1. Fred’s moustache
They like a good moustache down here. It’s gaucho cowboy country, 10 hours’ drive from the Argentina border, and home to Luiz Felipe Scolari, who wears his so well. But Fred’s little pencil moustache was a rich source of amusement. “What is that thing..!!!” General satisfaction when the striker was substituted.
The talk when he arrived from the bench was of how, when he had left England to join local club Internacional, he regularly missed planes and failed to show up for work. But he’s fared better since moving to Atletico Mineiro. Brazilians, unlike the English, don’t think it’s a joke that he plays for their country.
2. Howard Webb
Not as much outrage as you might imagine at an English referee dubiously chalking off Hulk’s goal. Legendary commentator Galvao Bueno did not fuel a sense of fury and the refereeing expert beside him – an established part of Brazilian TV commentary – was gentle on South Yorkshire’s most famous official. No endless replays.
4. Luis Suarez
He occupies Brazil’s conversation too, even when the team are playing. Jokes abounded. Suarez will be hooking up with Valeska Popozuda, went one of the more obscure ones. One of the Brazilian singer’s hits was called “Kiss on the shoulder.” The general view? “There’s too much fuss about it.”
Goal of the World Cup contenders
Goal of the World Cup contenders
1/5 James Rodriguez vs Uruguay
The chest and volley strike at the Maracana was worthy of taking any side through to the quarter-finals. That it hit the underside of the bar just made it look even better.
2/5 James Rodriguez vs Japan
Rodriguez was already in contention for the best goal after his solo effort against Japan. He turned a defender inside out before a delicate chip over the on-rushing goalkeeper. Exquisite.
3/5 Robin van Persie vs Spain
The flying Dutchman with the flying header that really got the tournament going. The image of Van Persie flying through the air already feels iconic. That it came against the defending champions and went over the head of Iker Casillas made it brilliant.
4/5 Lionel Messi vs Iran
Argentina's talisman came to their rescue when it looked like a draw with Iran was on the cards. In the 91st minute, he picked up the ball on the right, shifted the ball onto his left foot to take it past a defender and then curled it round the keeper into the far corner. Well worth the wait.
5/5 Tim Cahill vs Netherlands
Cahill's left-footed volley went into the net with such speed and ferocity and the way the ball had come across his body just made the technique even more difficult. Another one off the underside of the bar.
5. Galvao Bueno
It’s a love/hate thing with commentators out here, too. Bueno, the grand duke of his profession, seems to talk a lot at the best of times and the high tension made things worse. My new friends were nervous enough without having to endure this. “Shut up, shut up,” they cried.
The wonderfully welcoming Brazilians organise their socialising inestimably well, with a sala da festa (party room) like ours on Saturday located in every apartment block where friends can gather. You will never sell your apartment here if it does not possess an in-built churrasqueira or barbeque grill. They will be sharing their stories, experiences and laughs long after the World Cup has gone.
7. A genuine No 10
No one in the room was deluded by Brazil’s win and several yearned for a No 10 in the old-fashioned sense. “Neymar works everywhere. We need someone to be in that one place behind the striker. To do what Pele used to do,” ran that line of conversation.
8. Julio Cesar’s tears
Well, they certainly seemed to go down well with the girls. Cesar told the Brazilian interviewer that they could speak again later when the emotion had subsided. This performance had as much impact on the room as his two penalty saves.
The word translates as “the little hidden one” and is a small shepherd’s pie dish. They say its name comes from a time when all manner of dubious meat was hidden under the potato but these were a highlight of an incredibly fine feast that also included hot dogs and cheese balls.
The year cropped up several times in Saturday’s conversation. Brazil’s World Cup triumph in the US that year was far removed from the joga bonita delivered by Zico and friends in ’82 and ’86. There’s some apprehension about 2014 being the new ’94. But they’ll take it, if it means winning the trophy.