The most memorable moment in Brazil's 7-1 Copa America win over Haiti

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The most memorable moment in Brazil's 7-1 Copa America win over Haiti
The most memorable moment in Brazil's 7-1 Copa America win over Haiti

ORLANDO, Fla. – It was just one goal.

The match was already out of reach. Philippe Courtinho was on his way to a hat trick, Brazil was on its way to a Copa America Centenario win and television viewers' attention was on its way to the NBA Finals.

Then came the goal, just one goal.

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[ Copa America Centenario | Scores and Schedule | Standings | Teams ]

In the 70th minute, Haiti midfielder James Marcelin snuck in on the weak side of the Brazil net, found a rebound at his feet and booted it home to cut the lead to 5-1.

The cheers at the Citrus Bowl sounded like an eruption. The press box rattled. The Haitian fans shook. The radio announcer calling the match for the people back home all but broke into song.

James Marcelin, the Carolina RailHawk, had scored the first-ever goal for Haiti in the Copa America. It was also the country's first-ever goal against Brazil, a team that is worshipped on the island nation.

"You heard that," Haiti midfielder Kevin Lafrance said. "When we scored … the screaming."

"It was amazing," midfielder Jean Alexandre said. "It was amazing."

There was no real chance of an upset here. Haiti was overwhelmed from the beginning of the match, with the Brazilians playing at another level, another speed. The final count was 7-1, the same score of Brazil's infamous World Cup semifinal loss to eventual champion Germany in 2014.

"I didn't expect them to score at all," said Haitian Patrick Desamorus, 31, who traveled from Baltimore just to see his home nation play.

Haiti fans rocked the Citrus Bowl after their team scored. (AP Photo)
Haiti fans rocked the Citrus Bowl after their team scored. (AP Photo)

This could have been seen as more of a gathering than a game, between two national teams that met 12 years ago in Port-au-Prince under emotional circumstances. Back then, the Selecao was accompanied by United Nations peacekeepers as part of a mission to a country with more than half its population below the poverty line. Brazilian superstars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were there. The visitors won 6-0 and could have won by 10 more, but the score didn't matter.

On Wednesday, it did. It was a marking point for a Haiti national team trying to gain respect and a nation still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

"It's always been difficult in Haiti," said Desamorus, who is a physician's assistant in Maryland. "Going back in history, we've always had to struggle to be someone, to be in a position that is better. For some reason we have political instability and we never do better."

So every little sign means a lot, even if it happens on the soccer pitch. Haiti showed up on a field here in Florida, a state with a relatively large Haitian population, and for a split-second, there was a highlight, a memory, a glimpse of glory. There was a Haiti player, arms spread out in glee. There was a Brazil goalkeeper, laid out on the ground, with the ball behind him.

"It's very important," Alexandre said. "It's the oldest international tournament in the world. There are thousands of countries watching this event; I can't think of a better way to be an ambassador."

So after the game, player interviews in the mixed zone brought mixed emotions. Some smiles, some grimances. "Bittersweet," Alexandre said. Both feelings are important. The goal was both an exclamation point and a colon: the players and fans want a little more next time. Maybe there's another goal in Haiti's final match of this tournament on Sunday in New Jersey against Ecuador. Maybe there's momentum.

Desamorus glowed about the goal he saw, but then when he was asked how he felt about the entire match, he paused for a moment and asked a question that shows how expectations have changed.

"Will this be printed?"

 

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