When he signed off from South Africa four years ago, correspondent Simon Hagens was wrapping up a superb soccer vacation and already pencilling the next World Cup trip into his schedule. Fast forward to now, and that plan isn’t just in ink, it’s in execution. Along with several Canadian compadres, Simon jetted south to Brazil this week to follow En-ger-land through the group stage. Here’s the first of his updates from the road.
After touching down in Sao Paulo, the enthusiasm starts to build as we wait to board our flight to Manaus. Among those heading north were Paul and his Crusader friends, who were in South Africa, too. They generated quite the attention at the airport. A Brazilian woman sees Paul’s outfit and says “You’re going to wear that in Manaus? You’re brave.” Four years ago, Cape Town was a pleasant with temperatures around 20 C. The forecast for England-Italy on Saturday is a sweaty 34 C, with humidity making it feel like it’s in the mid-forties. There’s also a chance of thunderstorms. Not the finest of crusading weather. I don’t believe Paul cares.
We arrived in the Amazon at the same time as the England team! Felt like part of their entourage on the drive into Manaus. Made it downtown in time to hit the streets and soak up the scene for the opening match of the tournament back in Sao Paulo, with Brazil overcoming an own goal and benefitting from a penalty call to beat Croatia 3-1. Even the Brazilian fans couldn’t call this a convincing victory. But it goes in the books as a victory nonetheless, and that still warrants a party… which everyone could agree on.
The plan is to take an Amazon boat cruise Friday, with the hotly-anticipated England-Italy match ahead on Saturday night. More to come.