Brazilian fans hugged, teared up, and hung their heads on Friday after their national team was knocked out of the World Cup by Belgium.
The stinging 2-1 defeat came just as the Selecao, as the team is known, had begun to gather steam, and Brazilians dared to hope that a victory could wash away years of recession, political uncertainty - and a humiliating defeat to Germany four years ago.
"The World Cup allowed us a moment to forget our problems," said Cristiano Conceicao, who works in a furniture store and watched the game with thousands of others in a traditional gathering place for soccer fans, a several-block stretch of Rio de Janeiro known as the Alzirao. "Break's over now."
The Brazilian team got off to a slow start this year, and its star, Neymar, particularly, came in for criticism for not meeting expectations. But as strong teams were unexpectedly eliminated - among them Germany, Spain, and Argentina - confidence began to rise in Brazil that the Selecao might actually be able to win the title and purge the memories of its 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany at the last World Cup. There was a feeling that finally, the tide was turning - not just on the field, but also in the country's overall fortunes.
In the hours before Friday's game, local media reported that Sâo Paulo's roads experienced record-breaking congestion as Brazilians left work early and rushed to get into position to watch. Bars and squares steadily filled up, and people from airports to offices looked for the nearest TV to huddle around.
In Rio's Maua Square, groups started arriving three hours before kick-off. They wore superhero outfits and draped themselves in Brazil's flag. The atmosphere was festive and light, with the weekend and a hoped-for win on the horizon. When Belgium scored twice in the first half, the atmosphere grew tense. By halftime, with Brazil down 2-0, the crowd was on edge, though some still cried out, "I believe!"
The mood lifted when Brazil scored deep in the second half. The crowd erupted in jumping and cheers; they sprayed beer and honked air horns.