By Mike Woitalla
The Germans came up with a clever way to endear themselves to Brazilian fans -- wearing black-and-red striped jerseys that resemble those of Flamengo, the Rio de Janeiro-based club that is the host nation’s most popular.
They unveiled the shirts in their final group game, the 1-0 win over the USA in Recife that clinched the group title for the Germans as the Americans took second to advance to the round of 16.
On Friday morning, the Luis Suarez suspension dominated World Cup coverage. O Dia’s front page pictured the Uruguayan with the Seven Dwarfs and a headline of "Hi ho, hi ho, It’s off to home I go.”
Before the Germany-USA game, Brazilian media focused on the possibilities of collusion for a tie that would see both teams advance, “We are all Germans” was the Lance! headline, with photos of Jurgen Klinsmann and four of his German-American players.
The following day, the reports described both teams trying to win. But Germany succeeding in Flamengo colors was the favorite topic. “Flalemanha,” combining the country’s name with the club's, Expresso wrote, helped Flamengo fans forget for a moment that their club is on the brink of bankruptcy and was nearly relegated.
At 8:30 am on the Flamengo beach, the Praia do Flamengo in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain, 5- and 6-year-olds play soccer on a hard court between the beach and the boulevard, 10-year-olds play beach soccer, and adult men play futvolley.
The soccer volleyball players, whose 2-v-2 rallies often include as many as 10 over-the-net exchanges as they keep the ball up with stunning skill, include a policeman, a federal judge and a former pro who now manages apartment rentals.
Francisco Junior had worked security for the Italian team in Mangaratiba, a few miles west of here. “But now they are gone,” says the policeman. “It was good. Quiet, no problems.”
On the topics of the day, Junior say, “Suarez’s punishment is just. He is a very good player but very stupid.” The former pro, Leonardo, who says he spent two years with Sao Paulo, says, “He is crazy and the same as a dog, a pitbull. For me, the suspension should be one year.”
Junior, Leonardo and Cassio, the judge, all have been impressed by the USA. Junior likes Jermaine Jones. Leonardo says Klinsmann has "very good ..." and carves a lineup formation in the sand with his foot until he recalls the English word "tactics." And he's surprised at how the team is doing because soccer is “new” in the USA. Cassio says the USA is good technically and physically strong.
As for the host’s team, Cassio says in David Luiz and Thiago SilvaBrazil has the best defense in the world, and Fernandinho deserves to start. Junior says the Selecao has no chance to win the World Cup because the keeper – Julio Cesar, who played this year in MLS for Toronto FC – is old, center forward Fred is no good, and Germany is better.
Leonardo says Neymar is the world’s best player but Brazil is too dependent on him. Leonardo not only thinks Germany and the Netherlands are better, he doesn’t want Brazil to win the World Cup, "because then President Dilma Rousseff would get reelected."
“I love soccer but I’m sad. The government is very corrupt. FIFA and the government. FIFA robbed us of millions,” Leonardo says, a reference to the corporate tax exemptions FIFA required of Brazil for it to host the tournament.
Cassio says it's been a very good World Cup and wants Brazil to lift the title.
“We had corruption before the World Cup and we would have it if the World Cup didn’t come,” he says. “It at least brings some attention to it.”