The View from Rio De Janeiro: Previewing the World’s Biggest Football Tournament Finale

It seems like only yesterday that Brazil defeated Croatia to kick off the world’s biggest football tournament and greatest month of nationalistic sport way back on June 12. Where did the time go? Brazil has proved itself a worthy host over the course of the last four weeks, putting to bed all of the pre-tournament panic that dominated news headlines for the two years leading up to this moment: The stadiums were gorgeous, the travel infrastructure didn’t collapse (in fact, it was efficiently glorious!) and the protests drifted off with a whimper after the tournament’s first week.

North Korean Soccer Fans  The View from Rio De Janeiro: Previewing the World's Biggest Football Tournament Finale 9k

North Korean Soccer Fans – photo courtesy of Kevin Raub

There were some truly wild moments, surprising and bizarre moments: The USA’s group matches against Ghana and Portugal provided the two most dramatic games in the group stage, the latter ending with the most nail-biting goal of the tournament when Portugal’s Silvestre Varela equalized with 30 seconds to go in extra time. The USA came out of the Group of Death anyway while Portugal, along with European powerhouses Italy, Spain and England, booked flights home. If anything, this tournament represented a possible changing of the guard, with teams from the Americas (Costa Rica! Colombia! USA! Chile!) ripping the baton from the hands of normally dominate European teams and sending them packing with wink and wry “Adios!” (save Germany and Holland, who we all know aren’t men, anyway, but rather machines!). And then there was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, who just couldn’t keep his teeth to himself against Italy. The international soccer association dished out the hurt to one of world’s top strikers, handing down a nine-game suspension for biting and a four-month ban from football. Uruguay was quickly and decisively handed its walking papers in their next game against Colombia.

Colombian and Brazilian Soccer Fans  The View from Rio De Janeiro: Previewing the World's Biggest Football Tournament Finale 9k

Colombian and Brazilian Soccer Fans – photo courtesy of Kevin Raub

We wouldn’t have another football villain until the quarterfinals, when Colombia’s Camilo Zúñiga took Brazilian superstar Neymar out of the tournament altogether with a wildly inappropriate knee to the back that not only went unpunished, but broke a vertebrae in Neymar’s back. With Neymar out of the tournament, it wouldn’t be three days later that Brazil would be absolutely brutalized by a relentless German team, sending home the host nation in their greatest and most humiliating loss (7-1) in the history of tournament and their first official (non-friendly) loss on home soil since 1975. Let’s all think about that for minute: 39 years! Brazilians have spent the rest of the tournament in stunned silence (except when given the opportunity to taunt Argentines).

The next day, Argentina prevailed in a rather dull yet again historical match against the Dutch (no previous semifinal had ended in a goalless draw after 120 minutes), despite ending in a penalty shootout that saw Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero save two penalties and secure Brazil’s continental brethren through to the final.

German Soccer Fans  The View from Rio De Janeiro: Previewing the World's Biggest Football Tournament Finale Z

German Soccer Fans – photo courtesy of Kevin Raub

So, it all comes down to Argentina and Germany, who will clash at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium this afternoon. In other words: Brazil’s worst nightmare. The only thing that could possibly worsen this national disaster is an Argentine win on Brazilian soil. It’s unthinkable. The atmosphere in the city isn’t what it would have been – take the non-partisan foreigners out of the equation and you have mainly Brazilian fans doing anything and everything they can to break up the Argentine party, shouting chants touting Pelé and highlighting Diego Maradona’s colorful past. But no matter what they say, they cannot talk their way onto the pitch at Maracanã this afternoon.

But they can root for Germany, all 198 million of them!

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  • Kevin Raub

    Co-author of Lonely Planet’s Brazil guide and coordinating author…
  • Photo: By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s hippest neighborhood, a vibrant place where fashion, art and design co-exist with graffiti and a stylish crowd. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in winter here in São Paulo, Brazil. I can observe everything and everyone from the strategically located Amüse Food Store, on the corner of Girassol and Aspicuelta. While I wait for my iced tea, I observe the passers-by, most of them women united by their fashion sense and their desire to shop. You sense a certain self-satisfaction in the way they walk. Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, this neighborhood in the western part of the city is fashionably chic, but in an unpretentious way. Folks around here obviously pay attention to their look, but there’s a personal stamp in the way they dress. It’s quite different from what you see on Rua Oscar Freire, for instance, where the fashion parade is legendary and most pedestrians look like they stepped straight out of a fashion magazine and into this endless metropolis. It’s no accident that style lovers flock to the winding streets of Vila Madalena. This bohemian neighborhood began its transformation in the 1970s, when young students of art and fashion began to rent and share large houses. Over time, these homes were converted into art galleries, studios and casual restaurants, a chaotic and spontaneous process that nurtured the spirit so evident in the neighborhood today: bohemian, vibrant and full of color. Welcome to Vila Madalena A style all its own. That’s what you’ll find on the streets of Vila Madalena. It’s the perfect place for folks who want to be seen as well as those who would rather people watch, taking in trends, styles and bold statements in clothing and colors. When I stroll the streets here, I am constantly looking around, admiring these well-turned-out fashionistas. I’m struck by the way they’ve managed to achieve such a casually sophisticated look. It seems spontaneous, unplanned and, as result, totally authentic. As I sip on my iced tea, I talk with some girls who are next to me. They tell me they’ve come on a shopping tour of the local stores. They share some addresses and recommendations that I try to memorize as though they were secret formulas. They tell me that my best bet is to start my tour on the nearby street of Girassol. They leave with complicit smiles, as though they’ve helped out someone in dire need. I’ve finished my tea, so there’s nothing left for me to do but immerse myself in Vila Madalena. I walk down Girassol, and before long, I come across Uma, a surprisingly sophisticated store, with a collection dominated by clear and simple lines. Suddenly, I feel like I’m shopping in Tokyo, not São Paulo. I keep walking until I reach the store of Juliana Bicudo, a local shoemaker who designs handmade footwear. Her eponymous shop is both elegant and colorful, and the collection is divine. I adore these shoes because they can be worn to formal and informal events alike, depending on the rest of your outfit. She even has a wedding line with custom designs to accommodate the style of each bride. Crossing the street, I encounter the metallic blue suede and classic lines offered by Luiza Perea, another gifted shoe designer. This shop looks more like a living room. It’s a real delight. I’m barely through the door before they invite me to sit down and have something to drink. The designs are terrific. You can really see the dedication and care in the creations. The two women who make the shoes are usually in the store, so any questions you have can be answered by the shoemakers themselves.   Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, Vila Madalena is all about fashion but in an unpretentious way. Peixaria, a stylish but authentic restaurant, offers a taste of the beach in the middle 
of the city. Style on the Sand My tour continues. I soon come to La Cervecería, where the fun atmosphere, conversation and clinking of beer mugs is impossible to resist. When I’ve finished my chope (draft beer), I leave on the heels of two attractive women. They tell their friend who’s parking her car that they’ll meet her at Mocambo. I wonder what kind of clothing they sell there. As my imagination is busy at work, I arrive at a tiny space dedicated to… tattoos? I’m a little disconcerted. All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by rough-looking types straight out of a motorcycle magazine. The owners tell me they only do custom tattoos, one-of-a-kind designs for each client. Maybe that’s why the cool girls who led me here are so excited about a place that seems tailor-made for tough guys. In the small, dark space, they give me some more tips to continue my tour. One of their more interesting suggestions is Chapéu, a heavenly bathing-suit shop. I’m told it’s one of the most popular stores of its kind in São Paulo. And in a country where beach life is an institution, that really says something. The collection of bathing suits is varied and elegant. The designs and styles seem intended for a social event rather than the beach. I envy the women who can pull them off, but I’m afraid that on other Latin American beaches, they’d be more cause for gawking than admiration. I’m fairly certain that you have to be Brazilian – and be in Brazil – to wear them. I leave Chapéu and head down Rua Mourato Coelho. I spot the window of the shop Tonus, and I’m transfixed. I decide to go in. The clerks explain the ideas behind the designs. The back part of the shop features the workshop where designer Sergio Tonus comes up with his creations. Tonus himself explains the production process to me. His designs from the shop’s nine years of existence are carefully displayed on hangers.   The many worlds of Vila Madalena: 
tattoos at Mocambo and rockabilly style 
at Barberia 9 de Julho. With no set destination, I wander through Vila Madalena. Eventually, I come to Barberia 9 de Julho, a barbershop with the air of a rockabilly club. The parking spaces outside are taken up entirely by motorcycles. There’s also a dog sporting a bandana, patiently waiting for his owner. I continue along with no end in mind, accompanied by the impressive graffiti that adorns the walls, shops selling Japanese products, ceramics studios, art galleries and a few eateries. I’m hungry, but all the clothing and design stores keep distracting me. One highlight is the shop owned by Fernanda Yamamoto, who specializes in creations made with patterned fabrics. Best of all, there’s an outlet section with clothing from past seasons at reasonable prices. Another great place is Trash Chic, a mix between a fashion museum and a Buddhist temple. They even have a small altar in honor of Coco Chanel. The collection includes pieces by Valentino, Nina Ricci, Prada and Chanel. It’s the finest vintage store I’ve seen in my life. Finally, I end up at Peixaria. This beach-inspired restaurant is full of grilled seafood, endless caipirinhas and infectiously cheerful people. It turns out to be an excellent choice and a great way to end my adventures in Vila Madalena. in    

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