Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 12 São Luís – Fortaleza – World Cup 2014 Begins!

As I packed last night, there was a terrific amount of noise coming from the pizzeria below and I began to think I might find it hard to get to sleep. However, by the time everything was packed away, ready to go at 6:30am the noise stopped and I slept very well. It always amazes me how often my internal “clock” seems to know when to wake up without any alarm and I preceded it by 15 minutes.

I prepared two addresses for them to send my stuff to, assuming it wouldn’t have been returned yet – one at Maracajau and one at Ouro Preto – only to be greeted by the news from young Paulo (I think that was his name) that they were there.

Gooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllll!!!!! I shouted, with arms raised.

“… a minha” added a guy in a Brazilian shirt who was waiting there, anticipating my sentiment.

Great news. For just R$30 too. I gave the receptionist a 50 and told him to keep the change – I was so pleased – but he insisted on giving me the R$20 back. So much for the miserable Scottish guy’s prognosis of Brazilians!

Check Out completed, I asked, if the taxi was due to come soon, as it was now 7am and after a bit of confusion, it turned out that the guy in the Brazilian shirt WAS the taxi driver. Fantastic.

We chatted about football – he’s yet another Flamengo fan – as we got to the airport very smoothly as there was little traffic on the road at this time.

I checked in smoothly, even with two quite big bags as hand luggage, and here I am typing away having had some Pao de Queijo. I brought a smile to the girl on the counter when I quizzed her about the exact pronunciation of the world “Pao”. I wonder why!

Goooooaaaallll!!! a minha! Bag of washed clothes arrived before I went to the airport

Cheesy bread
The flight was nice, sat between two middle aged ladies. As I started taking photos out of the window, careful not to encroach on the lady in the window seat, she kindly asked if I’d like to swap. “Sim. Obrigado” I said. Great, so at least I got to see Lencois from the air – yes, a LOT of sand!
Lencois - the easy way to see it
Sao Luis to Fortaleza about 644 km
What I missed

Less than an hour after take off we landed in Fortaleza and after getting out of the terminal nice and easy I called Israela my AirB&B host who was kind enough to pick me up with her friend Rodrigo. They showed me a bit of Fortaleza before dropping me off here at her great place. I had a shower, got changed and took my other clothes straight to the laundry to be cleaned. After dropping them off I had a couple of hours to potter around. I went down to the FIFA fan place which was unbearably hot so I left and went to a restaurant for a very nice meal of halibut and rice and a couple of beers. Lots of fans here and the atmosphere is building up.

Needed That!  - Football Throng Building Up
Waiters kept coming and tempting you with meat. The Pork Ribs were exceptional

Fortaleza Pier

Atmosphere Building Up
Hot in Fortaleza

The Full Brazilian
Now I must say I find judging some social situation quite difficult and I got into a bit of a pickle over one (now) yesterday. On the way from the airport, Isaela had mentioned that she was going to watch the game with some friends - a kind of barbecue where you pay some cash for food and drink and watch the game on the big screen. She asked me if I wanted to come. Now my reply was a little uncommitted as I'd been in touch with the Germans Chris and Felix who had suggested we meet up for beers and watch the game together. When I next contacted Chris I mentioned the offer from Israela and suggested that maybe I should go to that because I didn't want to offend my host. He said "fine, maybe we can meet up after the match."

So that was that. Anyway I got back to the flat before 3pm, the time Israela had said she'd be back, and got ready to go to her barbecue thing. However, there was no sign of her till about 3:40. When she arrived I told her that, if it was ok, I'd like to come along to the barbie thing but she seemed surprised "what about your German friends"? I said that they were going to watch the game at the fanfest and I thought it might be a bit too noisy (crap excuse, I know!) She said she'd have to call her friend, so I waited. Anyway, time was ticking and with about 50 minutes to go, I started to panic. How far away was this barbecue? Who was going to be there? Are we going to miss the opening ceremony? When are we going? etc. I decided, "sod it" I'll go to the fanfest after all, but needed to tell her, obviously, so I waited until she'd finished her call.

