Brazil’s football team seems to have restored some of its mojo. But is that enough to win the World Cup in Qatar?
Judging by the mood back home, the answer is yes. Not many are doubting that the Seleção will win the title for a sixth time and the first time in 20 years.
Hemerson Cabral, 35, has noticed many changes in the building he works as a janitor in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.
Since the World Cup started last month, more Brazilian flags have been hanging out of windows and residents are immersed in the tournament.
“When Brazil are playing, many people finish work so they get back home earlier to watch it with the family or with the neighbours,” Cabral said, adding that he believes Brazil will beat France in the final.
“They are the only obstacle. It will be a great match and Brazil will win. The atmosphere at Brazil matches is second to none. I don’t think there are football fans like us. We enter the pitch with the players.”
Cabral is not the only one to believe in the Hexa (a sixth World Cup title for Brazil). According to a survey carried out by Apoema research, 71 percent of Brazilians think Brazil will win the title this year.
Football has been the country’s main talking point in the last few weeks. Everyone has an opinion. The World Cup and the team are dominating conversations in bars, work meetings and taxi rides.
Rio de Janeiro is hosting a FIFA Fan Festival, where people can watch the matches and concerts. The city is also hosting themed parties until the final on December 18.
The World Cup is also helping businesses boost their sales. Brazilian jerseys are seen everywhere.
When the World Cup started, Cintia Sampaio, 30, was surprised by the demand for jerseys at her shop in João Pessoa.
“The sales started to increase during the elections [in November] because people wore it [jersey] for the politics side of things,” Sampaio said.
“The World Cup started just after the elections, and it was insane. I was selling hundreds of jerseys daily, and it was so busy at the shop that I didn’t have the chance to have breakfast or lunch.”
Sampaio added that the blue jerseys have become very popular this year.
“I don’t have them now.”
Brazil’s passion for football is undeniable, but some people were concerned politics could outshine the matches. Unlike other years, the World Cup vibe just took over the country when the competition started on November 20.
In the last few years, Brazil has become highly divided by politics and national icons such as the Brazilian flag and yellow jersey have become a symbol of the extreme right.
Now, the streets are covered with green and yellow, and the mood across the country seems lighter, thanks to football.
“I think we are going through a moment of renovation in the country, we are happier,” said Melissa Paulino, 31.
“At least for me, it brings an extra level of excitement and energy to support Brazil. I believe the Hexa is coming now. It has been 20 years since we won the World Cup, so it is time, right?”
Like many others in the country, Paulino’s routine changes when Brazil plays. She makes sure to be free so she can focus on the game.
“It has been a long time since I felt so thrilled. I have mixed feelings about the match against Croatia. I’m also nervous because we can’t lose.
“I don’t have a ritual for watching the match but if I wear something when Brazil wins, I keep wearing it for the next matches. As you can imagine, the jersey I wore during the 7-1 [Brazil’s loss to Germany in World Cup 2014 semi-finals] doesn’t exist any more.”
But despite the widespread hope and optimism, some Brazilians believe the current side is not the best the country has seen.
Luciano Valente, 44, is concerned because “the players are childish, and they rely on Neymar too much”.
“We won most matches because the teams we faced weren’t at the top of their games,” Valente said. “From now on, we are going to compete with teams that are more aggressive and prepared. Do we have a chance to win? Sure, but we need emotional intelligence.”
Even those who aren’t usually football fans seem to enjoy the World Cup vibe.
Rosa Maria Ferreira, 72, likes watching the games alone at home. “I believe we’re going to win 4-0 against Croatia.”
Brazil won the last of its five world titles in 2002. Gabriel Furtado, 15, was not born then.
“I have never seen Brazil win a World Cup, so I have high expectations this year. I believe we have many chances to win. I am thrilled, I think we are going to beat Croatia,” said Furtado.
Like Paulino, Furtado also believes he can help the national team.
“I watch it with my family or with my school friends. Brazil won the matches I watched at home, so the quarter-final, I will watch it with my family.”