Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 14 - Fortaleza Match day - Ticos Win, England Lose

Woke up nice and early feeling great so I got up, put some swimming togs on and went to the beach. Some of the rollers coming in were immense and I tried to capture that iconic "me in big wave with Fortaleza behind" photo but failed miserably.

The closest I could get to a photo of me in a roller - pathetic!

Had a nice brekkie of spicy tapioca pancake with some Costa Rica fans and then went back to shower and change. I went down to the FIFA Shop to see if I could buy an England shirt. No joy there. This is getting a bit frustrating. I really wish I'd have bought one before I left now.

Tapioca pancake being made

Next I got a taxi ride to the famous old Theatre Jose de Alencar which Trip Advisor said was a "must see" thing, but when I got there is was, bizarrely hidden behind a façade and the whole area closed off for repairs. Oh well, at least I had the chance to buy some new pants (bigger ones this time) and some more cool shorts.

Bizarre Theatre - under repair

New pants, new shorts

I was going to try to watch the Columbia v Greece game at a new bar (I don't want to spend all my time in Fortaleza at the FIFA fanfest place, even though the screen and the atmosphere is really great, and the beer as good as anywhere else -at least it's not crappy Carlsberg everywhere like at Euro 2012) but I was running late so I decided instead to watch the first half here at the flat.

Colombia v Greece, 1st half at the flat

The game started explosively when Columbia scored early. The guy from West Ham getting a lucky deflected shot in. Great celebration.

I must say I've very impressed with the quality of the coverage. They seem to have stepped up the slo-mos a notch with incredibly hi res replays. Last night, for the aussie game, I was stood right at the front of the massive screen and I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.


A wander downtown to find the bus stop going to Castello was remarkably easy and fruitful. So having ascertained where the bus left from it gave me time for a beer by the ocean. while I watched some of the second half. Very nice, but had to leave before the 3rd goal to make sure I got to the stadium on time.

Colombia v Greece, 2nd half, by the beach

This is Fortaleza's crappy beach, apparently 

The bus trip was smooth enough and took less time than the Fortaleza tour guide promised. It was a bit weird being bussed on a coach, seemingly through left and right turns through dodgy areas, to get to a World Cup Stadium, and once we got off the bus to have to walk at least 3km to the ground. Bizarre and only in Brazil. As we approached the ground we became surrounded by revellers local and not, including a wonderful band of Irish people over for  "the craic" (thanks, darling!)

Packed bus taking fans to the match - about 40 minutes away

After a windy route through a lot of little side streets, we were dropped of with still about 3km to walk

Police presence very visible

Irish contingent over for "the craic"

The ground itself looked very impressive although it took almost half an hour to get through security, in which they confiscated my pen. Good call that, thanks!

In the ground it was immense and a privilege to be there. Of course, watching live means you don't get to see all the nitty gritty replays of arguable decisions you get on the big screen and when Uruguay were awarded an early penalty my initial reaction was "yes" but I had no way of checking.

It took about 30 minutes to get through security - they confiscated my pen!


Uruguay score

Fans of Los Ticos, always happy, always singing

This couple spent even longer taking selfies than me

5 minutes to go - time to catch the bus back for England v Italy

1-0 to Uruguay and they looked to be onto a typical "park the bus" Uruguay win when, in the second half "Los Ticos" struck twice very quickly to turn the game on its head. Uruguay pressed but they lacked a cutting edge without Suarez and ended up losing. Again, anxious to beat the rush and get back to the city, I left a little early and missed Costa Rica's 3rd.

The long walk back to the bus stop was interestng with local boys trying all sorts of ways to earn a buck including bike rides and water.

Anyway, back to the city and my priority was to change from blue (Italy's colours) into something more appropriate. Unfortunately no-one here seems to be selling England shirts so I had to wear my Forest kit.

Great atmosphere at the fanfest - at last lots of England fans (some of the Aussies from the night before had, like me, transformed themselves!) and England played so well, but alas it wasn't to be.

