RIO DE JANIERO—
Brazil will face Colombia Friday for a spot in the World Cup semi-final. Everybody expects a tough game for Brazil, which is hosting the tournament. In a country where soccer is king, every Brazilian has an opinion on the national team.
In Flamengo, one can see the majestic Sugar Loaf mountain, but nobody really pays attention to one of the most iconic sights in Rio. Here, it is the ball that gets all the attention. Amateurs, kids, everybody is playing soccer. And everybody has an opinion on the Selecao, the Brazilian national team.
Many, like Mateus Marquez Custodio, think the team will beat Colombia.
“I think the team is playing very well. Everybody is playing well. Julio Cesar, the goalkeeper, has been criticized but is playing a terrific football and Neymar also is playing well,” said Custodio.
As was expected before the tournament, Brazil finished first in group A. However, the team's style received a lot of criticism. The last game against Chile in the round of 16 did not quiet the criticism. Brazil could not win during the 90-minute game or in overtime. Instead, Brazil qualified through penalty kicks. Neymar, the striker, is a star, but his teammates do not have his talent and the 22-year-old player often seems alone on the field.
Coach Jimenez, who mentors teenagers, believes the young Neymar should have received more help.
“There was a lot of responsibilities given to Neymar. He has to do everything by himself. Fred is not good at all but his position is forward and the ball is not getting to him,” said Jimenez.
Brazil has scored 8 goals in 4 games, but Colombia has scored 11 times. Five of those goals were scored by James Rodriguez, the World Cup's top scorer and the new Colombian superstar.
Residents of Flamengo still hope the odds are in favor of Brazil, which has won 5 trophies, a record in World Cup history. Paul Camargo hopes Brazil will add a sixth cup.
“I am Brazilian so I believe. Even if I know that they do not play well. They have disappointed us on a few occasions. But as a Brazilian, I have to be faithful,” said Camargo.
Brazil and Colombia will kick off Friday in Fortaleza at 5 PM local time. In Flamengo, everyone will be watching and cheering for the home team.