It took just seven minutes into the World Cup opener for the intensity to break open Thursday afternoon at Via Brasil Steakhouse in Las Vegas, some 6,000 miles from Sao Paolo, where Brazil faced Croatia.
Fans screamed and threw their hands into the air at Croatian Ivica Olic’s header — the first scoring opportunity of the World Cup. But that was nothing compared to the shouts of anguish four minutes later when Brazilian defender Marcelo poked the ball into the back of his own net and gave Croatia a 1-0 lead.
Omar Romero, 49, a tall, burly man with salt-and-pepper hair slicked back, draped the Brazilian flag over his Verde Amarela (green and yellow) jersey. He stood the entire game and screamed — three times in jubilation as Brazil netted goals and a few times in frustration at mistakes.
His long-held “no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o” inundated the restaurant during Marcelo’s own goal. He chanted “oh” when anticipating Brazilian free kicks.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult game, but not this difficult,” Romero said during halftime. “They’re just hoping to steal the point, steal the party,” he said of Croatia.
Romero said he took a break to watch the game at Via Brasil and had to return to work afterward.
Once the second half began, Romero switched back to Portuguese to scream at the TV.
“Amazing, we love seeing all the Brazilian people over here cheering for their team,” said Anna Gomes, co-owner and manager of the “churrascaria,” or barbecue restaurant, at 1225 S. Fort Apache Road.
Though she is Polish, Anna Gomes wore Brazilian midfielder Kaka’s No. 10 jersey. When she was not busy talking with and helping guests, she took photos.
It was an emotional but family-oriented atmosphere as about 200 fans watched action — narrated in Portuguese — on a 150-inch projection screen and smaller TVs. Large parties sat at the tables, and when celebrating, even the Brazilian substitutions, the fans clapped, jumped and hugged one another.
Most wore yellow or green clothing, but even people not dressed in Brazilian colors ate and absorbed the jubilation.
“Brazil brings me here, there’s a lot of emotion. We are from Brazil, it’s our country … we have a lot of love for Brazil,” said Rebeca Golubich, 34, who moved to Las Vegas from Brazil six years ago.
“We’re going to win, we’re going to win. We have to, there’s a lot of pressure.”
Golubich was talking about the expectation that the Brazilian team has to raise the cup after the July 13 final.
Romero summed up the expectation for the host nation: “Brazil is probably one of the few countries where anything else than first place is a defeat.”
In the end, Brazil beat Croatia 3-1. The crowd erupted as Romero started a chant of “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil.”
Via Brasil, which usually opens at 5 p.m., will open early throughout the World Cup. Specials and custom food will be served, including food from whichever countries are playing. For more information, visit www.viabrasilsteakhouse.com or call 702-804-1400.
Contact Ricardo Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites.