This World Cup has been extraordinary for the way Brazil fans have held their noses in the air to avoid the stench coming from FIFA and their own government and decided that they will just enjoy the football.
It is as if they have decided to bottle up the anger they clearly feel until after the final on July 13.
This explains why the World Cup has so far avoided a repeat of the turmoil during last summer’s Confederation Cup, when millions poured onto the streets denouncing the government for spending £10billion to stage a competition that only fills the coffers of a rapacious FIFA. The fear was the real World Cup would see a repeat, if not worse. But while talking to Brazilians there is no doubting their disgust for both FIFA and their government this has not translated into major street protests.
Going round the country I have only once seen anything near a stadium which was unrelated to the game. That was in Fortaleza, before the Brazil-Mexico match, where leaflets were being distributed urging spectators to turn to Jesus. However, last weekend, as Brazil faced Chile, it seemed that this uneasy peace might be shattered.
I watched the match in the company of Brazilian journalists and, as Chile were on the brink of beating the hosts in Brazil for the first time, the journalists spoke of how their papers had already prepared articles examining the vast political, economic and social consequences of an early elimination.
Journalist Jamil Chade said, “In the Confederation Cup, Brazil played well and won but people still protested. If they go out early, people will not watch the other teams, the stadiums will be deserted, and there could be street protests.”
As the match went into extra-time many journalists rushed to the Copacabana, where nearly a million had gathered to watch the match on television, ready to report any trouble.
That prospect may have been avoided but with the victory coming thanks to the heroics of Julio Cesar, a goalkeeper unable to make the Queens Park Rangers first team, and the width of the goalpost, the anxiety has only increased. As one FIFA official holding his palms together, as if in supplication, confessed to me: “I am praying Brazil will progress. We need them to get to the semi-final at least, if we are to continue having a peaceful World Cup.”
All organisers of global events hope the home country does well. London 2012 would not have been the same if Team GB had not had its triumphs. Back then, Britain held its breath for five days until rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the first gold. But although there was much muttering about the cost of 2012 there was never any question of the British public taking to the streets if Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis did not win gold.
What Brazil needed is what happened in Germany in 2006. Then, at the beginning of the tournament, there was little sign that a World Cup was being held: no flags, no bunting. It was not until the second week, when Germany beat Poland and the Germans realised they could celebrate their own national triumph without crushing others, that the country was filled with a joy that infected everyone who was there.
Unless this Brazilian team are somehow reincarnated, that sort of release seems unlikely and the World Cup will continue to be balanced on a precarious emotional knife-edge every time Brazil takes the field.