World Cup fever lands down under

By Patrice Dougan, Derek Cheng of APNZ

Brazilian dancer Aline Silva entertains the large crowd that gathered at Santos Cafe in Ponsonby for the opening of the Football Worldcup on Friday morning. Photo / Greg Bowker
Brazilian dancer Aline Silva entertains the large crowd that gathered at Santos Cafe in Ponsonby for the opening of the Football Worldcup on Friday morning. Photo / Greg Bowker

Waving flags, jumping to their feet and cheering, Brazilian fans brought a taste of their home country to New Zealand as they celebrated winning the opening game of the World Cup this morning.

It brought a touch of Rio de Janeiro's famous carnival to proceedings, as Brazil claimed the 3:1 victory. It was celebration mixed with relief after an early own goal saw the home team down 1:0.

"It was scary at the beginning, but I knew we could do it," said a happy Gabriela Pinto, 24, afterwards.

The samba dancer, originally from Porto Allegre, made up one half of a duo who provided half-time entertainment, getting the crowd in Ponsonby's Cafe Santos going and pulling a few locals up to join them.

"We're trying to bring a bit of Brazil to New Zealand," she said.

Dancer Aline Silva said she was "so happy, and so emotional" after the win.

"It's amazing because there's lots of pressure with the first game, but it's awesome, I'm glad we made it," she said.

"In the beginning, you always lose confidence when something goes wrong, but after the first goal I thought they could still do it, they're still Brazil."

The pressure on the Brazilian team's shoulders was something all their fans were feeling, with several mentioning the expectation on the players to get to the final when the World Cup is being hosted in their home country.

"It's quite hard because it's in Brazil so everybody is expecting us to play really well and score a lot of goals," said Alex Duarte, 30, after the match.

"It's really hard for the players and everyone, the pressure, so [the players] are feeling a bit tired. But I hope the next game, because we are winning now, they will feel more relaxed and play a lot better."

His friend from their home town of Porto Allegre agreed.

"The pressure will be on for the whole World Cup, as it always is for Brazil," said Gabriela Mendonca, 30.

"At least we won [the first game]."

The Brazilian cafe was full of fans decked out in their green and yellow and draped in flags. Only a few people wearing Croatia's red and white could be seen in the crowd.

A handful of Kiwis had delayed going to work to watch the start of the World Cup -- even if at least one was heard asking the Brazilians about the rules of the game.

Marcia Leite, originally from Sao Paulo, said it was "awesome" to watch Brazil in her adopted country of New Zealand, where she's lived for 14 years. "There's nothing like being Brazilian when the World Cup is on, there's nothing that describes it."

She had faith the team could take home the coveted cup.

"It would be like [making] history to win the World Cup at home."

In Wellington, about 300 people ignored the perfect sunrise to pack into Shed 6 on the waterfront.

It was a party atmosphere, with the walls draped in colourful flags of the footballing nations, and a half-time show which saw people dancing on the floor and in the aisles to the Wellington Batucada percussion group.

Bass drummer Gordon Cessford, a sports and recreation consultant, said he was supporting Brazil in the absence of the All Whites.

"I've always liked them. The style, the aura, the magic. And the music and dancing. They're great fun."

Teacher Matt Kolic, clad in Croatian colours, said he supported them because he had Croatian heritage in his family.

"It's awesome. This is the biggest show in the world. Even little old New Zealand gets a piece of it. The drums, the players, everything. Awesome."

- APNZ

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