GOIANIA, Brazil (AP) — Thousands of fans watched Brazil’s final training session Monday before its World Cup warm-up game against Panama.
Fans arrived early at the Serra Dourada Stadium to get a glimpse of the players who will try to win the World Cup at home beginning next week.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari made reference to 20,000 people watching on, but initial estimates by police said between 5,000 and 10,000 supporters were at the stadium. Attendance at the 50,000-capacity Serra Dourada had been limited to 20,000 fans because of security reasons.
Mostly clad in Brazil’s yellow colors, fans faced long lines to get into the venue. It was free to watch the training session but fans needed to have tickets.
The crowd chanted “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil,” as they waited for their idols, then cheered loudly when the players entered the field. Fans yelled every time a player came near the sidelines or when a goal was scored.
“I’m not going to be able to watch the (Panama) match, so I had to find a way to see the players today,” said Cristiano de Castro, who brought his 2-year-old son to the Serra Dourada. “He loves the national team, this is huge for me and for him.”
At the end of the session players gathered at midfield and applauded the crowd.
“It was good to have 20,000 people here supporting us and hopefully we will have some 40,000 people tomorrow during the match,” Scolari said.
Tuesday’s game will be the team’s second-to-last before playing Croatia in the World Cup opener on June 12. The hosts face Serbia on Friday in its final tuneup. More than 50,000 tickets have already been sold for that match in Sao Paulo.
Brazil began its World Cup preparations a week ago outside Rio de Janeiro, where practices have been closed to the public so far.
Goiania was one of the 17 cities that bid to host matches during the World Cup, but it was left out as the nearby capital of Brasilia was picked thanks to its strong political influence. Brazil was based in Goiania before last year’s Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up tournament it won.
Brazil will be without captain Thiago Silva and midfielders Paulinho and Fernandinho for the match against Panama. Paulinho was nursing an ankle injury sustained in practice on Saturday, while his teammates stayed at the team’s training camp to work on their fitness.
Hernanes had replaced Paulinho in practice on Sunday, but Scolari said Ramires will start on Tuesday. Dante will be Thiago Silva’s replacement.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.