COLUMBIA — In 1994, when Brazil was playing in the knockout stages of the World Cup, Christiane and James Quinn were driving through Michigan and had to watch the match in whatever bar or restaurant they could persuade to change the channel.
"We'd be all by ourselves and nobody else in the bar had any interest in the game," James Quinn recalled.
This year, their World Cup experience will be more communal. The Quinns, along with their two teenage children, Yvan and Francielie, left Tuesday to be in Christiane's home country on June 17 to watch their team face off against Mexico. The match will take place at the Estádio Castelão in the northeastern coastal city of Fortaleza.
The planning in earnest began more than a year ago, though Christiane Quinn and her family knew they wanted to go when they learned in 2007 that the quadrennial soccer tournament would be played in Brazil. They entered the lottery for the chance to buy tickets. They didn't know which teams would be participating yet, only that Brazil, as the host country, was guaranteed a berth.
Although they won a chance to buy tickets, many of Christiane's family and friends in Brazil were not so lucky; only she, her husband and their children plan to attend a game.
According to FIFA's website, 2,961,911 tickets were sold as of June 5 of about 3.1 million available, with more than 11 million ticket requests made. Of those sold, 60 percent were purchased by Brazilians. The remaining 40 percent were sold to the rest of the world; nearly 7 percent were bought in the U.S., more than any other country outside Brazil.
"It's really competitive to get tickets, and they aren't exactly cheap," said James, a horticulture specialist for MU Extension. "We're happy to be seeing one game."
Individual tickets for group stage matches in Brazil range from $90 to $175, while similar tickets for the first and second rounds of the 1994 World Cup, the highest attended cup in history, were $23.75 to $80 per game at Orlando's Citrus Bowl, according to a 1993 Orlando Sentinel article.
It won't be the Quinns' first time at a World Cup match. When the U.S. hosted the event in 1994, the couple was living in Michigan near the Pontiac Silverdome, where four group stage matches were played.
Christiane said she and her family, including her relatives who traveled up from Brazil, split three or four seats for each of the four matches. They even got to see Brazil's final group stage game against Sweden, in which the teams tied, after the team had already secured a spot in the elimination rounds. Brazil went on to lift its fourth World Cup trophy.
The Quinns have also helped organize watch parties for past World Cups with local Brazilians at various Columbia bars and restaurants. In 2002, James said, they woke up at 6 a.m. to watch Brazil beat Germany in the final to claim its record fifth World Cup title. While the couple are in Brazil for the World Cup, their cohorts in Columbia plan to watch the opening match at 2 p.m. Thursday at Bengal's Bar & Grill at Sixth and Elm streets.
Brazil hasn't had the same success in the past two tournaments, losing in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010. Christiane was in Brazil watching the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and by the time James flew down to join her, Brazil had already been knocked out of the competition. He said he felt the team didn't have the "chutzpah" of the 2002 championship team.
More recently, Brazil won the 2013 Confederations Cup, a competition held in the World Cup's host nation the summer before the main event. The Brazilians beat out defending world champion Spain for the trophy.
James said he has high expectations for this year's team. Playing on its home turf, Brazil is favored to win its record sixth World Cup trophy.
"This year's team is excellent," he said. The Brazilian fans "don’t want to brag about it because they don’t want to jinx it."
While the family will be watching a lot of soccer in Brazil, James said the trip is also a family vacation. They have never been to Fortaleza before, and they plan to do "typical tourist things" there.
The family first will fly about six hours nonstop from Miami to Belém, a coastal city northwest of Fortaleza, where they will watch Brazil's tournament-opening game against Croatia on TV on Thursday. Later, they'll travel to Fortaleza for the Brazil-Mexico match and then fly to Rio de Janeiro to be with family and watch the rest of the tournament.
Christiane said her family plans to go to FIFA Fan Fests for some of the games, where fans can watch on large screens at one of 12 off-site viewing areas, including one in Rio de Janeiro.
Christiane said she visits relatives in Brazil on her own about once a year; the rest of her family going less frequently.
Brazilians are starting to worry more about the costs now that the event is near, Christiane said. But she thinks South Americans are happy to host the World Cup again. Argentina was the host country in 1978, and it won the title. No European team has ever won a World Cup in South America.
"I think all of South America is very excited to bring the games back there," she said. "I am, too."
Francielie, 14, said she's looking forward to being back in Brazil with her family, and this trip in particular.
"I'm excited to experience different cultures in Brazil since we usually just stay in Rio with my family," she said. "It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I'm fortunate to experience it."
Christiane said she cheers for the U.S., too, but if it comes down to them and Brazil, she knows which one she'll be rooting for: her home country. "It's exciting to see Brazil play in Brazil."
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.