RIO DE JANEIRO – For Brazil, it was the upside-down World Cup.
Brazilians lost at what they were certain they would win – soccer – and won where so many expected failure – organization.
For years, the country’s government has endured grueling criticism from FIFA over severely delayed stadiums.
Leaders rode out a wave of protests last year over billions spent on the tournament despite poor public services. Foreign tabloids warned fans of man-eating snakes and violence.
Many serious doubts remain: about corruption related to World Cup works; whether the country will see economic benefits from hosting the games; and whether dozens of infrastructure projects promised as the biggest legacy of the event will ever be completed.
But there is no question that the goal of giving the world a smoothly run, exuberant sporting spectacle surpassed all expectations.
I think it’s been awesome, said Scott Zapczysky, a 39-year-old jiujitsu instructor from Michigan, as he took in the final match at the Fan Fest on Copacabana beach Sunday night.
I thought it was going to be an enormous disaster, to be honest. But it looks good. I think people are really happy.
Brazilians would disagree with him on one point: They were crushed by their team’s historic 7-1 loss in the semifinals, followed by a 3-0 drubbing in the consolation game.
Still, President Dilma Rousseff took clear delight in the Cup’s success, and in handing her critics a plate of humble pie.
Speaking to a group of foreign journalists on the eve of the tournament’s close, she said she had never seen an event that faced such intense scrutiny.
Well, she said, we’ve eliminated the doubts of all who didn’t believe in us.
Rousseff also said the success of the Cup gives the country confidence in its ability to pull off its next mega-event, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
For Eliane Cantanhede, a Brazilian political commentator known for penetratingly humorous observations in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, the event truly surprised everybody.
The whole world thought the Cup would be full of problems – and it was a success, she said. And everybody thought that Brazil’s team would win the Cup – and it was a disaster. It was a double surprise!
Brazil was helped by foreign fans arriving with a spirit of adventure. Nobody expected to see the sort of comforts or precise organization seen at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.