World Cup: Brazil 2014 badly needs a home win

World Cup: Brazil 2014 badly needs a home win
Brazilian supporters cheerbefore the start of a friendly football match against Holland at the Arena da Baixada stadium in Goiania, Brazil. Brazilian fan play a key role as their team seeks to finally win the World Cup on home soil.

Dressed in the famous Brazilian colours of yellow and green, Hector Paca and his friends have been making daily trips to the Corinthians Arena. Without any tickets for today's (tomorrow morning Singapore time) sold-out Brazil-Croatia opening match of the Brazil World Cup, the Sao Paulo native is praying for two miracles - first to catch the opener, then to see Brazil win the World Cup.

"Hexacampeonato! Hexacampeonato! (Portuguese for sixth title)," he sings, his enthusiasm infectious as those walking by inadvertently break into an impromptu samba.

A Brazil win today will set the five-time champions on the right path to a record sixth Cup. But perhaps of more immediate importance is what a win can do for a nation that has yet to really warm up to the idea of hosting its first World Cup in 64 years.

Dance, music and love for the Selecao are what one would expect from Brazilians when it comes to football. But apart from the odd diehard like Paca, the characteristic Brazilian football hospitality has been strangely absent in Sao Paulo.

Billboards with Neymar and Co greet visitors as they make their way from Guarulhos International Airport to the city centre. In the heart of Brazil's biggest city, World Cup banners line the street lamps along Paulista Avenue. But in most parts of the city of 20 million, one would be forgiven to think the tournament was still months away.

In truth, Brazilians are confused of what to make of hosting football's biggest show. The heart will always bleed yellow and green. But on the back of rising inflation, a stagnant economy, recurring strikes and protests, allegations of corruption and an unnecessary US$11 billion (S$13.8 billion) World Cup budget, the head is often at odds with what the heart desires.

"We really don't know what to feel," said neurologist Osorio Abath, who has been living in Sao Paulo for close to a decade.

"There are definitely fewer people putting up flags and decorating the streets this year. And even for those who want to show their love for the Brazil team and the World Cup, they are afraid that if they are too open about their support, they would upset the large number of people who are against the tournament."

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