Daily Archives: June 15, 2014

Road report: Match day in Manaus

Our multimedia-savvy correspondent Simon Hagens, who played the part of TV reporter in previewing the England-Italy match for CTV News on Saturday morning, turns scribe again with a summary of Saturday’s match day in Manaus and Italy’s 2-1 victory over England.

Dr. Livingston, we presume?

Dr. Livingstone (we presume) meets a member of Simon’s travelling party.

Game days generally start by properly nursing the hangover from the night before. On Saturday, this meant a long, slow breakfast with lots of tropical fruit.  It would have been wise to call it an early night on Friday, perhaps, but the street parties were just too appealing.  The bars just serve as a place to grab some drinks, while the squares and street corners are the place to be – anyone is welcome and the mood is amazing.

Our hostel that morning had a nervous buzz.  We, as partially-committed Canadians, clearly had less national pride and tense history on the line. We wrapped up breakfast and, along with many other groups of fans, began bumbling toward the stadium, making our way using a general sense of direction and whatever mix of transit seemed to be headed our way.  The locals were fantastic, very helpful in directing people all over the city during our stay, and this was no exception.  As we got closer to our destination, the crowds get thicker and more joyous.

Are you sure this is the right bus?

Are you sure this is the right bus stop?

England fans were the most vocal and visible.  Their distinguishing characteristics were flags, costumes, chants and copious amounts of beer.  Paul passed us in full crusader gear, with not a complaint in the world about the heat.  Neil, a British Airways pilot in full Dr. Livingstone garb, sweating under his pith helmet and with an elaborate fake moustache melting off his face, was similarly unconcerned.  Mad dogs and Englishmen as they say.  We settled into a nice barbecue restaurant next to the stadium to watch the Uruguay vs Costa Rica game, and continue the steady game day diet of beer and meat.  England fans flooded the place, buying beer to drink on the street outside.  The equalizer from Costa Rica brought cheers and a small group storming into the restaurant.  The go-ahead goal brought  another rush of ecstatic fans, screaming songs and bouncing a beach ball, overwhelming the nicely-outfitted wait staff.  Uruguay’s defeat would be a real help for England, but maybe Costa Rica did look a little too good.

Entry to the stadium was efficient and staff were highly accommodating, lending Eric a megaphone to perform his signature karaoke piece: Quando, Quando, Quando.  Once inside, the English were again the most noticeable, with local club flags lining the rails. Italian fans were relatively sparse, while Brazilians made up the lion’s share of the crowd, thrilled to be watching international football in their hometown.  By game time at 6:00 pm, the sun had gone down and the temperature and humidity were both quite pleasant – no excuses to be had there.

Shortly after kick off, as chants of “C’mon England,” and renditions of “Ten German bombers” were drowned out by rest of the crowd cheering back, we started to sense the leaning of the Brazilian fans.  This was confirmed when the stadium erupted for the first Italian goal.  “Fookin’ ‘ell” came the mutters from all around our England section (perhaps the “memories of conquests past” outfits aren’t loved by all?).  Shortly after, the English equalizer sent beer pouring down from our upper deck supporter’s section onto the Brazilians and Italians below.  With the exception of one particularly damp and enraged Italian couple, it was all in good fun. And the helpful line of burly gentlemen surrounding the England sections to service our needs provided a gentle reminder of the acceptable limits. (As would the actual army of forces outside, well equipped with many on horseback in robocop armour).

The scene inside the stadium in Manaus.

The scene inside the stadium in Manaus.

The second, and as it would turn out, winning Italian goal brought a sense of gloom, and perhaps a little inevitability.  Not even the incredible number of ant species they had encountered would cheer up this crowd. Nothing, that is, until we all got back to the street party, where for most it didn’t seen all that bad.  Seems there’s nothing another layer of beer, meat and revelry can’t cure.

We’re flew to São Paulo today for England’s second match on Thursday. Climbing out of Manaus brought an incredible view of dense urban mass surrounded by a sea of jungle and rivers.  Looking forward to plumbing with more than one temperature of water, not being sticky all the time, and a few less ants.  Thanks, Amazon.  It’s been a blast.

Next opponent: Uruguay.  May they be  as porous as they were against Costa Rica.

Simon Hagens

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Pirlo does an Italian Job on England, Costa Rica’s rich rewards

Italy winsAs is the way with these things, I made my way to the pub hours before the England kick-off, because I wanted to be sure of a seat and a clear line of sight.  However just as I walked in and turned towards the screen, Joel Campbell chested the ball and then tied the game up for Costa Rica against Uruguay.  I had just enough time to order my drink when they did it again, this time it was Óscar Duarte (who was starting in place of Johnny Acosta).  2-1 Costa Rica… are you kidding me?

Costa Rica means "Rich Coast".  Just sayin'...

