Tomorrow is my 3rd live game and it may be the best of all.
Although the Costa Rica result was amazing against a poor Italy it wasn’t the best of games and the Italian fans were neither numerous or vocal.
There are thousands of Mexican fans in Recife and Olinda and most of them are leathered drunk. I personally hope the Mexicans progress as I was lucky to live in Mexico for a couple of years and they treated me very well during my stay. They may be a little abusive in their chants ( heeeeeeeey puuuuto)
But it’s all in good humour and they are definitely up for a party.
On the pitch much will depend on the form of GIovanni Dos Santos who on his day is a world beater and more than capable of turning a match into a win. Chicharito will probably not start but come on as an impact sub for Uribe Peralta. In defence El Tri have an ageing Salcido and Raphael Marquez but Ochoa, with already the goalkeeping performance against Brazil, should provide adequate cover.
Croatia are well matched up in terms of cover and in general have played well in the last two games. They were unlucky to lose against the hosts and ran riot against Cameroon. Manduzic and Olic are quality strikers and would be a worry for any team.
Realistically Croatia need to win and progress with 6 points whereas Mexico will go through with 5 ( this is on the premise that Brazil
win against the poor Cameroons).
Hopefully Mexico get their draw and go through.
Mexico 3 Croatia 3
It took a couple of days of sharpening but the knives are finally out for the under performing England stars. Harry Redknapp’s latest claim of reticence for Internationally picked stars to play for the National team has provoked media induced outrage but it is hardly surprising.
The English Premier League rockets ahead of international football in terms of kudos and wealth for the majority of football fans in the United Kingdom. Quite simply the EPL has it all and for many fans club comes first. So why should it be any different for the players?
Personally I think the World Cup is the pinnacle of all football but not everyone shares this sentiment.
As soon as one of the home nations under perform, whether it be England performing at tournaments or the other nations not even qualifying the old club vs country debate is reignited as the major cause.
And yet nothing ever happens as soon as the season kicks off a international football is put on the back burner.
In regards to England’s performance in my opinion they were unlucky not to get two draws but you cannot argue with the results. In many ways they were like a boxer trading well until the championship rounds but then getting knocked out at the end. Sure they did well in parts but they were still on their arse and counted out of the match and ultimately the tournament. Everyone knew that Luis Suarez was going to be the difference between the teams so the defence has very little excuse for their apparent dereliction of Suarez duty. Similarly in against Italy, Pirlo and Balotelli were the recognised danger men and both contributed to their goals.
Next up is Costa Rica who, on Friday’s match showing may leave England pointless and distraught. In many Los Ticos played the way England should have : built on a solid defence and fast counter attacking strikers together with a talented but limited midfield. Costa Rica do not have a Rooney or Gerrard but as a unit they are very organised and impressive.
I would have honestly liked to have seen the English go through-mainly because I would have seen them in Recife rather than Costa Rica or Italy again- but England simply did not deserve qualify for the next round.
For the first time ever the English team will be home before this and many more Scotsmen at the World Cup.
It’s not wonder everyone is half daft over here. If you stay inside the mosquitoes terrorise and torture you without mercy, attacking any skin or hint of bone with a brutally efficient zeal. When you go outside the sun is almost intolerable, especially for a fair skinned Scotsman like myself, 15 minutes and you’re beetroot skinned and sweltering uncontrollably. The rain offers some relief but it comes by the lake load and soaks you to the bones and in turn acts as a natural springboard to the birth of a trillion more mosquitoes.
The only conceivable option is to go to the pub to drink beer and get leathered with the locals.I was going to go to the fan fest for the atmosphere but fuck that, it’s about as close as a human comes to becoming a boiled and grilled hotdog.
But saying that it is still fucking brilliant.
After a day catching up with my sleep and getting my bearings Saturday was the first chance to get some proper game experience. First up was Uruguay vs Costa Rica and while i caught the majority of the first half in my hostel I missed the spectacular comeback by los Ticos. In the run up to the game I thought a lot of the media were discounting the Central Americans unfairly. They had had a strong qualifying campaign with fine results against the USA and Mexico and were always going to be more than wooden spoon certs. And so it proved to be with Costa Rica running out 3-1 winners to stun the Uruguayans. Cavani put the South Americans in front with a penalty in the first half but Costa Rica hit back after the break through Campbell, Duarte and Urena.