Forest fan.

A Columbian fan that knew about Nottingham Forest

I met a group of Leicester fans who were up for a few beers and were similarly positive. Anyway, as you probably know, it all went pear shaped again for England but more on that later.

After slumping away rather grimly, I went back to the first place in Fortaleza I went to, Boteco de Praia. The good news was there were quite a few other England fans in the queue, all in Costa Rica shirts. The bad news is they were a bunch of arse holes, determined to push in ahead of me, which they succeeded in doing. I ended up sat on my own in a dark corner ignored by all the waiters until some friendly local Brazilians took pity on me and asked me to join them.

So I spent the rest of the night trying to keep on eye on Ivory Coast v Japan whilst at the same time trying to make polite conversation in Portuguese or (more likely) English.

Didn't see much of Cote d'Ivoire v Japan

Kind group who let me share their table

After many beers and conversations about Brazilian politics, mainly, we all sloped off to bed. This was the most drunk I've been so far but I still felt safe walking the 8 minutes back up the hill to the flat feeling pretty miserable for the first time.

Down in the dunps

Colombia 3 Greece 0
In what I saw of this game, Colombia looked sparkling and although Greece are not one of the strongest teams in the tournament, a 3-0 win suggests they should qualify for the last 16 easily and a game against the second team in Group D, maybe England? Pablo Armero, another West Ham player, played well and I liked the celebration for the first goal.

Costa Rica 3 Uruguay 1
A game of two halves this, with Uruguay looking set for one of their typically dour wins in the first half through a penalty. I’d like to see it again but, live, it looked a bit of an overly dramatic fall – but I guess that’s par for the course these days. That is surely South America’s most notable contribution to the modern World of football – “simulations”, which every team in the world now train for as a matter of course. Thanks for that. The second half changed the game dramatically when Los Ticos scored two very cool goals. Campbell terrorised the slow looking Uruguayan defence again and again.  Uruguay tried to get back into the game but seemed to lack any cutting edge without Suarez. I had to leave early to get the bus but one could tell from the sound of the roar (not as many Ticos as Uruguayans) that Costa Rica had added a third.

Italy 2 England 1
This was another pretty exciting and good quality game from a neutral point of view. England played really well in my opinion and I think deserved at least a draw. Sterling really gave the Italians a few problems and England rained a few shots on goal before Italy really started to threaten. Typically, a slight defensive lapse on the edge of the box gave Marchiso time to set up his shot which, typically for England, went straight through a Forest of legs into the corner of the net. England’s response was immediate with Sturridge getting the deserved equaliser towards the end of the first half.  It was all looking good for England at half time but Mr Jinxer struck again when I confidently predicted a 2-1 win. But it was Ballotelli who got the next goal, again, possibly a bit of misjudgement from Cahill and/or Hart, who’d looked a bit dodgy in the first half. England pressed and had almost all the possession after that but just couldn’t score. Rooney, in particular missed a howler. To be fair to Italy, Pirlo hit the bar with a great free kick, which would have made the score even more unfair.
Damn! So much for my predictions and eternal optimism about England. Still, they have a chance if they can beat Uruguay and Costa Rica. The former challenge looks easier than the later, but if England can beat Uruguay, England v Costa Rica will be an exciting affair.

Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1
Apart from a couple of games, the team that scores first in this World Cup has usually lost, and that was the case here. To be honest I only got glimpses of this match but Japan’s opener looked stunning. It’s good to see an African team win but I do feel sorry for Japan. Early days.

So, onto today’s games.
Probably one of the weaker groups, E has two pairs of teams that are close neighbours but it’s not ‘Derby’ Day today. Switzerland v Ecuador should be close and perhaps we will have the first draw of the tournament here. I’m going for 1-1. You have to assume France will beat Honduras by a couple of goals say, 2-0.

7pm tonight sees one of the favourites, Argentina, take the stage and they really should be too strong for Bosnia-Herzegovina. I’ll be at the airport watching that one before my flight to Natal.

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