A letter from Brazil: We all live in a yellow submarine

This country’s Bureau Of Tropical Diseases has issued an urgent warning about an expected massive outbreak of yellow fever next Friday.

A letter from Brazil: We all live in a yellow submarine

Ground Zero will be the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza where Brazil will meet Colombia in the second of the World Cup quarter-finals.

And nobody who has already succumbed to the happy delirium of this compelling tournament will be in any rush to find a cure.

On Saturday — Super Saturday — we had a tantalising taste of what’s to come, as the Colombians triumphed in front of a host of golden daffodils in the Maracana, their own already huge and colourful support swelled by thousands of Brazil jersey-wearing cariocas who — having endured as much as enjoyed their heart-stopping victory over Chile earlier in the day — poured into the stadium just minutes before kick-off to see what now lies in wait for them at the next stage.

They will hardly have found reassurance in the performance of this impressive Colombian team but, for now, they’re entitled to bask a while longer in the heady atmosphere of relief and euphoria which has gripped Brazil since Saturday’s epic entertainment ended with the victory the nation craved.

Before attending Colombia versus Uruguay, I watched the game from Belo Horizonte — or should that now be Yellow Horizonte? — on one of the many screens in the thronged media centre at the Maracana, a place where, at least for one momentous day, solemn notions of journalistic neutrality had no chance of immunity against the infectious buzz of anticipation and anxiety imported from the hot streets outside by hundreds of local media, staff and volunteers.

The sheer dread in the air at the prospect of Brazil going out prematurely was palpable confirmation of my long-held ‘two World Cups’ theory — that there is one version as digested in pubs and homes all over the rest of the planet and quite another as experienced on the ground and absorbed through the eyes, ears and pores of anyone lucky enough to find themselves close to the beating heart of the host nation.

The global World Cup might not require that the hosts succeed — indeed, as in the case of this current Brazil team, they might not even deserve to — but for the local tournament it is essential for the nourishment of its well-being that they prolong their interest for as long as possible.

In truth, I reckon that, for all the pleasure Chile brought to this World Cup party, Brazil actually deserved to go through on the balance of play on Saturday. True, they rode their luck once again, and not least when substitute Mauricio Pinilla shivered the timber with what would surely, coming so late in the game, have been the golden goal. It was a seismic moment which left Brazilians more shaken than the crossbar while reportedly prompting one overwrought Chilean commentator to exclaim, live on air, magnificently: “Your mother’s c**t!”. Under the high-octane circumstances, one would like to think there were no further professional consequences for the poor man, once the Chilean Bill O’Herlihy had presumably apologised for his “inexactitude”.

By that stage in the game, Brazil had already surrendered their lead — and early dominance —when, under no pressure whatsoever, a clumsy touch from Hulk as he collected a routine Marcello throw-in, contrived to gift Chile a sight of goal which Alexis Sanchez was never going to spurn.

Even with misfiring Fred and ordinary Jo as their Hobson’s Choice up front, the Selecao might just about have been able to compensate to date for repeated mistakes in the final third — a too heavy touch here, a pass over-hit there — but, before very much longer, they must surely pay the ultimate price for their tendency to self-destruct at their own end of the pitch.

Thanks to a combination of Julio Cesar, a moment of supremely cool composure from Neymar and the intervention yet again of the woodwork, Brazil ultimately prevailed in the penalty shoot-out, and a nation which had been holding its breath could finally exhale and party like only it can – at least for another few days.

But, already, there’s a dark cloud looming. Midfield enforcer Luis Gustavo, we know, is now suspended for the quarter-final but the nightmare scenario for the fans is that Neymar could miss out, manager Scolari hinting that it could be difficult for the player to shake off a thigh injury in time.

After we’d all picked ourselves up off the floor and vacated the press room for our seats in the press box on Saturday, the World Cup that just keeps on giving promptly rewarded us yet again, this time with a goal of the tournament contender from Monaco’s James Rodriguez, the Colombian boy wonder who, for good measure, later added a second to put the seal on a splendid move and an ominously comfortable victory over Uruguay.

After the game, the latter’s manager Oscar Tabarez — “maestro” and “professor” as the qualified teacher was reverently addressed by his compatriots at the press conference — graciously accepted the defeat while lavishing praise on James (or “Hammes”, as they pronounce it in these parts) who will only turn 23 on the eve of the final.

“Maradona, Messi, Saurez and James Rodriguez, they do things because they have gifts,” said Tabarez. “I think he is the best player at this World Cup. I don’t think I am exaggerating. We tried to limit him but he made his presence felt.”

Mention of Luis Suarez briefly refocused everybody’s attention to the elephant not in the room but Tabarez refused to blame his side’s defeat on the absence of Uruguay’s star player. Earlier, inside the stadium, fans had held up pictures of their martyr as well as a banner purporting to show Fifa boss Sepp Blatter eating money beneath the legend ‘What About Blatter’s Bite??’

Meanwhile, in a gesture of solidarity, the Uruguayan squad had hung up the striker’s Number 9 jersey, as if ready for action, in the dressing room.

Later, skipper Diego Lugano would reignite the flames of indignation with his description of the Fifa ban as “a human rights violation”, though that sounded like a model of restraint and sanity compared to Suarez’s own statement for the defence which could hardly have been more unconvincing if he’d protested that his poor soft milk teeth had been brutally assaulted by a sharp-bladed shoulder.

But you know what? The Suarez story already belongs to the Premier League or, if you insist, La Liga. As far as the World Cup — and its own voracious appetite — is concerned, it’s yesterday’s news now.

The all-consuming Mundial has chewed him up, spat him out and is already tucking in its bib again, ready for more, please.

More games, more goals, more drama, more controversy, more stars, more debate, more yellow, more everything.

World Cup 2014: the fever is intensifying and we just can’t get enough.

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