Agony and anger for Brazil as World Cup favorites crash out

SAO PAULO, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Brazilian soccer fans were overcome by shock, anger and disbelief on Friday after the World Cup favorites crashed out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage to 2018 runners-up Croatia.

Brazil's strong momentum going into the World Cup had helped unify a nation left bitterly divided by an October election in which leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva unseated far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

After years of political turmoil, economic upheaval and a domestic COVID-19 outbreak that killed nearly 700,000, many were optimistic that the Seleção, as the national team is known, were set to win a record sixth title, and their first since 2002.

Since then, Brazil have crashed out in the quarter finals in four of the last five World Cups.

"Once again the curse of the quarters," said Eduardo Costa, a 27-year-old engineer. "We thought this was the year. Much more than in previous years."

Brazil's exit on penalties, which came after they took the lead with a stunning solo goal from Neymar in extra time, was met with anger by some supporters at Sao Paulo's FIFA Fan Festival. Many left in silence as soon as the game ended.

Lula, who takes office on Jan 1 and who announced his first cabinet appointments minutes before the game, lamented the loss.

"Brazil did its best, Neymar scored a beautiful goal and the team deserved much more. My compliments to all the players and the technical staff. Let's keep looking forward, because in this life you can never give up," he tweeted.

Lucca Giovanetti, a 24-year-old businessman, credited Croatia with a canny performance.

"Brazil played well, but committed a tactical error. We scored a goal and thought we had won," he said at the Fan Festival. "Croatia played well, they were strategic... It was a clean victory."

Reporting by Fernando Cardoso; editing by John Stonestreet

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