The yellow-clad fans arrived at Estádio Nacional later, more quietly and with far less face paint than usual. And no wonder: 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.”
André Gonçalves, 48, an accountant in Brasília who was attending his fifth game in the stadium, 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.”
André Galvão, 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 to Brasília, the 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 a 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 São 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 he required them to wire him money first. Their web efforts were futile, but the stranger came through, and without a big enough budget for round-trip airline tickets, they flew to the game but planned to 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, 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 on a movie when Brazil fell behind.
Fewer parties meant fewer beer sales. “The day before all other games, there was much more beer sold than usual,” Daniel Silva, a worker at a local supermarket, said Friday. “It was crazily busy. Today, things are practically at a standstill.”
Germany thrashed Brazil, 7-1, in a semifinal on Tuesday, and the next day, workers removed the festive green-and-yellow decorations from the aisles. A walk down a commercial street in the city’s Asa Sul section before the game revealed few Brazilians wearing team colors. A group of women in matching canary-yellow shirts turned out to be workers on a break from Sol & Vento, a women’s clothing store. “The truth is that it’s the store’s uniform,” Fabiana Duarte, 36, said.
Resenha, a sports bar that reached its 240-person capacity an hour or more before previous Brazil games, maxed out at 200 this time. “You can see that the city looks like the match is not happening,” said Ivonete Ribeiro, a 65-year-old retiree who spent the game in a park, drinking coffee with a friend. “Usually, a Brazil game in Brasília? My God! Everyone in the streets, in costumes, heading to the stadium.”
The prevailing sentiment among residents not attending the game seemed to be one of pensive anticipation. The Germany game “was the worst defeat in our history,” said Guilherme Cintra Guimarães, a 32-year-old lawyer. “But even so, I still think it’s worth cheering for the national team. It’s been a beautiful World Cup.”
After the loss, fans filed quietly out of the stadium. “The Cup is a success,” Rodrigo Barreto, 36, a shop owner in Brasília, said as he led his family home. “But our team is a failure.”