Ahead of the World Cup, there were several lines of thought about why having the World Cup in Brazil was a bad idea.
First, there was the idea that Brazil wouldn't be able to get its act together and finish in time. It wasn't just a concept from abroad and from portions of the international media, but also among some in Brazil that questioned the country's abilities and worthiness.
Next, there was the fear that protests would spiral out of control and overshadow the games, as well as the worry that general problems with violence would affect visitors.
Then there was the idea that the World Cup was a zero-sum game, and that by pouring billions into stadiums, money was being taken away from areas like education and health.
And there was the idea that the World Cup could be a panacea to modernize the country in the eyes of foreign visitors, particularly in infrastructure and airports.
And here's what actually happened.
Half of infrastructure projects were scrapped, and the lauded Rio-São Paulo bullet train never materialized. But stadiums were finished in time for the games, and a few long-delayed projects like Salvador's metro were miraculously finished. Overall, things have been going smoothly, by most reports. Airports, for example, have been running well with delays below the international average.
There have been protests with outbreaks of violence, but they've been small in comparison to last year's and haven't gained popular support. Instead, Brazilians for the most part have gotten into the spirit of the games.
There haven't been reports of mass muggings or major crime problems for tourists. Some of the worst human rights issues connected to the games, namely mass removals, have received plenty of coverage and awareness even though they happened well ahead of the opening match.
The focus has been, rightfully so, on the beautiful game and the incredible athletic performances themselves. Brazilian social media lit up when an American ESPN journalist wrote:
If the World Cup in Brazil is going to be like this, just have all the World Cups in Brazil.— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) June 14, 2014
In some ways, the negative press ahead of the games lowered people's expectations, which were met with fewer problems than they'd thought. Unlike the Sochi Olympics, for example, there haven't been widespread complaints about conditions for visitors.
The government says that the World Cup investments won't impact the country's overall spending, and that it continues to spend billions on health and education as it normally would. Stadiums represent just a fraction of public spending on health and education, this line of thought goes.
And the truth about corruption and the validity of largely government-funded investments is something that's going to play out long-term, after all of the tourists and visiting journalists and players have all gone home. The so-called legacy of the games and the return on investment isn't something that will be immediate, but rather be something to watch for years to come.
In the end, the World Cup is a short-term victory for Brazil, whether the national team wins or not. The harder and definitive challenge is what will happen when visitors leave and the Brazil headlines fade, and Brazilians are stuck dealing with the consequences of a month-long event. The World Cup has been a definitive success, but if that success will last far beyond the games remains to be seen.
Image: Brazilian fans during Brazil's opening match. Governo da Bahia.