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World Cup Fever Grips Shoppers At Greenwich Soccer Store

Soccer & Rugby Imports assistant manager Austin Murray holds a small U.S. soccer ball. He said the 42 W. Putnam Ave., store has seen steady business leading up to the World Cup, which begins Thursday in Brazil. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Jerseys and soccer balls of World Cup nations on the wall at Soccer & Rugby Imports at 42 W. Putnam Ave. The World Cup begins Thursday in Brazil. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Soccer balls with the names of World Cup countries and of course Barcelona and Manchester United in a bin at Soccer & Rugby Imports at 42 W. Putnam Ave. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Joao Borges, 22, a native of Brazil who lives in Port Chester, N.Y., said host nation Brazil will win the World Cup. It begins Thursday. He was at Soccer & Rugby Imports at 42 W. Putnam Ave. on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Maurice Cabrera, 26, from Port Chester, N.Y., holds an Argentina jersey and a World Cup scarf at Soccer & Rugby Imports at 42 W. Putnam Ave., Wednesday. The World Cup begins Thursday in Brazil. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Something funny happens when soccer's World Cup rolls around, according to Austin Murray, assistant manager of Soccer & Rugby Imports in Greenwich.

"Everybody is about 10 percent Brazilian," Murray said with a laugh about the popularity of the soccer powerhouse that is hosting the World Cup for the second time.

The 32-nation tournament begins Thursday as Brazil faces Croatia.

A Brazilian who stopped by the store at 42 W. Putnam Ave. to pick something up was certain he knew who would win.

"Brazil," said Joao Borges, 22, with a huge smile and no hesitation. "I wish I was there -- it is going to be crazy." The Port Chester, N.Y., resident moved to the United States from Brazil nine years ago.

Brazil, a soccer powerhouse and tournament favorite, has won five World Cups and is the host for the 32-team tournament. However, in 1950 when Brazil hosted its first World Cup, it was Uruguay that won the cup.

A major factor in Brazil's favor is that South American countries have won the four World Cup tournaments held on the continent, plus the two held in Mexico. Also, in the 1994 World Cup held in the United States, Brazil emerged as the victor.

The only European country to win on another continent is Spain, which won in South Africa four years ago.

Although Brazil has many supporters, another South American powerhouse -- Argentina -- also has its fans, including Maurice Cabrera, 26, of Port Chester.

His favorite is Argentinian and Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

"I think they are going to win this year," Cabrera said of Argentina's chances -- but not with as much certainty as Borges has for Brazil.

Murray said Brazil jerseys and gear are the big sellers, but he said American jerseys are also a hit. The store has seen steady traffic as the World Cup gets closer with everything from soccer shoes to soccer scarves attracting the customers, he said.

The New Jersey native and Stamford resident said he hopes the U.S. team does well but admitted he would like Brazil, as the host nation, to win its sixth title.

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