After being criticized online for telling Brazilians to forget about the protests and focus on cheering on the national team, soccer great Pelé said in a statement he supported the protests as long as they're non-violent demonstrations.

Pele's comments were made just before Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 in its second match at the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament among continental champions.

''Let's forget about this mess that is happening in Brazil and let's think about the national team, which is our country, our blood,'' Pele told Globo TV. ''Let's not jeer the Selecao, let's support it until the end.''

Pele had expressed support for the nationwide protests in the same interview, but only the part in which he told Brazilians to "forget about this mess that is happening in Brazil" went viral.

Brazil awoke Friday to city centers still smoldering after a night that shocked the nation: 1 million protesters took to the streets in scores of cities, with clusters clashing violently with police during anti-government demonstrations.

President Dilma Rousseff, a standoffish leader who has been virtually mute in the face of the most violent protests in recent memory, called a meeting with top Cabinet members. She faced sharp criticism in Brazil's media for what many called her lack of any leadership.

It was not clear what action her government might take or if she would appear before the nation to give an address. There were growing calls on social media and in emails for a general strike next week.

Standing before the battered government building he presides over, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said he "was very angry" that protesters attacked a structure "that represents the search for understanding through dialogue." Patriota called for protesters "to convey their demands peacefully"

"I believe that the great majority of the protesters are not taking part in this violence and are instead looking to improve Brazil's democracy via legitimate forms of protest," Patriota said.

Despite the violence, the majority of protesters have been peaceful. In massive demonstrations through this week, as small groups began to vandalize, crowds would often turn and start to chant, "No violence! No violence!"

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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