Match day 1 – Ivory Coast vs Japan

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

June 17, 2014. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

For the Dutch revenge is sviet

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.

June 14, 2014. Tags: , , . Brazil 2014, football. Leave a comment.

First impressions

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

zshhhoooo

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.

June 13, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The eagle had landed. Holland, Mexico and Brazil open with wins.

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.

June 13, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Brazil vs Croatia

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.

Much.

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.

June 10, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Mexico release their squad for Brazil

Miguel Herrera has named his 23 man squad for the World Squad with a couple of surprises.

Veteran Carlos Salcido, once of Fulham but now Tigres was included despite not featuring under the current coach while Javier Aquino of Villareal was surprisingly omitted,

The team will be captained by evergreen, Rafa Marquez who has tournament experience in abundance while Javier Hernandez will spearhead the attack.

Premier League underachievers Carlos Vela and Gio Dos Santos both make the cut in a squad with a healthy amount of experience  and mix of European and home based players.

The Mexicans will face Croatia, Cameroon and hosts Brazil and should be confident of passing through the group stage.

 

Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca).

Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigres), Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America), Diego Reyes (Porto), Rafael Marquez (Leon).

Midfielders: Juan Carlos Medina (America), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Luis Montes (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Carlos Pena (Leon).

Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan Pulido (Tigres).

 

 

 

 

May 10, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Robinho and Kaka miss out of World Cup

Despite still playing at a high level – AC Milan in Seria A and Champions League- both Kaka and Robinho will watch the World Cup from the stands. Although not completely unexpected it will come as a severe disappointment for the Brazilians.

Ronaldinho shall also miss out despite experiencing an Indian summer in the Brazilian top league.

The Selecao will enter next month’s tournament as home favourites but do not have a squad that inspires much fear in the hearts of opposition.Superstar Neymar has largely unimpressed in his maiden season for Barcelona and his fellow attackers are not playing in Europe’s top leagues. Although they count on the Chelsea quartet: Luiz, Ramires, Willian and Oscar and spattering of players in top teams playing in the latter stages of the Champions League their squad contains a mish mash of players.

 

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC, on loan from QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro).

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell and Thiago Silva (both Paris St-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli).

Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg).

 

Brazil will face Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in Group A of the tournament.

May 7, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Matchday

 

 

I trundled along to the cup semi-final (St Johnstone vs Aberdeen) on Sunday apathetic and lacking any real desire to watch the match. Although St Johnstone are my home team and I do like them to do well, but my my feelings were mixed at best. It was the first time I had returned to Ibrox since Rangers public hounding and inevitable banishment to the lower divisions. It was strange to go there and not see my team play and my mood wasn’t helped with the various shouts from fans regarding their new status. A bit like watching another couple shag in your bed.

 It was a dreadful day. The biting wind leathered your face and the incessant drizzle began to soak throw my thin hoodie. A cup of coffee didn’t really help but I took my place in amongst the usual hollering farmers backed by their squeaky sons. Half way through the first half a couple of fans came up to a nearby steward to remonstrate and complain about other fans blocking their view. It was a fair enough point especially as the other fans were bulky, middle aged skin eds. It sparked a lively debate between the fans with the blocked claiming unfair and the belligerents pleading their rights to a view also. At one point it looked like there may be a bit of a tumble but fortunately the security was able to coax the skins down on their arses wit the Police looked on from afar, ready to pounce. Shortly after Aberdeen took a deserved lead and Saints looked dead in the water and facing another semi-final heartache.

I made my decision to leave even before the half time whistle. The Liverpool game had started and I wanted to watch the game in some sort of comfort. Fickle fan, yes but they are not my team. As I was the only fan making my way home early the subway was empty and only 10 minutes from Partick station. When I reached my pal’s house the Liverpool vs City game was just underway as it had be delayed due to the Hillsborough memorial. Meanwhile St Johnstone clawed their way back into the game and recorded an historical win to seal their first ever Scottish Cup final. Despite this I still stood by my hasty decision.

April 18, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

World Cup moments : Gio in Rio (nah it was South Africa)

Best strike of 2010 by a mile. If there was no net it would have walloped on of those vuvuzela -ers in the back row,

April 15, 2014. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

96

Hillsborough

25 years since that awful day in Sheffield when 96 fans never came back from a football match. I was only 13 on that day but a dyed in the wool Reds fanatic. I remember watching the news in disbelief and calling on my Mum to witness the awful events on the TV. At first it didn’t look so bad but as the death toll gradually increased it became clear that we had a terrible disaster.

Some people may claim that Liverpool fans have clung on to this disaster and almost become defined by it, but who wouldn’t? Certainly not the family and loved ones who have suffered then been lied to and blamed for this national disgrace. The investigations are still ongoing and still there will be lies uncovered and new claims of corruption and downright criminality laid before the Police and politicians.

And this is what is so galling for the families: The lies that were perpetuated by the odious, Sun newspaper, through Police leaks and insider information, unbelievably trying to blame the victims, many children, for the disaster, claiming they were hooligans or casuals steaming drunk. The Police choosing not to admit their own negligence and failings but again blaming the fans, standing back and refusing to accept culpability in any way. The government of the time headed by Margaret Thatcher who relished in her destruction of the working class trade union movements and her open hatred of football supporters and the north. We all know she was architect of the cover up in the ensuing years.

Like many of these disasters the truth will never totally known and the families will go on reliving that hellish day a quarter of a century. The years will pass into decades and beyond but the 96 and all those who suffered should and shall be never forgotten.

 

Image

April 15, 2014. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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