I could tell by the look on her face that she was going to tell me that I wasn't invited to the barbie after all and after a moment of awkwardness I reassured her that it was no problem and I was sorry to have put her in an awkward position. So off I went down the street to the fanfest relieved but frustrated.

What a waste of time that was! The upshot was that I missed most of the opening ceremony, which isn't really a big deal but I do quite enjoy these things and I had been anticipating it for the last two years. If anyone has a recording, or knows of a DVD I can buy please let me know. I noticed all the YouTube footage has already been curtailed. Bloody FIFA and their legal team.

Anyway, the good news was that I met up with Chris and Felix again very quickly, and another footballer friend of theirs, Leon, who is also a 1FC Koln fan. Sadly he has just had to give up football due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Anyway, the beers flowed as we watched Brazil edge past Croatia. I think Brazil just about deserved to win overall on their play, but there is no way the 2nd goal was a penalty. It was a great night. As always, at World Cups, you meet people from all over the world: A cool dude Mexican who kept trying to give us some of his personal supply of "rocket fuel" he'd smuggled in, an American Croatian - the bravest man there, the only one wearing a Croatia shirt who was not Brazilian. I also bumped into two isolated Aussies - one from Tasmania and one from Melbourne. Hopefully meet more of those today (Friday) for the Australia v Chile game later.

After the game, Chris and me watched a bit of the concert that followed and had a few more beers before I started to get a bit tired and sensible Victor stepped in to take me to bed.

Blinding German Reunification at sunset - with Felix and Chris

Full sun set, full moon rise

Neymar about to rub salt into Croatian wounds

Leon, Felix and the guy from Mexico

So, another great day! I'm going to log a few random thoughts about each game I see. So here's the first.

Brazil 3 Croatia 1
I've never known a World Cup, football tournament, or indeed any other sporting event ever, where the coach, players, pundits are all so openly voicing their confidence about winning the damn thing. It's admirable in a way, and I wish England had a bit more of that positivity. But you have to worry if they're not making a rod for their own back (if that's the right pun).

As the game started, it quickly became apparent that Croatia were no pushovers, indeed they more than equalled Brazil for most of the first hour. They had the best chance even before they silenced a country with the own goal - unlucky on Marcelo as the ball had just been deflected. It did look, at half time, that all that talk about winning the World Cup was gong to end up as egg on their faces, but the quality in the team cannot be underestimated. Neymar's first goal was superbly executed, although my German friends thought the goalie could have saved it. But even at 1-1, Croatia looked to have the game under control. Olic was really impressive. Leon told me that Croatia should have had a penalty in that spell, but I must have missed it.

Then came the penalty incident. On first glance, live, I thought it was a penalty too but the replay clearly showed that Fred (what a name!) had taken a tumble. It really is long overdue that managers should be able to make one or two appeals to a fourth video official in such situations. It wouldn't hold the game up much more than the players protesting anyway, it would bring the manager more into the game with an interesting tactical angle and it would add, not detract from the excitement. Most of all, fewer bad decisions would get to change the course of a game.

After Neymar coolly slotted the ball past the unlucky goalie, Brazil seemed to grow in confidence and the 3rd goal made Croatia's claims of injustice look a little weaker.

At the end of the day, it was a good result for Brazil and the World Cup. The country needs them to do well in this tournament and there are few (Croatia fans excepted) who would begrudge them a bit of slack on some of the refereeing decisions.

I predicted 2-0 to Brazil and Neymar (but also Marcelo) is in my fantasy team, so I'm pretty happy.

The next three games
Mexico versus Cameroon will be interesting. You never really know what you're going to get from these African teams and you always feel that Mexico could (indeed should) do better than they do, with so many football mad people. I really have no idea about this one, but I'm going to assume it'll be a tight low scoring affair. I'm going for Mexico, 1-0

The game of the day, of course, is Holland versus Spain in Group B (senior moment corrected) A very difficult one to call but I'm going for Spain, 2-1.

Finally, tonight it's Chile versus the Socceroos and it's hard to see anything but a Chile win. Australia's squad just looks weaker than  any previous World Cup  and I think Chile will out-pass them easily. I hope the Perth lad, Taggart, gets a game but I have to go for Chile 2-0.


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