52. And then there were two…

Brazil has almost certainly never had a worse 24-hours of football.

After yesterday’s German spanking, their arch-rivals Argentina won the right to challenge for the title Brazil thought would be theirs, in the theatre of Brazilian dreams, the Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

Suddenly, there are a lot of Brazilian Germany fans.


Not everyone at the Fanfest was cheering for the Dutch…

After the excitement and sheer jaw-dropping nature of the first semi-final many feared the second may not live up to expectations, and boy were they right. This was ninety-minutes of extraordinarily dull, often average football, with three minutes of play by Holland in injury time, some thrills in extra time, and two fantastic saves from albiceleste keeper Sergio Romero to create a Euro-American Final which could be a fascinating encounter.

Highlights of the game included a couple of accidental injuries to Argentina players, (Pablo Zabaleta appeared to lose a tooth in a head collision and staggered around like a Brazilian playing against Germany before soldiering on, his face stuffed full of cotton wool); Arjen Robben barely diving all match and having a last minute shot blocked heroically by Javier Mascherano; and half of the stadium thinking Gonzalo Higuain had scored when he poked a beautiful cross into the side netting.


Two Spaniards and a Brit, believe it or not from the jerseys…

Lio Messi, whilst still being industrious and tough to tackle, disappeared for large swathes of the game. In fact, he failed to touch the ball in the Dutch penalty area for the complete two hours of the game. On the other side, The Netherlands didn’t manage a shot on target until shortly before the 100 minute mark!

The over-all standard of play was pretty poor all round, (prompting some at the Fanfest to wish they had just shown a re-run of the other semi-final…although not Brazilians), leading to the first ever 0-0 in a World Cup semi-final.

Germany must have been rubbing their hands with Teutonic glee.


Germany and Argentina have samba’d into the final…well, limped in, in the latter’s case…

Which probably means they’ll lose, which would be the ultimate humiliation for Brazil: their enemies not only winning the title, on their turf, but doing so against a team which had trousered the hosts so thoroughly in the previous match.

Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that Dutch coach Van Gaal’s mind games in the previous round against Costa Rica may have cost his side in the shoot-out? Not having a spare substitution to make at the end of the 120 minutes, his regular goalie was forced to stop the penalties after having been essentially told last time out that he wasn’t good enough.

And he wasn’t, (despite the fairly despicable practice he shares with Tim Krul of trash wasting time and trash talking penalty takers before each spot kick). At least this proves that Van Gaal was probably right first time round, as Argentina won the lottery of penalties™ 4-2.

Brazilians were praying for the Dutch to win...to no avail...

Brazilians were praying for the Dutch to win the shoot-out…to no avail…

So, with my last evening at the (half empty) Fanfest spent explaining to random Argentines that I wasn’t actually from Argentina, just a fan of Buenos Aires club Racing and hence wearing their jersey, my World Cup time in Salvador has come to an end: tomorrow begins the final leg, a flight to Rio, and 72-hours to fight as many Argentines as I need to in order to get hold of a ticket to Sunday’s final.

Stay tuned for updates from the South!

And don’t forget to sign up for news of the Benfica to Brazil book!


51. Brazil on their way home…

In a World Cup full of unbelievable matches, (Holland vs Spain, Costa Rica vs Italy, Germany vs Portugal), yesterday’s 7-1 thrashing/spanking/sausaging/humiliation of Brazil by Germany has to rank as the most stunning of all.

This was both the best I have ever seen a team play in a World Cup, and the worst, and possibly in any football match.

To call Brazil’s play ‘Sunday League‘ is an insult to hard-working Sunday League teams across the world.


My allegiances were torn…

Germany were so (I hate to use the stereotype, but it’s true) ruthless that Continue reading

49. World Cup Live Match Report, pt.VI: Holland vs Costa Rica…

A sad day for me: my final live match here in my home for the past five weeks, Salvador de Bahía.
It wasn’t the blockbuster match-up I had hoped for, (Brazil could have been here had they finished second in their group), and I was hoping to see one of the most fun teams in the tournament, Mexico, but had to settle for Holland vs the surprise of the cup, Costa Rica, who not only survived one of the Groups of Death, they were the killers, knocking out both England and Italy.

I forgave the plucky Ticos for knocking out England…and rocked my new Peru jersey!

I joined up with my Spanish buddies, Andreas and José, and we caused trouble all the way to the stadium: meeting fans from around the world, (from Spurs fans loving my Lilywhites jersey, to hundreds of ‘Ticos‘ which I think we all learned is the slang for a Costa Rican), enjoying a few drinks (and the match-day cups that we would be collecting for possibly the last time), and generally enjoying the bubbling atmosphere.

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48. The Semi-Finals Await…

It’s time for another two-day break, and a chance to catch your breath before the semi-finals.
After Friday saw the first semi-final decided, with hosts Brazil taking on the ever-consistent Germans, yesterday was the turn of Argentina and Holland to set up the other mouth-watering Euro-American last four.
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A meeting of minds…

It was a day of mixed feelings for me, as I was heading to possibly my last game of the tournament, and definitely the final one here in Salvador.

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47. Quarter Finals Reviews and Previews…

So Brazil are one step from actually getting to the final, which is either totally predictable or a complete miracle given how they have played most of the tournament.

This time they deserved the win, brushing aside a desperately disappointing Colombia who never really got going, and (with a little help from the referee, for a change), won their quarter final 2-1 and sparked the biggest party yet in the Salvador Fanfest, where thousands of people spent the entire night either dancing the night away, or staring at me attempting to do the same.


Fanfest festivities…

Standing in their way will be Continue reading

45. World Cup Live Match Report V: USA vs Belgium…

A gorgeous, sunny day; an old friend visiting from NYC who happened to show up for a USA match; another old friend racing back to see her country play; and yet another old friend back from his travels, all to be reunited in the gorgeous, gleaming Salvador stadium.


Back where I belong…

Another friend didn’t have a ticket, but details like this didn’t seem to matter on this magical day: walking to the stadium three hours early to soak up the atmosphere, (and the Continue reading

44. World Cup Days 19&20: Not for Dutch fans…

Arjen Robben is a diving, cheating scumbag.

I have been away from a computer for 48-hours, since a visiting friend somehow managed to convince me that it would be a good idea to spend two days doing little to nothing on an idyllic island a few hours drive from Salvador. I have therefore had that sentence itching inside me since I saw Robben dive the Dutch to the quarter-finals, much as they did in the last World Cup all the way to the final.


My hellish accommodation for the past few days…

Whilst we were away I got to watch four of Continue reading