RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil exploded into collective celebration Friday night after its soccer team won a hard-fought World Cup quarterfinal match against Colombia, 2-1.
As the final whistle blew, thousands of fans wearing Brazil's canary-colored jersey and watching the match on Copacabana beach in front of a giant TV screen jumped and screamed with joy.
"After this game, I think that all Brazilians are feeling much more reassured about the team," said Luiz Almeida, a university student who celebrated the final whistle by joining in a bouncing group bear hug with friends on the beach. "I think we're over the hump — I think Brazil will be champions."
Others were less optimistic.
Brazil faces a powerful German team in a Tuesday semifinal match, and will play without its star striker Neymar. He cracked a vertebra after taking a hard knee in the back during the Colombia match and will no longer play in the Cup, according to the team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar. Also unavailable will be Brazil's captain Thiago Silva, who got his second yellow card in the match.
"I think the match against Germany is going to be very difficult," said Leticia Sampaio, who watched the match in Copacabana. "I, as a Brazilian, cannot convince myself that they'll win against such a strong team as the Germans."
In Sao Paulo, about 2,000 people gathered on the grounds of the Vai Vai samba school, where a Carnival atmosphere flowed before the match, but was more muted during the tense second half.
"It was so much suffering, but I'm very happy!" said 61-year-old Vera Regina, decked out in Brazil's yellow, green and blue colors. "My heart is beating so fast!"
Regina, like many in the crowd, spent the last half alternatively watching a big TV screen, only to then clench her fists, raise them in the air and scream "more heart, play with more heart!" in an effort to will her beloved Brazil to victory.
As the final whistle blew, the Vai Vai drum corps erupted into high gear, as women danced a frenetic samba, men ran around lifting plastic chairs into the air, and parents held toddlers aloft in glee as the party prepared to roll all night.
Fan Edson Fernandes put it simply: "It feels wonderful to be Brazilian right now."
Adriana Gomez Licon reported from Sao Paulo.