NEW YORK -- It wasn’t Brazil.
It was Brooklyn.
But on Thursday afternoon inside Miss Favela Brazilian Botequim, a stone’s throw from the Williamsburg Bridge, you couldn’t tell the difference.
About a hundred raucous fans clad in green and gold packed the bar/bistro on the corner of South 5th St. and Wythe Ave. to watch Brazil take on Croatia in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.
Space was at a premium, and there wasn’t much of it to be had. Servers had to use whistles to clear paths so they could bring customers their food and drinks.
Those who couldn’t get in watched from outside, peering through a few open windows to catch a glimpse of the televisions.
The atmosphere could only be described as electric. This game mattered. And this was the place to be to watch it.
“I’ve come here for eight years now and I have no plans to go anywhere else,” said J.P. Simon, 33, who drove to Miss Favela from his home in Roseland, N.J. “Bar none, if you’re Brazilian, this is the best place to watch.”
It’s easy to see why.
“Favela,” Simon explained, is a “Brazilian slum neighborhood.”
“That’s what makes this place special,” he continued. “I mean look, you have a Brazilian helmet here from Ayrton Senna (the beloved Formula-1 champion from Brazil). You’ve got the tin roof. Everything here is pure Brazil. You can’t go wrong with that. You feel at home here.”
Jeremie Carrier, 39, a native of France, co-owns the place. He was managing it on Thursday afternoon, which meant dealing with plenty of organized chaos. When Carrier and his Brazilian business partner opened Miss Favela, they never expected anything like this.
“This is super crazy. Too crazy, actually,” Carrier said. “We’re authentic. We are a real favela. It’s raw. It’s music. It’s dancers. It is what it is. If there’s room, there’s room. If there’s not, there’s not.”
There wasn’t. It didn’t matter.
Ferhat Arar, 39 and Aura Trentine, 33, both natives of Belgium, were among those standing outside. Both have been fans of Brazil for a very long time.
“They’re everybody’s favorite team,” Arar said. “Brazil is the most famous soccer team in the world.”
“I’ve always rooted for Brazil when I’m not rooting for Belgium or Italy,” said Trentine, who lives two blocks away.
Bruno Lopez, who is 100 percent Brazilian and wore a flag over his fan attire, made the 40-minute drive from Long Island to be at Miss Favela.
“This is the best place,” he said.
Things didn’t start out so well for the Brazilians early. An own-goal had the fans concerned. But their concern didn’t last long. Neymar struck 18 minutes later, and all was well again. At halftime, the Portuguese commentary of the game was muted and some native music went on. There was plenty of dancing. “Caipirinha,” a native drink, was flowing from pitchers to glasses. This wasn’t a soccer match. It was a party.
Shortly thereafter the game resumed. In the 71st minute, a controversial call resulted in Neymar getting a chance from the penalty spot. The 22-year-old phenom did not miss it. Bedlam ensued.
The fans yelled. They jumped. Alcohol and water was splashing all over the place. “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” they chanted.
Twenty minutes later, Oscar gave the Brazilians a two-goal lead. More yelling. More jumping. More splashing. More chanting.
Brazil had won. The party was just beginning.