World Cup 2014. Brazil 2 - Colombia 1
4 July 2014, 4:00 pm. Beija-Flor Restaurant, Long Island City
For Brazil’s clutch quarterfinal match against a flying Colombia, we headed to Beija-Flor Restaurant in the Brazilian-dominated area in Queens on the Long Island City/Astoria border.
The interior was packed an hour before kickoff, with yellow-clad fans of all ages standing between full tables and spilling out the door to watch the game on the large projector screen in the back of the festive restaurant.
A middle aged woman painted diminutive Brazilian flags on people’s faces as “eu sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor” (I’m Brazilian, with a lot of pride, with a lot of love) chants rang out.
We settled into our prime seats and proceeded to order passion fruit caipirinhas, skirt steaks, buckets of Brazilian beer, and delicious little salted cod croquettes from the overstretched yet incredibly friendly waitstaff as the game began, with both teams playing an extremely physical style where tactical fouls were frequently deployed from the start.
The Brazilians in Queens were treated to a fortuitous beginning, with Thiago Silva scoring at the back post in the 7th minute after some sloppy defending.
An old man stood on his seat and pumped his fist with equal parts excitement and relief, a girl whipped out a concealed vuvuzela festooned with a Brazilian flag and blew it towards the heavens, and couples of all ages lovingly embraced.
Shortly after the first goal, a full percussion section magically appeared in Beija-Flor’s standing-room-only entry way. They proceeded to play incredible Brazilian music (with a tambourine player rocking a yellow “jiu jitsu Dad” shirt even dipping into occasional spoken word match commentary in Portuguese) for the rest of the game, sidewalk halftime show included. This was easily one of our World Cup in NYC highlights over the past few weeks.
The brutal fouling continued in the second half with the referee struggling to keep control of the match before David Luiz’s wonderful free kick smashed into the upper right corner of the net in the 69th, sending the Brazilians in Queens into full party mode.
Colombia got one back in the 80th from James “player-of-the-tournament” Rodríguez and he was swiftly congratulated by a giant green bug, but it was too late for Los Cafeteros.
As the final whistle sounded the party at Beija-Flor spilled onto the streets, carnival hats were passed around, cars waving Brazilian flags passed by sounding congratulatory air horns from their moon roofs, and elderly women sambaed to the sounds of the incredible five piece percussion section that never stopped playing.