RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - They flock to games with faces painted and draped in flags. They hold up signs and wear funny hats. They chant and sing until they're hoarse. They're the traveling fans, and they're helping give the World Cup the feel of Carnival.
For many of the 16 teams left in soccer's biggest extravaganza, the dedicated traveling fans offer the kind of boost that makes them feel like they've got an extra player.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman credits the tens of thousands of supporters who turned the stadium at Belo Horizonte into a sea of yellow for his team's first match, against Greece, for helping the team win its first World Cup game in 16 years.
"I was very touched by what I saw in the stands," he says, adding that the overwhelming support turned the stadium into a fortress for Colombia.
The Colombians carried that confidence through the rest of the group stage, winning all three games and advancing into the second round.
Hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the Americas have flooded into Brazil for the tournament, where teams from the region account for half of the remaining competitors. But the Dutch in their orange and the Swiss in their red are still wildly waving the flags for Europe.