BY MICHAEL LEICHNER
After the U.S. game in Recife, we returned to Rio to close up our rental apartment and attend our final match of the trip. On Friday night, the city erupted in an unscheduled (to our knowledge) firework celebration, which made the city sound like our 4th of July, but it was just to celebrate Brazil’s second round match the following day.
On Saturday, before we had sat down to watch the Brazil-Chile match, the city erupted in jubilation. We confirmed that our assumption was correct: Brazil had taken the lead. The streets during Saturday’s match were the most empty we had seen in Rio. Everyone was near a radio or TV, and most shops were closed. We spent the periods of extra time in transit to Maracana, but caught the shootout from the stadium and witnessed everyone feeling the ups and downs of the finish.
Our final match at Maracana featured Uruguay, minus Luis Suarez, against Colombia. The fan groups of both teams were well represented, but Colombia fans greatly outnumbered the pockets of blue and white. It became apparent to us that there was no love lost between the two South American nations, only aided by the “neutrals” or locals expressing hostility towards Uruguay’s fans and team as well.
Once Colombia took the lead on James Rodriguez’s amazing strike, the hostility amplified, and we saw a few fights in the crowd as the clock wound down. It was definitely a minority making things worse for the majority of those in attendance, but the passion was evident. Whether it was on the streets or in the stadium, the passion of the South American fans will be one of my most lasting memories from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.