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Sports

July 14, 2014

Football fans celebrate Cup final in Brazil

(Continued)

With Brazil roundly praised for how it has staged the tournament, considered by many fans to be among the most exciting in recent decades, authorities were taking no chances of anything ruining their big day.

Around the Maracana, where 74,000 spectators crammed in for the final, lines of security forces wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles stood watch. Roads were closed and military helicopters buzzed overhead, with Brazilian authorities still wary about violent protests that marred last year’s Confederations Cup warm-up event.

Several hundred protesters gathered at a plaza near Maracana a few hours before kickoff, and clashed with police as they neared security perimeters set up roughly 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the stadium. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the march. It wasn’t clear how many protesters or police may have been injured — at least two journalists sustained minor injuries.

Across the road from the stadium, Argentina supporters danced and sang in a cafe, eagerly awaiting their chance to win the World Cup for the first time since Diego Maradona’s team in 1986.

“Messi will lift it! Messi will lift it!” the Argentines chanted, hoping that their star player will pick up the solid gold trophy at the end.

For the host country, the football ended in disappointment with a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Germans in the semifinals, but the tournament — with one game to go — has been hailed as a great success.

“We did ok, yes?” said a Brazilian walking around the outskirts of the Maracana wearing his team’s canary-yellow shirt.

Associated Press writers Alan Clendenning and Stephen Wade contributed to this report.

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