Before the game had even finished I had to make my way down to the fan fest and eventually to the Ivory Coast vs Japan game. I made the bus journey with a Welshman, an English man and a Swiss girl who were all eager to get to their first game and a good laugh. The fan fest was a couple of bars and food stands in front of a grand TV that had pockets of English and Italian fans waiting for their game.
ENGLAND 1 ITALY 2
The English went down to organised and efficient Italian but in my opinion were unlucky not to get a draw. As expected it was the English youngsters that really impressed with Henderson and Sterling running the wings well and Sturridge grabbing England’s equaliser after Italy had taken the lead.
The Italians sat back in the second half inviting England to come at them, soaking up the pressure and bursting on the break. In the fan fest some of the younger English fans were pissed as trouts and getting lairy, it wasn’t long before we had “your not singing any more” and the tell tale pisshead behaviour. The Italian fans duly responded with good natured banter watching their team grab the winner and hang on through some late English pressure. It teemed down with rain during the game so I scurried inside to escape the downpour so missed a bit of the match.
After the English game I made my way along to the Permubaco Arena together win the Swiss girls and English lad from the hostel. Their was a few buses and metros available but it meant at least 2 or 3 stops because the rail link was 4km short of the stadium. Luckily we found a taxi driver that spoke good English and offered to take us to the stadium for 50 real each. Immediately a group of English decided to come along with us and started to renegotiate the terms, they were arseholes to a man, pissed up and arrogant as hell. One of them- a fat bearded drunk who looked like a darts player- got abusive and started the usual tirade of “ We are guests in your country and you take the piss” type of chat. We hung back and let them say their piece to the smiling taxi driver before letting them go on their way.
Not wanting to be late for the game we accepted the taxi offer and jumped in. The taxi drivers name was Ruben and he quickly explained how far the stadium was from the city centre. A couple of hundred metres down the road he spied the English pisshead group traipsing down the street in the torrential rain and pulled alongside. He wound down the window and jeered at the group shouting “ nice walk, nice walk, bye, bye, ciao”. It was a quality act of revenge upon the arrogant Brits abroad.
Ruben turned out to be a really nice bloke, eager to help, translate and help us on our journey. Amazingly he had a small TV screen on the dashboard which he played Karaoke on, which we all sung along to. He was a nutter but in a good way. Upon reaching the bus depot he promised to meet us after the game but we didn’t hold much hope for this.
Through out the the night it had teemed with the rain and the car park around the buses had deteriorated into a quagmire which soaked my trainers completely. We boarded the bus and joined another group of Englishmen who joked at my Scotland top and groaned about the result. These guys were a fair bit younger than the idiots from before and in much better spirits. One of the guys sat beside me and he told me all his tales from the night before in Salvador and the Holland vs Spain game. By his account the atmosphere in the ground was amazing and the Dutch fans really friendly and in full on party mode. This guy was a full on cockney geezer and had all the lingo and banter, he told that him and his mates had tried to get some girls back into their room at the hotel but had been stopped by security, the reason being the girls were hookers and Joe Biden was staying in the hotel.
By the time we reached the stadium the rain was torrential so we scurried inside marking a point to meet up after the game. The stadium was obviously brand spanking new and very impressive. My seat was to the corner of the Japanese goal right in amongst the Japanese supporters who making a grand racket and creating a brilliant atmosphere. A Japanese fan given me a bandana to wear -the type Kamikaze pilots wore in WW2’ but I didn’t mention this- which I tied around my forehead immediately becoming a Japanese fan. Far off to my left I spied the Ivorian band which were also making a constant racket and dancing manically. My seat was next to a big american guy and behind a middle aged Englishman, who naturally joked that I must be the happiest man in the stadium because I was a jock. The American got a bit angry at the Japanese supporters standing up in front of him and started to bawl at them. As usual the Japanese were very apologetic and reasonable to the Yank’s pleas but they carried on standing, it’s not as if they were that much of an obstacle anyway.
Halfway through the 2nd half the Japanese took a deserved lead right in front of us sending their supporters into bedlam. Just before the half time whistle I left my seat to get some food as I was ravenous from beer and hadn’t eaten properly since breakfast. Typically all the kiosks had run out of decent grub with only peanuts and crisps left. I did a quick tour of the rest of kiosks around half the stadium but those were also empty of hotdogs and burgers. A fair few people were annoyed at this lack of foresight on the organisers part and grumbled at the smiling tenders. I grabbed a coca-cola and some awful nuts and made my way back to my seat where the Yank was showing pictures of his daughter watching the game in the US while wondering at the merits of new technology. All around me there was people of different nationalities: a huge amount of Mexicans, French, a Venezuelan, Scottish, English and many Brazilians ( one of which had the best Afro I’ve ever seen).
In the 2nd half the Ivory Coast introduced Didier Drogba and became more physical against the tiring Japanese. The Africans greater speed and strength began to show and they eventually overcame the Japanese defence via to headed goals from Drogba and Bony and win the match 2-1. The Japanese fans were distraught but still happy with their experience as they trudged out of the stadium and back into the bucketing rain.
I eventually met up with the Swiss girl and Englishman and we made our way back to the bus. The queue was terrible and the rain brutal but somehow we managed to see the bright side of the situation. I tried to call Ruben a few times but got no answer, cursing his promise of a taxi back up to Olinda. To my surprise he eventually answered his phone telling me he was waiting for us in the exact spot he had dropped us off, true to his word he was waiting and chatting to other tourists under the cover of a temporary gazebo.
On the return tax ride home Ruben regaled me, as the others quickly fell asleep, with many tales of the city ( he was an ex-copper) and showed me around 50-100 photos of his son’s Army graduation on his TV monitor. All I could think of was eating some found and getting dry but this crazy Brazilian kept my spirits high with stories, jokes and a fair few Portuguese lessons. Upon reaching the hostel we paid Ruben and thanked him for his kindness promising to use him for all our future taxi drives, he truly was an exceptional person and a great laugh. After a bit of scram we sloped off to bed at around 3-3.0
I bet there’s a few soldiers of Oranje waking up to sore heads this morning but their hangover will be soothed with the knowledge they had just witnessed one of their greatest ever World Cup victories. Not even the most fervent of Nederlanders would have predicted such a towsing last night and neither would any Spaniard expected such a second half capitulation.
Many are already predicting an early flight home for the Spanish similar to the French in 2002 but that is to ignore the merits of recent dominance of the International game. It is still well within their powers to pick up the remaining 6 points against Australia and Chile but any type of repeat of yesterday will see them home before the tournament has really started.
It could be an end of an era for the Spanish and the majority of neutrals would prefer to see another captain than Casillas lift the trophy but they still have squad picked from the best of La Liga teams including finalists of this year’s Champions League.
Vincent Del Bosque will have a few decisions to make not least on whether or not o drop his stalwart keeper, Iker Casillas. The Real Madrid keeper has had a poor couple of seasons since falling out of favour initially with Jose Mourinho. Both Pepe Reina and David de Gea are waiting to usurp the faltering Captain and will be confident of filling his boots. Similarly Del Bosque may have to tinker with a defence which was easily over run by the marauding Robben and deadly Van Persie last night. Costa made an inauspicious competitive debut but managed to fool the referee into a poor penalty decision. When he was finally replaced the enigma that is Fernando Torres the team seemed to be weakened with Torres missing an open goal and generally running about aimlessly.
The Dutch however realistically only need to capture 3 more points to proceed to the next round. Chile and Australia looked evenly matched despite the 3-1 win for the South Americans last night and the Dutch should feel confident of beating either of the two. Louis Van Gaal seemed to have figured out the perfect way to extinguish the tiki-taka form of football of Spain last night. His defenders were solid and stoic with help from backtracking midfielders and their quick turn over counter attack bypassed the Spanish centre midfield leaving Robben the run of the last third of the field. The Dutch winger can impress and frustrate in equal measure and often he can be greedy at the expense of others however his close control and confidence to beat players in the box last night was a pleasure to watch. He should have had a third goal but his volley was almost too perfect and it was blocked on the line.
Most of us would have been aware of the stars of the Dutch team but the majority of the squad is made up of young Eridivisie players or squad players from Europe’s 2nd to 3rd tier teams. It is these players together with an often previously lacking team spirit and unity that could win the Dutch their first Word Cup.
I’ve barely been in Brazil for 24 hours and already i love the fucking place. I’m staying in town just above Recife called Olinda and my Hostel/Hotel is called Casa de Hilton. The owner couldn’t have been more welcoming although he was expecting a Muslim guy because of my name. The building is brightly decorated with every wall in a different colour and basic enough and secure however the mosquitoes seem to have been waiting for me and i am already glad i brought the net for my bed and gallons of repellant.
The first thing you notice about the people is their language-which i can understand with ny Spanish and turning every word into a type of
at then end- and how loud they are, in a good way. When you are walking down the street everyone from the taxi drivers, street vendors and general public are shouting,singing and laughing with each other. It is at total odds with the reserved and quiet ways of back home.
I’ve only had breakfast in the Hostel, which was a mix of cheese rolls, a type of taco and chocolate cake. A strange mix but very filling. Tomorrow will bring a lot more adventure, my first game : Ivory Coast vs Japan and taste of Recife’s nightlife and beer.
SPAIN 1 HOLLAND 5
Very few people were expecting such an emphatic Dutch win, even less so the hapless Spanish. The current holders of the World Cup couldn’t have made a more disastrous start to their campaign despite opening brightly and pegging the Dutch back. Van Persie and Robben ran wild and cut through the Spanish defence at ease. The Manchester United hitman drew Holland level with a beautiful looping header just before half-time setting a dominant display of free flowing football in the second half.
The Spanish looked particularly weak in defence with Gerard Pique being calamitous in front of Casillas who was to blame for the Dutch second. As the game progressed Robben came more into the game showing pace well beyond his years. In the end it could have easily been 8-1.
The win sets Holland up nicely for qualification with Honduras and Chile next to come in Group B.Spain however will have rethink and recoup if they are to retain the World Cup.
MEXICO 1 CAMEROON 0
Earlier in the day I managed to catch the 2nd half of Mexico vs Cameroon. El Tri ran out 1-0 winners in the torrential rain of Natal. Oribe Peralta popped up with the winner and it was a well deserved winner for Mexico despite having to withstand some concerted late pressure from the Africans. A win against Croatia should see Mexico through but in truth apart from Brazil all of the teams can still come second.
I say I only caught 2nd half as i was still sleeping at kick off after my hellish plane journey from Scotland. The first parts of my voyage were uneventful enough but upon reaching Lisbon, I and all the other passengers were messed about with, lied to and generally treated abysmally TAM airlines of Portugal. My journey was extended by 12-15 hours because of flight cancellations, strikes and other unforeseen disasters. By the end of the flights I couldn’t stand the sight of the rest of the passengers, especially the aged Englishmen who rude to the airplane staff and moaned continuously (there were a couple of Englishers that were alright and friendly enough Germans).
BRAZIL 3 CROATIA 1
I managed to catch the Brazil vs Croatia game in the Marriot hotel in Lisbon. I felt sorry for the Croatians and felt they deserved a draw. Some of the refereeing decisions were terrible and mainly in favour of the Brazilians, I think the referee was effected by the crowd and occasion. I t was a very soft penalty for the 2nd goal and Fred should be embarrassed with that dive. Neymar stepped up to the mark and did well under the spotlight while Oscar’s deft toe poke rounded the game up.
It could be argued that Scotland could have been in Croatia’s position if they were not so shit in the opening fixtures of qualification. Scotland actually beat Croatia home and away during a mini resurgence which typically meant nothing and had no bearing on the group. However this would be an extreme case of fantasy as in truth Scotland had no chance of qualifying for Brazil under the leadership of Craig Levein and even if we had secured Gordon Strachan at the start of the campaign we still wouldn’t have beaten Belgium and would have probably been thumped by Iceland in the play-off (Croatia eventually snuck through).
I’ll be flying across the Atlantic to Brazil when the opening game of Brazil 2014-at least I think I will, as I still haven’t studied the time difference and flight duration. When I land I could walk into a country in party mode after wonderful and emphatic opening win or I could walk into riot of furious Brazilians protesting after a demoralising draw or dare I say it…………defeat.
I doubt it.
The Croatians are no great shakes even with the likes of Champions League winner, Luca Modric and Bayern’s Mario Mandzukic and Brazil should overcome their shakey defence, especially with the home support. However if Croatia begin to pepper the Brazilian defence and pressurise the mercurial David Luiz and out of form goalie, Cesar the crowd may turn on their beloved Selecao sending them into a tailspin.
Historically the opening game brings surprises : 1986, Italy 1 Bulgaria 1, 1990. Argentina 0 Cameroon 1 and 2002, Senegal 1 France 0 but it seems doubtful this time round.