KUALA LUMPUR: Brazil played host with its best culinary delights at an event where diplomats of 16 parti-cipating teams of the World Cup tournament gathered.
Besides enjoying the food, they bantered and joked as each recalled their World Cup encounters over dinner at the Samba Brazilian Steakhouse Churrascaria @ Avenue K here on Friday.
As she served her guests freshly baked pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), Brazilian ambassador to Malaysia Maria Auxiliadora Figueiredo, who has been in Malaysia for the past two years, enlightened guests on her country’s passion for football.
“I have been a football fan during my school years,” Figueiredo recalled.
“As the host nation for the second time (since 1950), the pressure to win is great. And, I am confident we can do it.”
Figueiredo, from Sao Paulo, said though her country’s defeat by Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup had been forgotten by the new generation of Brazilians, the older ones still talked about it.
“We had many great players. There were Socrates, Rivelino, Zico and, to me the best of them all, and even better than Pele, was Garrincha,” she said.
“His dribbling was a joy to watch. He did it effortlessly – with those funny-looking feet,” she said, referring to Garrincha’s birth defects, which included a deformed spine, right leg bent outwards and his left leg 6cm shorter and curved inwards.
Many of the ambassadors and diplomats were confident their respective countries would take the World Cup.
Italian ambassador Mario Sammartino said his national team, popularly referred to as the Azzurri (blue), can top their Group D and progress further if they could hold off their toughest opponents – England and Uruguay.
“I hope that my favourite player Lorenzo Insigne could shine at this tournament,” the self-confessed fan of Italian Serie A club Napoli said.
The Netherlands’ deputy head of mission Antonio “Ton” Mandemaker, believed that the relatively young Dutch squad could pull off great upsets.
“With proven club manager Louis Van Gaal, the pressure for him to succeed as a national team manager is there.
“He is good, which is why Manchester United signed him up.”