Costa Rica means “Rich Coast”. Just sayin’…

Uruguay badly missed Luis Suárez, who sat to rest from meniscus surgery.  Lucky us.  Uruguay looked ordinary and their defenders are terrible.  Throw in a bone-headed tackle from Maxi Pereira to earn him the red, and Uruguay look like they are in trouble.  Costa Rica 3-1 Uruguay

So a couple of bevvies to warm up…  and then it was England vs. Italy.   It wasn’t at all embarrassing when Ginger Kev and I were so excited by Sterling’s blast into the side netting that he jumped into my arms.  But hey, the BBC put up the score at 1-0 so we weren’t the only ones.   Then came the Claudio Marchisio goal.  Andrea Pirlo’s dummy made me think of when you see a gorgeous girl, and then you find out she has a boyfriend.  A boyfriend who is better looking, richer and drives a better car.  That kind of vision and nonchalance is evidence of an incredible talent…  and so it was 1-nil Italy.

Stevie G in a midfield battle with Serpico

Stevie G in a midfield battle with Serpico

Wayne Rooney was once again a defensive liability, not providing the cover he needed down the left-hand side.  Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson were playing up so high, they were effectively wingers… but Matteo Darmian and Giorgio Chiellini (as a make-shift fullback) were giving them headaches.  Rooney doesn’t play well with others, but all was almost forgiven on the Daniel Sturridge goal.   Raheem Sterling (who had a fantastic game) picked out Wazza’s run, who in turn put a perfect cross through the box for the Liverpool striker to finish off.  However, Italy would counter with what was basically a mirror image of the goal (Darmian’s cross in front of the box for Mario Balotelli on the far post)… and that was that.  Italy 2-1 England

Brent P. Lanthier

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Colombia, Ivory Coast take Group C pole positions

Group C’s matches were spaced out on Saturday, with the two Group D games between them. Presumably, this was to air the Ivory Coast-Japan game during prime time for Brazil’s significant Japanese population.   Every team in this group played to form, and the results were expected, if not predictable.

GROUP C
Radamel who? Colombia‘s performance was punctuated by an international coming-out party for James Rodriguez.  The Monaco man ran his little heart out and scored a lovely left-footed poke at the end of the match.  This game was also an example of what can go wrong with the current trend of having high-playing fullbacks/wingbacks.  Greece‘s José Holebas was exposed on the left as he failed to track back, allowing Colombia to score early.   Juan Cuadrado was brought in to flood the right and he did just that, setting up the first and third goals.  Greece also missed some great chances, including a sitter by Theo Gekas who headed the ball off the crossbar.  Colombia 3-0 Greece

First of two goals in as many mintues

First of two goals in as many minutes

The Ivory Coast went down early after Keisuke Honda’s cracker in the 13th minute.  I watched this one in the pub, and the entire room gasped when he scored.    But then Japan sat back and let the Elephants come at them.   The key moment, though, was the entrance of Didier Drogba.  The Ivory Coast captain sat while Wilfried Bony got the start.  Playing Bony made sense, considering the two players’ respective league seasons.  But Drogba’s introduction came at the expense of the holding midfielder, and now there were two strikers.  Bony scored two minutes after Drogba came on; Gervinho scored two minutes after that.   Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

Brent P. Lanthier

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Spain’s Pain, Dutch Dreams and Chile’s Voodoo on the Socceroos

THAT goal...

THAT goal…

After seven blindingly-good matches over two days, I’m already a bit knackered (several pints of cider having nothing to do with it).   There have been some shockers and lots of goals… good thing I’ve cleared my calendar.

After almost 48 hours, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the Dutch win over Spain.  Five goals against the defending World champions would be unheard of two years ago.  Both teams played high and aggressive, but it was power that won over possession, as the Netherlands seemed to find space for their runs.  Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were as good as they’ve ever been, with RvP scoring his Superman header, imitating Bobby Orr in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals.  Nigel de Jong dominated the midfield… but strangely, Wesley Sneijder was not as involved as he may have been in the past.  Meanwhile Spain’s spine seemed to shut down: Iker Casillas were horrible, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were caught with their pants down, and Xavi seemed to falter.

The Dutch had Spain on her knees...

The Dutch had Spain on her knees…

Some pundits say the warning signs were there that this is a team in its autumn years… although you could also argue these are players that have come off punishing domestic and Champions league campaigns.   Also noteworthy is that Spain had most of the possession, but as Bobby McMahon wrote for Forbes magazine, possession means nothing.  Is this the end of Spanish dominance and tika-taka?  Netherlands 3-1 Spain

Bad officiating reared its ugly head in this match as well.  The second Dutch goal went in as RVP bonked Casillas in the noggin.  It should have been foul; instead it was 2-1 and changed the tone of the game.

Nothing dirty about Sanchez' goal

Nothing dirty about Sanchez’ goal

Meanwhile, Australia performed admirably against a lightning-quick Chile on Friday.   Both teams stuck to form, with the Chileans scoring early and dominating the first third of the game.  However, the Socceroos gathered the wits and Tim Cahill scored a trademark header.   Note: the Chileans are tiny.  Who knew?  However, they gave as good as they got, with almost as many tackles as the Aussies… but the South Americans had far fewer fouls.  The Chileans will get through (especially now that Spain is there for the taking), the Aussies won’t… but neither will be taken lightly from here on in.  Chile 3-1 Australia.

Brent P. Lanthier

 

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