|Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listings – Full coverage details|
It’s 6.30pm local time at Msherieb metro station in Doha.
What is normally a steady trickle of locals making their way home from work is now a stream of yellow seemingly floating down the escalator. Yellow, green and blue flags, painted faces, absurd hats, the colour is something to behold.
Then the noise hits you. Helped by the acoustics of the underground station, you feel like you are a fly on the wall at a packed Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The incredibly catchy songs and chants become earworms that you will be humming for the next few days – even though you have no clue what is being sung and what any of it means. Locals watch on in bemused wonder at this carnival-like experience.
This is Brazil on a matchday.
There are still three and half hours until their group finale against Cameroon gets under way and just eight metro stops to travel along the red line. But Le Selecao fans are ready. The party has started.
“This is normal,” shouted Brazilian fan Geraldo as the throng waits for the Metro. “We are never quiet. We go to football because we love it but we love the whole thing, not just the match. We want to party.”
You can feel the anticipation on the packed carriages. No chance for any quiet conversation as, packed in like sardines, the Brazilians continue the show. It’s not long before Neymar’s name is chanted long and loud.
No one minds though. The Cameroon fans, dwarfed in number, are all smiles as they dance and clap along. For the moment the football ahead is forgotten as everyone is swept along by the cacophony of noise and sheer brilliance of the canary yellow.
Rewind 48 hours and it is like an action replay to their South American rivals. Only then it was an ocean of Argentina’s blue and white. Number 10 shirts with Messi and Maradona on almost every back. Different colours but the same noise.
Messi & co were in scintillating form against Poland but it was the fans any neutrals fortunate enough to have been at Stadium 974 were left talking about.
Now it was Brazil’s turn again.
As you approach the stadium, it looks like a Brazil home game. Everywhere you look just screams Brazil. Cameroon fans try to make themselves heard, but it is always going to be tough.
How many Brazil fans have actually made the trip to Qatar? ‘50,000’ one particularly vocal supporter tells me before dancing off blowing on his yellow and green horn. It is in reality some way short of that number – although official figures have proved impossible to find – but is doesn’t half feel that big.
From the moment we arrived in Qatar, 14 days ago, Argentina and Brazil shirts have dominated the Doha streets.
“Of course,” said Brazilian fan Dulce, who has lived in Doha with her husband and two children for five years.
“We have Brazil people living in Doha and so does Argentina. We also see everyone, nearly, wearing Brazil and Argentina shirts. All the children, all the adults. These are the teams they have wanted to see ever since getting the World Cup.
“I am told there are also about 30,000 Brazil fans who have come from South America, and 38,000 from Argentina. This is usual.
“It doesn’t matter how many of the people here are from Brazil anyway because this is Selecao fever. You see it at every game we play, everyone wants to wear our yellow shirts and be Brazilian for the night.”
The match itself? Even Brazil could not completely fill the 88,000 capacity Lusail Stadium but they gave it a go.
From the moment they unfurled a ‘Get Well soon Pele’ flag at kick-off to the roars every time their much-changed team attacked, the Brazil fans were in the mood to be entertained.
They ended up slightly disappointed – despite a number of chances – but even a late 1-0 defeat didn’t dampen their spirit as they went through top of Group G and a valiant Cameroon exited.
As lines and lines of seemingly never ending yellow snaked their way back to the metro station, they knew bigger nights were to come.
Indeed, on another vocal and manic ride home, the distant prospect of an Argentina v Brazil semi-final becomes a pretty mouth-watering prospect to be debated.
Plenty of matches to be won before then, but the next time someone says ‘it’s just like watching Brazil’, I’ll be able to tell them that, in reality, nothing much is.
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