Uruguay v England: Support England? Brazil backs enemy

Even though they are still haunted by that 1950 Uruguay defeat, the hosts actually have a soft spot for their vizinhos – neighbours  – and tell Ian Herbert in Porto Alegre they want them to win

It began as a mission to establish whether the Brazilian nation wants England to grind Uruguay into the Sao Paulo dust tonight and help vanquish the ghost of 1950. It ended with the distinct impression that one corner of Brazil would actually rather like to belong to Uruguay.

LIVE: Follow the latest news as England play Uruguay, plus Colombia v Ivory Coast and Japan v Greece

Surely some anti-Uruguayan sentiment would not be difficult to find? To compound the calamity of the Maracana defeat that saw Brazil miss out on the trophy in the  last World Cup they hosted, Uruguay has been rubbing their noses in it. Puma launched a video, currently showing in Uruguay, which depicts a ghost wearing the colours of La Celeste and the No 50 on his back, cavorting around Copacabana beach, on top of the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car and the rebuilt Maracana. “El fantasma del 50 ya esta en Brasil” (“The ghost of 50 is still in Brazil”) is the pay-off.

But when you start talking about England v Uruguay here in Rio Grande do Sul, the region at the bottom of Brazil which borders Uruguay, the word vizinhos (neighbours) keeps cropping up. And then comes the kind of talk about the country and its capital, Montevideo, which dismisses the Machiavellian notions which Luiz Suarez, with his deliberate, match-saving handball in the 2010 quarter-final against Ghana have given birth to.

Read more: Suarez factor poses England biggest test
Oxlade-Chamberlain will not be risked
Gerrard: No hiding place if we lose

“Yes, they are famous for the way that when they are anxious they will do dirty tricks to unsettle the other team,” says Diego, a waiter here in Porto Alegre. “But not more than the other teams. We don’t hate them because of 1950...”

This attempt to prove a hypothesis about a new support base for Roy Hodgson’s side is not starting well and it goes backwards as others proceed to express affection for their tiny neighbours, perhaps a 10th Brazil’s size, and the duty-free zone on the border. “Our culture is the same as theirs ,” adds Diego. “Montevideo is a fine city. We are vizinhos. We are closer to Uruguayans than other Brazilians.”

The last viewpoint is significant and widely held. The people of Rio Grande do Sol, where German and Italian settlers in the 19th century have created a distinctly European ambiance which is retained to this day, pride themselves on a work ethic which they feel separates them from much of the rest of the vast nation – especially what they widely consider to be Brazil’s feckless, lazy north. The legendary carnival is less pronounced here. They work 10-hour days. They feel like a nation inside a nation.


“We go to live in Uruguay to escape Brazil,” says Maria, a doctor. “It’s a good place to work and find some order.”  Brazil, by contrast, is still judged to lack the political and economic leadership to get things done. Such was Rio Grande’s southern outlook that they even fought a war of independence from Brazil – the Farroupilha or Ragamuffin War – which while ending in defeat in 1845 is still celebrated to this day.

Uruguay also prompts talk of Diego Forlan, who travelled  over the border to play at local club side Internacional for two years from 2010. “He was great here. Another reason to love Uruguay,” says Michel, one of many to bring up his name.

This journey reaches a place which ought to tell us most about the relationship between Brazilians and England’s next opponents. It is a Uruguayan restaurant, Pizza La Mia, where they serve their pizzas the Uruguayan way, by the metre, or por metro, a bit little like buying a carpet. Thankfully, one metre is not the minimum purchase because the chocolate spread pizza – a divine Uruguayan speciality – needs to be consumed in moderation.

“What does your grandfather think about you wearing an apron like that,” seems a reasonable question for Michel, who works here, with the words “pizza a moda uruguaia” sewn into his work apparel. “Yes there is amaragura [bitterness] about 1950,” he replies. “My grandfather tells the stories. Brazil was supposed to win. There was complacency. It was a national tragedy. But it is in the past now. It is only being written in the papers again now…”

This Uruguayan love has its limits. A well-rehearsed joke here tells of two locals indulging in the classic type of Brazilian conversation, criticising their country’s state of paralysis, until a Uruguayan arrives and joins in. The Brazilians then staunchly defend the honour of their nation. That’s the Brazil mindset for you.

But England should not expect the locals to be screaming them on tonight. “We would be happy for Uruguay to go on to the quarter-finals,” says Michel, displaying the 1950 complacency all over again. “Yes, that will be fine. We are better than them now. They can’t win it though. We don’t feel they are a threat…”

The Independent's writers have been keeping in contact in Brazil using the World Cup mobile 'survival kit' provided by mobile network Oi

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam