Police in Sao Paulo fired tear gas Monday to disperse protesters supporting a subway strike that has unleashed transport chaos three days before the Brazilian mega-city hosts the World Cup kick-off.
The demonstrators were backing a five-day-old strike by subway workers that have posed a major headache for the sprawling city of 20 million people ahead of Thursday’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia.
Rising inflation and a sluggish economy have tarnished the World Cup glow in Brazil, fuelling the anger of strikers and protesters who say the $11-billion budget would have been better spent on education, health and transport.
The protests come as World Cup teams continue arriving in Brazil, with reigning champions Spain touching down Sunday night.
But the chaos gripping Sao Paulo – the latest in a wave of strikes and protests around the tournament – has distracted the usually passionate footballing nation from the World Cup buildup.
Authorities are keen to resolve the latest labour dispute and avoid further embarrassment in a World Cup hit by delays and cost overruns even before it has started.
A year ago during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, more than a million people flooded the streets, some trashing property and clashing with police.
Recent protests have been smaller, but activists are vowing to revive last year’s ‘Tropical Spring’ during the World Cup.
We are good enough to reach last-eight: Honda
Japan will defy the odds and the sceptics and produce a miracle by maybe going further than even the quarter-finals at the World Cup finals, their talismanic AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda boldly predicted Monday.
“Firstly, we can 100% get through our group,” he said.
“After that anything can happen at a World Cup. We’re good enough to reach the last-eight.
“Obviously we all need to stay fit but if we do the basics right 100%, no mistakes, we can get to the quarter-finals. From there we can make miracles happen.”
While Honda sounded a note of defiance France coach Didier Deschamps and his players flew out to Brazil on Monday with the 1998 World Cup winning captain warning his players against falling into the trap of becoming over confident on the back of an 8-0 thrashing of Jamaica in their final friendly.
As Honda and the French squad looked forward to their respective campaigns the World Cup hopes of another two players, Ecuador’s Segundo Castillo and Colombia’s Aldo Ramirez, were dashed as they failed to win their respective battles to be fit.