Rio de Janeiro: For years, Brazilians had a phrase they would inevitably utter when things went wrong. "Imagina na Copa," they said after an endless traffic jam or a construction accident or an ugly rash of violence dominated the news - imagine if this happened during the World Cup. It became a foreboding warning, a pre-emptive sigh at the presumed disasters that lay ahead.
Over five weeks, though, Brazil avoided any of the major catastrophes it feared. Thrilling games and entertaining soccer - as well as the national team's own stunning collapse - generally overshadowed any logistical issues, and the tournament was seen as a global success. So it was fitting, then, that in the tournament's final game, the Brazilians managed to dodge the ultimate on-field nightmare, too.
It could have been calamitous. For Brazilians, the only thing worse than their national team's losing the trophy would have been for their neighbor Argentina to win it, and that possibility hung heavy over the fans at Estadio do Maracana on Sunday.