Brazil's Upside-Down Cup: Bad on Field, Good Off

But there were no mass protests like those witnessed during last year's Confederations Cup, the World Cup's warm-up soccer tournament. Strikes by public transport workers and police that many feared would hurt the event were resolved in the days before the tournament began. The stadiums held up well despite some concerns about their structural safety.

What's left now is for Brazilians themselves to decide if the $13.5 billion spent in preparations was worth it.

"I'm still upset. There was so much spending to build world-class stadiums while our hospitals and schools remain a mess," said Laeste de Santana, a 50-year-old barber in Rio. "These problems won't go away because of the Cup. These are things that we Brazilians still have to live with once the tournament is over."

But Rio taxi driver Paulo Oliveira saw the Cup in a more positive light.

"It was a beautiful event. We showed the world the true Brazilian tradition of opening our arms open wide for foreign visitors and embracing them with our joy and warmth," he said. "Our country has really advanced in the last 10 years. We've still got a lot of problems, of course, primarily with infrastructure and poverty, and visitors saw that. But in my cab, at least, during the past month all I saw were gringos with smiling faces."

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Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield contributed to this report.

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Bradley Brooks on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bradleybrooks

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