... and an awful lot of absenteeism in Brazil

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The Independent Online
Staff at Espaco Zico, one of Rio de Janeiro's most popular sports bars, were leaving nothing to chance yesterday afternoon. There was one television for every ten customers, mounted around the walls to allow clear viewing both for those squeezing to the bar to buy another round of Kaiser beers and the less fortunate who were still fighting to get in the front door.

By kick-off yesterday afternoon, this corner of Rio known as Terra Encantada or Wonderland, had come to a standstill, as had the rest of this city.

Offices had closed and employees searched desperately for televisions in every available bar and shop window.

By 12.30pm local time the temperature had crept up to a pleasant 27C with clear, sunny skies, but nobody much cared. All eyes were on a football pitch half-way round the world in Paris.

The bar, on Avenue Ayrton Senna, is co-owned by the Brazilian footballing hero Zico, who is now the national team's technical director.

The 150 fans crammed inside, almost all wearing the bright yellow colours of their national team, had barely wolfed down their sandwiches before Brazil's Cesar Sampaio struck home the first goal of the 1998 World Cup. The noise was deafening as the crowd held their beers aloft, blew their horns, waved flags and chanted: "We are the champions."

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