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Brazil or bust

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:39 PM

Hugo Laranga is a long way from home.

But on Thursday, the native Brazilian, now living in Grand Haven, felt like he was back in his homeland as he watched the Brazilian national soccer team kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup with 3-1 a victory over Croatia.

Brazil is the host nation for this year’s World Cup, and the Laranjas, along with several other local families, are heading to Brazil later this month for a two-week siesta of soccer and sun.

On Thursday, the atmosphere was certainly festive as Laranja hosted a viewing party for the game at his outdoor tiki bar. Kids swam in the pool and played soccer on a small goal in the side yard, while the adults sat glued to the TV to soak up the action.

Futball in Brazil is like nothing an American sports fan can imagine. Kids play soccer in the streets, at parks, on the playgrounds. They watch it on TV. They idolize the players — from Pele to Ronaldo to Ronaldinho.  There is no NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL. There is soccer.

On Thursday, it was the latest Brazilian star, Neymar, who showed off his talents, scoring twice to thrill the hometown fans packing Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

U.S. soccer fans — the American Outlaws — will get a chance to cheer on their team on Monday, when Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad takes on Ghana in Group G action. Ghana has eliminated the United States from the World Cup the last two years, and with matches against European powers Portugal and Germany coming up, this is a must-win for the Americans.

Soccer in the United States takes a back seat to the Big 3 — baseball, football and basketball. But for these next few weeks, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 will air every game, giving soccer fanatics a chance to enjoy their favorite sport on the world’s biggest stage.

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