The yellow-clad fans arrived at the Estadio Nacional later, more quietly and with far less face paint than usual. And no wonder, as they were attending the World Cup’s third-place game, a match that newspapers around the world had called “a meaningless exercise,” “a pointless sideshow” and “the final insult.”
Andre Goncalves, 48, an accountant in Brasilia who was attending his fifth game in the stadium with his family, was struck by the difference in the scene outside the stadium Saturday afternoon before the Netherlands played Brazil. “This silence, this calm,” he said. “It conveys sadness.”
Andre Galvao, a reporter for TV Bandeirantes, was having trouble finding the usual energy from Brazil fans.
“It seems like people have to force themselves to cheer for Brazil,” he said. “At the other games, I go live, and everyone starts singing.”
But there were still signs that many Brazilians cared deeply about the game. Flights into the Brazilian capital this weekend were sold out, even after fares skyrocketed to five times normal. Hotels are mostly full, a weekend rarity in a city where government business grinds to a halt on Fridays. And the stadium’s 69,000 seats were sold out – perhaps for the last time, given its status as white elephant in waiting.
Some who arrived with shiny, colorful match tickets in their bags sounded almost as if Brazil were still playing for the championship.
“For me, it’s a chance to be a part of history,” said Tiago de Paula, a 32-year-old banker. “Not to put a picture on Facebook, but to be able to tell my children and grandchildren.”
He and his sister Camila had jumped through numerous hoops in securing tickets and getting to the stadium from their homes outside Sao Paulo. They woke up at 4 a.m. to make certain they were online when the FIFA website released a trickle of tickets each day. A stranger in Rio de Janeiro said he had tickets to sell them, but required them to wire him money first. Their web efforts were futile, but the stranger came through, and without a generous enough budget for round-trip airline tickets, they flew to the game but would return on a 14-hour bus ride afterward.
“If the game goes to penalty kicks, we’ll have to miss them,” said Camila de Paula, a 30-year-old actress.
That did not happen. Brazil lost, 3-0, before a crowd that cheered the national anthem, did the wave and sang, but eventually rained down boos.
Far from the stadium, there were signs that Saturday was different from previous game days.
“For other Brazil games, we had awesome parties, used special green and yellow makeup,” said Nathalia Toledo, 28, who manages an eyewear shop. This time, she dressed in black, “like a funeral,” and watched with her husband, who declined her request to put in a movie when Brazil fell behind.
Fewer parties meant fewer beer sales.