That is how many have been scored in Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova stadium in the first three games of the 2014 World Cup, three of the best games I have seen in three decades of football-watching.
After three games in Cape Town in 2010, I had seen two goals, and three of the worst games I had ever seen.
I hereby declare this World Cup the best ever. More or less.
The day began with a lovely jog to meet some lovely guys who were selling two lovely tickets to see the Round of 16 here in Salvador, (a game which I hereby predict to be Belgium vs USA, although with my predictive powers in the sweepstakes and Fantasy Football leagues I am currently involved in, it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up being New Zealand vs Scunthorpe, neither of whom is technically in the World Cup).
Business concluded, a confusing coming and going of friends ended with me and my Japanese co-worker back in Pelourinho, the scene of last night’s crime (literally), to watch Italy slump to defeat against surprise of the tournament Costa Rica.
When they dubbed England’s group (one of the) group(s) of death, I’m pretty sure nobody thought it would be the Central Americans doing the killing.
That result sent England home officially, and means that the Italy s Uruguay match will decide which ex-World Champion will be joining them.
From the Historic Centre, (this time with slightly less people and lots more police), Haru and I made our way on the Fan Walk to the stadium, meeting many people along the way including an Ecuadorian from Cuenca, (home of my first friend here in Salvador), who gifted me a local team jersey to wear for the evening’s game, (of which more later).
Arriving at the stadium, I was back in the same area as I was for the German shellacking of Portugal, and it didn’t take long for the goals to start flooding in again. After a 5-1 and a 4-0 match, France set about ripping holes in the Swiss cheese defence, and by the end of the match at 6pm five different French players had scored.
There had even been time for the first goal from a free kick and a stonking second from the Swiss in the last ten minutes, and even for the referee to inexplicably blow the final whistle as France were scoring what would have been their sixth, and one of the best of the tournament.
I made my way back to the beach alone, trading various bits and pieces for the increasingly coveted match-day cups, (and bemused by the lack of match-day programs: since when has marketing been something that FIFA overlooked?), and often found myself wandering around not-so-well populated/lit areas of the town.
At one point, when asking a Military Policeman which way to go, he pointed back the way I had been sent, adding: “Only go back that way if there are a lot of people on the street. Otherwise it’s dangerous, and you should go the long way around.”
Finally arriving back in time for the second half of the final match, Ecuador beating Honduras and sending the bullies back where they came from, (and my Honduras jersey back to the bottom of my suitcase), I found a week of late nights, early mornings, drinking beer from 1pm and not eating particularly well catching up with me.
I treated myself to sushi and a salad for dinner, and am now once again trying to ignore the drum party (populated by particularly excitable French tonight), going on outside my balcony window.
Things today has taught us:
–FIFA finally introducing goal-line technology was probably a good thing, since it has decided THREE goals since the tournament started, (four, really, if you consider the French goal against Honduras, which so confused one English commentator, as two separate incidents).
-A referee in the Ecuador vs Honduras game tonight finally gave a yellow card for a player kicking the ball away after conceding a free kick. I was wondering if they had dropped this rule without telling me, as it seems that all the cool kids are just picking the ball up and walking off with it when they commit a foul, with no consequences.
–France has a very cool jersey.
–Switzerland, and the USA, don’t.
Tomorrow’s matches (or today’s, by the time you read this…depending on when you read this…) begin with Messi and co. seeing if they can act like the team people think they should be by putting a hatful past Iran; Germany seeing if they can keep up their killer start by seeing off Ghana; and finally Nigeria taking on Bosnia-Herzegovina to see if the latter’ can take second spot in the group after their plucky loss to Argentina , as many (including me) feel they can.
Just two days of matches until crunch time: the last group matches. Too late for England, Spain and others, but the moment of truth for almost everybody else…