Tear gas and fireworks: Brazil World Cup off to a bang

Tear gas and fireworks: Brazil World Cup off to a bang
Demonstrators protest against 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo May 15, 2014. Brazilians opposed to the World Cup and the public funds spent on the construction of stadiums called for a day of protest around the country. The banner reads, "World Cup without the people.

SAO PAULO - Tear gas in the morning, fireworks in the evening.

It was a day of contrasts in Brazil as the country opened the World Cup with clashes between riot police and protesters in Sao Paulo, before wild street celebrations when the "selecao" beat Croatia 3-1 after coming from behind.

The fireworks that exploded over the mega-city after each goal for Brazil made the tear gas and clashes just up the road from Corinthians Arena seem so much more distant.

Bars overflowed with people into the streets. Pharmacists switched their stores' televisions to the game. Fuel station workers sat on plastic chairs, watching a flat-screen TV tied to the back of a car.

After months of violent protests over the $11 billion cost of hosting the World Cup, some who watched the victory with 300 others in a Sao Paulo street bedecked in yellow and green banners voiced hope such victories could tame the street rage.

"This joy will be a contagion that will spread to all Brazilians," Jonathan de Jesus Silva, 21, a nursing student wearing a Brazil jersey, said as he jumped and laughed with friends.

"This happiness will help bring a better climate." Vera Lucia, 53, a bank worker wearing a yellow top, said it was time for Brazilians to rally behind the tournament.

"The victory will improve the mood a bit. I'm against opportunistic protests. Now is not the time to protest during an international event. The problems like bad hospitals date from before the World Cup," she said.

Others, in a packed bar in the capital Brasilia, agreed.

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