends on the beach. “I think we’re over the hump — I think Brazil will be champions.”
Then came the news that Brazil’s leading scorer Neymar had cracked a vertebrae after taking a hard knee in the match — and would no longer play in the Cup.
“This was supposed to be Neymar’s Cup, he was so excited about it,” said Alberto Narcizo, a 62-year-old businessman lamenting the star’s situation with a group of friends over a late-night snack at a Sao Paulo bakery. “However, it may be the strength that Brazil needs to play with more determination and more desire.”
In Rio de Janeiro, waiter Platini Duarte, said “it’s a great loss because Neymar was the striker that all of the other teams focused on. Their concentrating on him freed up others to make goals.”
“Without Neymar, it’s much more difficult for the team,” Duarte concluded.
Brazil faces a powerful German team in its Tuesday semifinal match, and in addition to the injured Neymar will play without team captain Thiago Silva, who got his second yellow card in the match.
“I think the match against Germany is going to be very difficult,” said Leticia Sampaio, who watched the match on Copacabana beach. “I, as a Brazilian, cannot convince myself that they’ll win against such a strong team as the Germans.”
In Sao Paulo, about 2,000 people gathered on the grounds of the Vai Vai samba school, where throughout the match a Carnival atmosphere flowed.
“There was so much suffering, but I’m very happy!” said 61-year-old Vera Regina, decked out in Brazil’s yellow, green and blue colors. “My heart is beating so fast!”
Regina, like many in the crowd, spent the last half alternatively watching a big TV screen, only to then clench her fists, raise them in the air and scream “more heart, play with more heart!” in an effort to will her beloved Brazil to victory.
As the final whistle blew, the Vai Vai drum corps erupted into high gear, as women danced a frenetic samba, men ran around lifting plastic chairs into the air, and parents held toddlers aloft in glee as the party prepared to roll all night.
Fan Edson Fernandes put it simply: “It feels wonderful to be Brazilian right now.”