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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK

Party time in Brazil

By Tom Gibb
BBC correspondent in Rio de Janeiro

The celebrations started as soon as Ronaldo scored his first goal for Brazil, and they are set to go on all week.

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians packed onto the Rio seafront at the end of the match - using every available means to make as much noise as possible.

" The emotion is too much "
Walter Xavier, fan

They blew horns and whistles, beat drums, set off fireworks, shouted and sang - yellow and green flags and shirts everywhere.

People cried, laughed and danced - with the carnival samba schools coming out in force.

Even a group of Hare Krishna supporters joined in. As well as chanting the name of the spiritual leader they also chanted "Brazil! Brazil!"

The waiting game

There were similar scenes, with huge crowds in cities around the country, as Brazil celebrates its fifth World Cup victory.

The explosion of joy was all the stronger because of the tension of the first half, with Brazil repeatedly missing open opportunities.

When the ball twice bounced off the German bar huge groans went up from the thousands-strong crowd which had gathered on Copacabana beach to watch the game.

It is a pattern which had become familiar throughout the world cup. In almost all Brazil's games the fans have been made to suffer waiting for the first goal.

"I think we enjoy suffering," shouted Aldo Nieves, a fan sporting a Ronaldo-style "half-moon" haircut. "I had my heart in my mouth. But now we have carnival."

Huge cheer

But when Ronaldo scored the first goal - the pent-up frustration of the crowd gathered to watch the match on Rio's Copacabana beach exploded into wild cheering.

Ronaldo is undoubtedly the hero of the Brazilian side after scoring both of Brazil's goals.

He was given a huge cheer when he was substituted just before the end of the match.

He has now laid to rest the ghost of Paris four years ago when he suffered some kind of a attack just before the last World Cup final and then he and the rest of the Brazilian team put up such a poor performance against France.

That incident provoked an investigation which went all the way to congress.

For months last year the country heard allegation after allegation of corruption against top figures in Brazilian football.

Disillusioned fans have been staying away from the stadiums and at the start of the World Cup most Brazilians were dismissing their team as mediocre losers who had struggled to even qualify, losing to Latin American teams they would normally thrash.

But all that has now been forgotten in the euphoria of a World Cup victory.

Heart-stopping

This is especially welcome as it comes when Brazil is going through hard times.

"We're poor people," said Rodolfo Castelo - another of the fans celebrating on Copacabana beach.

"This is the time that we can be truly happy here and football is something that we have in our souls and our hearts so it is very important for us to win the World Cup."

While no-one is expecting a World Cup victory to turn the economy around - it does give Brazilians a real psychological lift.

Of course the older members of the crowd say that this victory does not equal some of Brazil's past triumphs.

"1970 was the best," says 67-year-old Walter Xavier, who was walking around the beach holding up a replica of the World Cup while tourists took his picture.

"But the emotion is too much. I had an operation on my heart. Now perhaps I will need another."


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