Dancing Colombians in Copacabana Ahead of Brazil Match

Afro-Caribbean beats from Colombia are gaining traction on Copacabana’s main boardwalk ahead of a soccer showdown with World Cup host Brazil.

Colombia is one of the final four Latin American teams still competing in the tournament after Uruguay and Mexico were eliminated over the weekend. On July 4 Colombia will play in its first-ever tournament quarterfinal against five-time world Champion Brazil.

Claudia Vargas, 42, joined dozens of Colombians dancing to a mixture of African drums, indigenous flutes and European melodies after its national squad eliminated Uruguay on June 28. Nationalistic aspirations are challenging regional solidarity while the Spanish lyrics of cumbia find a home amid the Brazilian funk and samba blasting along the beach front.

“We think we can at least put pressure on Brazil,” said Vargas, a mother of two from Bogota who has traveled across Brazil to see Colombia’s first three games. “The other teams have just one good player, like Neymar or Messi, we work together more.”

Colombian striker James Rodriguez is leading Argentina’s Leonel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar as the tournament’s top goal scorer. Argentina faces Switzerland tomorrow in Sao Paulo for a place in the quarterfinals.

Economic Successes

If Colombia upsets higher-ranked Brazil it would follow recent economic successes against its larger neighbor. Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-controlled oil company, briefly surpassed bigger producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA in stock market value in March. Brazil places 116th out of 189 in the World Bank’s ranking on the ease of doing business. Colombia is the third-highest in Latin America at 42nd, after Puerto Rico and Peru.

The Colombian squad’s success can partly be attributed to a wider strategy of opening its country to international competition and embracing free movement of capital and labor. Like the U.S., it has a foreign coach.

Not all of the Latin American travelers are breaking into a boogie. O Globo published videos of Uruguayan and Brazilian fans brawling in the Maracana stadium where Colombia beat Uruguay. Eighty-seven Chileans were detained and deported after storming the sold-out Maracana stadium on June 18, where their national team beat reigning world champion Spain. Chile then lost to Brazil on June 28 in a close match that went to a penalty shootout.

For Latin Americans, the Brazil edition is an easier trip than usual. The last two were in Germany and South Africa and the next are scheduled for Russia and Qatar. They are contributing to an estimated $1.8 billion in World-Cup related spending by tourists and their noisy support has lifted the performance of their national teams, players have said.

“The one who wins is the one who enjoys,” said Jose Hernan Garcia, 47, as he sipped a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, and danced on the Copacabana boardwalk wearing a Colombia jersey. “Now I want to go to Russia.”

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