Arriving in Rio De Janeiro late Monday evening we spent most of Tuesday amongst the hustle and bustle of the delightful Copacabana beach, taking in Brazil vs Mexico in the Fan Zone. Upon leaving the Fan Zone at Full Time the Copacabana area was chaos...even with a tactical meal stoppage to watch Russia vs South Korea the place was still bedlem...Chilean supporters dominating the city in their lively colours and unmistakable chanting. "The City Belongs To Chile" I told Katja several times.
We finally escaped the chaos in a taxi only to find something of a street party outside our modest hotel. "If you can't beat them join them" we said and partied on into the night outside our hotel. Not a bad introduction to Rio at all.
Wednesday and there was quite a buzz about the city with an amazing kaleidoscope of colours and cultural collisions as we abound a cable car up Sugar Loaf. English, Germans, Americans, Bosnians, Spanish, French, Australians, Kiwis, Swiss, Ecuadorians, Columbians, Indonesians, Uruguayans, Argentines yet mostly Chilians joining the Brazilians atop the beautiful granite structure overlooking even airplanes flying below us before a stunning backdrop view of the city of Rio. Not bad pre-match entertainment at all.
Of course the Chilians were in town for good reason. As quite wealthy neighbours to Brazil it is more straightforward (geographically and financially) for them to attend the World Cup but their level of support should not be understated. They have backed their team to the hilt in Brazil and an opportunity to knock-out World Champions Spain at the Maracana was not to be missed.
Metro travel if you're attending a World Cup match is free so we took that option and boarded a jam-packed train direct to the Maracana, finally arriving to a sea of red (darn it)...and it was very much Chilean red...the Spanish outnumbered to a colossal extent. With a good few hours until kick off we congregated around Classicos do Maraca, a charming corner bar and watched plucky Australia get eliminated by Netherlands. Great to see Tim Cahill on top form again in what is surely his last World Cup match. Australia the first team to bow out but certainly not ashamed. They've bought a lot to this World Cup and are well-backed by the Socceroos fans.
With the match over we headed on into the Maracana...a real buzz about the place as we passed through several ticket checks...once again Chilians in great numbers loud and proud. We took our seats high up in the corner behind the goal Chile attacked in the first half. The atmosphere from the stadium staff friendly and relaxed. This mirrored by the supporters enjoying the wonderful occasion.
The National Anthems, particularly that of Chile, were a joy to behold. The atmosphere electric. I've witnessed many a special night at Goodison Park over the years but this was something else. Truely special. I knew I was in for a treat when the teams took shape before kick off. Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Silva, Costa, Ramos, Casillas...the players of a generation all on the field to defend their World Cup against a rampant Chilian team. I'll likely never get a chance to see these players ever again.
Chile began on the front foot and forced a few errors from Spain at the start but the Champions witheld and in good time Spain had gotten something of a stranglehold on the game. Chile, backed by their wonderful support, stuck at it. It really was like a home game for them and the place erupted when Vargas finished smartly to put them ahead. Amazing. Spain looked for a quick response and almost got it when Costa (can you say his name without saying "Brazilian-born-Costa"?) hit the side-netting with an angled drive from close range. That was mighty close but Chile stood firm and on 43 minutes Chile had doubled their advantage.
A free kick was dealt with (poorly) by Casillas with the Spanish keeper only punching the ball back into the penalty area. What followed was exquisite from Aranguiz, the play-maker stopping the ball and returning it at goal with interest to make it 2-0. The World Cup holders stunned and 45 minutes from elimination.
They responded by replacing Alonso (who like Cahill has now played his last World Cup with suspension ruling him out of Spain's Wooden Spoon match with Australia) with Koke. They began the second half with purpose...Iniesta and Silva central to most of their efforts but it was one of their less creative players Busquets who was the guilty party when he missed an open goal from about six yards out...failing to really make contact with the ball. A goal then, with 35 minutes still to play would have made for some second half but it wasn't to be for Spain. The game ticked on. Costa was denied by a last ditch Chilian intervention as he bore down on goal. Torres replaced he. Chile made a few substitutions to bolster their defence as Spain became more desperate - Iniesta's drive from distance well saved by Bravo epitomising Spain's day. We left to beat the traffic just as 6 minutes of stoppage time were announced...somehow bumping into a Spanish friend currently working in Rio just at the foot of the Macarana.
Onto the Metro we were quickly back at our hotel...and quickly back out in a restaurant / bar to watch Croatia vs Cameroon. Overall Spain a little unlucky but the day (and city) belonged to Chile and nobody can take that away from them. Eliminating the World Champions Spain in the Maracana is about as good as it gets and the match will go down in Chilean folklore...and tens of thousands of Chileans will say for years..."I was there".
So it's on to the beach for us now for a few days (its raining) with the next match we're attending being England vs Costa Rica, north of here in Belo Horizonte. At the time of writing England are still to play Uruguay so I don't know how things will look going into that one but on behalf of us all...
"KICK HIM JAGIELKA. JUST KICK HIM".
Reader Comments (9)
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1 Posted 19/06/2014 at 21:54:55
2 Posted 20/06/2014 at 00:36:35
Have a great trip!
3 Posted 20/06/2014 at 21:27:30
Personally, I think that, up to now, this has been the best World Cup I can remember. Cherish the memories.
4 Posted 21/06/2014 at 11:55:07
5 Posted 22/06/2014 at 02:00:28
6 Posted 22/06/2014 at 16:21:52
7 Posted 27/06/2014 at 00:11:54
I couldn't agree more with your point about Everton and England. I think that applies to most football fans in England, their club is much more important than the national team. For me also Everton are the only team in my life and I couldn't give a damn about England (in the football sense). But here in Chile it is the opposite and I understand and respect that. That is one of the reasons I heartily celebrated "our" (Chile is my adopted country) victory last Wednesday in a way that it would be completely impossible for me to do for any England win in any circumstances.
8 Posted 28/06/2014 at 12:59:00
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