Brazil hails its conquering heroes

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The Independent Online
RECIFE (Reuter) - The Brazilian soccer team, winners of an unprecedented fourth World Cup, received a rapturous reception from millions of ecstatic fans on their return yesterday.

In a marathon day of celebrations, the coastal city of Recife was first to greet the returning heroes after their 3-2 penalties win against Italy in Sunday's final. Recife was where Brazil thrashed Bolivia 6-0 in a qualifying match last August, and soccer officials pledged then to repay the support of the local fans.

Tens of thousands of them crowded the city streets to cheer the squad in an emotional 11-mile victory parade aboard a fire engine topped with a giant national flag.

The team arrived more than three hours later than scheduled, due to the large amount of excess baggage on their flight. Officials said the players had gone on a shopping spree in Los Angeles and loaded up on electrical goods like freezers and washing machines.

They were due to fly later to Brasilia to be presented with medals by President Itamar Franco, and then on to Rio de Janeiro for another victory parade.

Celebrations in the Amazonian town of Rio Branco were marred by murder and mayhem during the final, however. A man who praised the Italian team was stabbed to death by his brother-in- law, and two girls supporting Italy were wounded by gunfire.