SAO PAULO - Brazil's players are not the only ones with frayed nerves as they try to win the World Cup at home for the first time.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and remains its most popular politician, said he was so stressed out watching last Saturday's penalty shootout against Chile on TV that he had to leave the room twice.
"I've been watching World Cups since 1958... and I've never been so nervous as I was on Saturday," Lula told a small group of foreign reporters on Thursday.
Extra time ended with the score at 1-1 before Brazil won the shootout 3-2 after Chile's Gonzalo Jara struck the woodwork.
"If that ball doesn't hit the post, I was going to be hospitalised to take care of my heart," Lula said. "It was really tense. Brazil didn't play well. Chile played better."
Brazil have won a record five World Cup titles but lost in the final the only other time it hosted the tournament in 1950. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari called in a psychologist this week to help some players deal with the pressure.
The team play Colombia in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Lula, who in 2007 spearheaded Brazil's successful bid to host the tournament, said he was "very happy" with the country's performance as host. He noted that stadiums and airports defied doomsday predictions and have been free of major problems. (Reporting by Brian Winter; Editing by Ken Ferris)