Downcast and drunken after England’s early elimination from World Cup 2014, our correspondent Simon Hagens and his Canadian chums cheered themselves up with a side trip to Rio de Janeiro before Tuesday’s dead rubber with Group D winners Costa Rica (WTF?) in Belo Horizonte. Here’s the latest from the lads as their wonderful tour of Brazil wraps up all too soon.
Rio was pretty much as advertised. Clearly the headquarters for the World Cup, it was filled with fans who came here to settle in and watch, rather than follow their teams across the country. Ipanema Beach, where we stayed, was a sea of Australian, American and English dudes stumbling around. It made for great enthusiasm during the matches, but that many stumbling dudes gets old fast.
The highlight of Rio was game of pick-up beach soccer with a bunch of locals. Very tiring, and we left it a little bruised up (these guys play to win), but wonderful fun. We also enjoyed (and thankfully survived) a great innovation in taxi technology – dashboard televisions.
Here in Belo Horizonte, things are more tame. Nice restaurants, pretty streets … and very few English speakers. We’d been spoiled so far on that front, so for our last few days it was hard to muster more than hand gestures.
Match day was actually a pleasant surprise. A bit disappointing that England’s trip home was guaranteed either way, but it created a great vibe for the game. All the anxiety (and later irritation) of the Italy and Uruguay matches was replaced with carefree merriment. A substantially different lineup, with more youth and veteran Frank Lampard, made for some more interest (if not quality football) on the pitch.
Costa Rica was not as fun to watch as in their previous games either, but it sure would be nice to see them do well going forward. This match did feature the best fan cheering and singing of the tournament, with a personal highlight being a sincerely delivered version of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Also good was the fond farewell given to the England fans section by the team at the final whistle.
We’re off for the long journey home now too. You’re welcome Brazil.