March 22, 2019
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Excitement in Brazil before World Cup debut

Sao Paulo, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Brazilian soccer fans are gearing up for the debut of their team - known as "La Canarinha" - against Switzerland in the World Cup in Russia, hoping for a sixth title and staging a myriad of events in the main cities around the South American country, albeit with a little more skepticism about their chances than four years ago.

On the streets of Sao Paulo, the national colors of green and yellow are in evidence everywhere - bars, businesses and private homes - just a few hours before the team helmed by coach Tite hits the pitch at Rostov Arena.

A huge flag measuring 63 x 17 meters (207 x 56 feet) was displayed early Sunday morning between two residential apartment towers in the Freguesia neighborhood in northern Sao Paulo.

In keeping with a tradition dating back to the 1998 France World Cup, local residents voluntarily contributed 23,000 reais (about $6,000) to help stage a celebration of the planet's biggest soccer event, with preparations beginning two years ago.

And city authorities in Brazil's major metropolises have set up huge television screens in public spaces so that people can follow the team's activities live.

Museums, concert halls and even libraries are involving themselves in the national fervor with special programs paying tribute to the sporting event, the Brazilian squad and even the Russian culture.

The Brazilian press, too, is fueling the fire, paying special attention to the national team's preparations for its first group match against the Swiss.

"Seeking a sixth (championship)," headlined Agencia Brasil, and Folha de Sao Paulo blared "Tite takes on risk of 'playing well' in Cup."

But skepticism has also permeated - to a certain degree - the national consciousness, with only 48 percent of Brazilians believing that their team will win the title in Russia, according to a recent poll by Datafolha.

That is significantly below the 68 percent of Brazilians who, during the 2014 World Cup, felt that La Canarinha would bring home the title, only to have their hopes dashed when Germany crushed the team 7-1 in their semi-final match, ultimately relegating them to fourth place.

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