x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Confederations Cup: Brazil overflows with emotion

Minnows Tahiti have won over hearts and minds.

Tahiti players shake hands with fans at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro before their Confederations Cup game with Spain.
Tahiti players shake hands with fans at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro before their Confederations Cup game with Spain.

RIO DE JANEIRO //A World Cup in the spiritual home of football was always going to prove a mouth-watering prospect, yet it is proving an eye-watering one too - and not just because of the tear gas or high prices.

First, Brazil were brought to tears by a passionate rendition of their national anthem, then Tahiti spoke of being truly overwhelmed by the support they have been shown by the Brazilian public.

The atmosphere at the Confederations Cup is living up to expectations.

Oscar was seen getting emotional ahead of Brazil's match with Mexico when the capacity crowd inside Arena Castelao continued singing even once the music stopped. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Selecao coach, later said the atmosphere in Fortaleza galvanised his side to play better.

"I went to speak with Howard Webb in the changing room because we have always had a very good relationship," Scolari said of the English referee who took charge of Brazil's 2-0 win over the Mexicans.

"He told me that in all his life he had never seen anything like that. He said: 'Felipe, it really moved me. The song stopped and the whole stadium continue to sing, and much louder than the music'.

"This, coming from an Englishman, must be considered important."

The reception also was electrifying the following night at the Maracana, where Tahiti were greeted like long-lost brothers of Brazil.

Before kick off, when the line-up for Spain, the world champions, was read out over the speaker system, it was met with indifference. Yet when the Pacific Islanders team was announced it was greeted with ferocious cheers.

The support continued throughout the match, ending eventually with a standing ovation for a team that shipped 10 goals.

Eddy Etaeta, the Tahiti coach, proclaimed that while his side might have lost the match, they won the hearts of the Brazilian public. Now he is hoping the spirit of South America can travel back and rub off on his compatriots.

"To be honest, we are more well-known here in Brazil than we are in Tahiti," he said. "This is a major frustration for me. When we left, we were not well-known despite the fact we were going to play in a major tournament. When we get back, I hope we will get more support and respect from our own population."

If the Tahitians have been watching this month's tournament, they will know what is expected of them.