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Croatia beats Brazil in the World Cup, kicking the country out of the competition


In Qatar, a big upset at the World Cup - Brazil is out. Croatia beat the South American favorite in penalty kicks 4-2. It was a bruising quarterfinal defeat and one that has stunned the soccer-crazed country. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Rio de Janeiro and joins us now. Hey, Carrie.


CHANG: Oh, man. OK, so how are people taking it over there?

KAHN: I think you got the word right - stunned. This is not what people thought was going to happen.

CHANG: Yeah.

KAHN: Maybe there was some overconfidence, maybe moxie. But it is gut-wrenching right now. You have to understand what it's like here when Brazil plays a match. Everything just stops, and everyone is watching. Schools go home early.

CHANG: Really?

KAHN: Shops close, government offices, bank - everything stops. And everybody's watching, even if you're not a really big fan. And expectations were really high for this talented, pretty young team to make it a sixth record World Cup win.

CHANG: Oh, I'm kind of heartbroken for them. So what are fans you're talking to saying about this loss?

KAHN: I have to be honest. I didn't even go to a public area to watch the game 'cause I - to get ready to report because it was just assumed Brazil was going to win.

CHANG: (Laughter).

KAHN: So I was at home.

CHANG: Uh huh.

KAHN: The game was scoreless until extra time. And then at, you know, 1:05, Neymar - Brazil's bleach-blond-haired star forward - makes this amazing goal. And you just hear screaming everywhere and fireworks going off on all sides of the bay here. And then Croatia equalized the game nine minutes later. And it goes in the penalty kicks, and Brazil just missed it. Listen to this sportscaster. This was posted on Instagram. He's a popular guy on a popular show, and you don't even have to understand Portuguese to get this.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Shouting in Portuguese).

KAHN: He's like, you dumba**, you idiot. You've destroyed this country. We are suffering. He's blaming Brazil's national team coach. And the blame game has just begun. Here's a fan, Leonardo Pires, who works at a small market in Rio.

LEONARDO PIRES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: He's blaming Neymar, the star forward. And he says he's let down the whole country.

CHANG: Oh, my God.

KAHN: He should have done more. This is the fourth time in five World Cups that Brazil has been kicked out in the quarterfinals.

CHANG: And social media is, like, going nuts right now...

KAHN: Yeah.

CHANG: ...About this loss, right?

KAHN: Crazy. There's tons of tweets and memes flying around. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president-elect, tweeted after the game, trying to reassure the nation that it would be OK. He praised everyone. He said, let's go ahead because, in life, we can never give up. It's like, look, Brazil just came out of a very contentious presidential election. Lula is a leftist. He won the election by less than two percentage points. He beat out the far-right president of the past four years, Jair Bolsonaro, who's a very divisive political figure. You know, maybe it's too cliche.

CHANG: There's a lesson learned (laughter).

KAHN: Yeah, maybe. Well, maybe I'm just being pollyannish, but after that bruising election, people were coming together and rallying around this very talented team with each win.


KAHN: And it just feels like that momentum of healing wounds was cut short.

CHANG: Oh, my God. This is getting depressing.

KAHN: Oh, yeah.

CHANG: OK, so did fans there tell you who they would root for now that Brazil is out of the World Cup?

KAHN: I asked a lot of people that question, and would they root for Argentina, which just won after another painful round of penalty kicks? But in unison, the Brazilian fans I was talking to at the small market all together said nunca - never. Although Brazilians may personally like Messi - Lionel Messi, Argentina's captain - who says this will be his last World Cup, you know, the prize super soccer stars never attain, Brazilians just find it really hard to root for Argentina.

CHANG: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro. Thank you so much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.