Posts Tagged With: Ghana

Some Match Day Thoughts

Soccer is a sport of emotions and last night was no exception as we were put through it, but as with all things, the more difficult the task the better the payoff.  Some thoughts:

  • Being at the World Cup is simply awesome.  This is my third and I have made good friends at each.  It is so cool seeing friends whom you’ve only ever seen at Cups.  They live in America, but I’ve only know them abroad.
  • The day began here in Pipa with a nice breakfast of Acai with granola, banana, and honey.

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  • Our fleet of cabs took about two hours to reach the stadium.  No worries, we were aware of that and arrived hours before the match.
  • At Bar Original, a few blocks from the stadium, we ate some Brazilian meats.  And had a few beers.

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  • We arrived to the stadium early, having had Mexicans tell us they encountered long, slow lines.  We were in quickly and just hung out on the large, wide concourse.

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  • As most Americans came in our gate, we were reunited with and met many old friends.

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  • There were huge numbers of American, many in great costumes–many were better but this was my favorite.
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  • In addition to Bud, they also sold Brahma beer.  Yeah, it’s owned by Bud but it least is not Bud.  We all drank that.  Beers and cokes came in plastic souvenir cups that notated USA vs Ghana.  Pretty cool, though I didn’t keep any.
  • My seat was in the end zone, 10 rows up, to the right of  the goal, many of my friends were nearby and others squeezed in.

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  • Not once did anyone check my ticket not did I hear of that happening to anyone else.
  • This is good news as for the other two matches, I’m supposed to be in the upper deck–if this laissez-faire approach to ushering continues, I see me having no problem getting close and low.
  • I was happy to see our line-up unchanged from the Nigeria, sendoff match.
  • I love the few minutes from just before the walkout to the start of the match.  There is a feeling of possibilities, it’s all there in front of us, waiting to happen.
  • Belting out the Star-Spangled Banner with thousands of American’s is a moving experience.  It sounded as good as I’ve ever heard us.
  • Soccer can shock.  34 seconds in and we have a goal.  Bedlam in our sections.  A perfect start, surely a match to enjoy.
  • Or not, we didn’t really press our advantage and they didn’t fall apart.
  • Soccer is a game of pain.  And we all felt it when Jozy pulled up, certainly his cup over.  As he chased the long pass, I looked behind me to the large scoreboard which was showing the TV feed, to see if he had room, as he was running to the goal away from me.  I saw enough to know it was bad.  Our emotions sunk.
  • For as large as our contingent was, we were sadly not in good voice.  Despite the efforts of a good many, and though a few chants caught on and were loud, we were quite for long stretches.
  • Soccer is a game of torture.  And this was that.  Ghana had most of the ball.  The action was in right in front of us, but we survived the half.
  • I was not thrilled that Brooks replaced Besler who had been holding his leg late in the half.  Would have really liked to have had Goodson in there.
  • The torture continued and grew in the second half as they relentlessly attacked the goal away from us.  A goal seemingly certain, but they either seemed to blow it or one of our defenders or Tim Howard was able to stop the shot.  My stomach  ached.  None of it was fun.
  • Of course their goal came.  I feared they would add another.  I thought of How Ecuador had led most of the match only to lose to two late goals.  How devastating.
  • Soccer can amaze. A corner for us.  I checked to see if all our defenders had come up.  They had, though Brooks was well back, perhaps 10 yards outside the 18.  I thought to myself, “If you’re going to come up, then COME UP!”
  • And come up did he!  Unleash Heavan!  As our section went crazy in a mass of noise and color, I turned around.  There behind me were two friends, a married couple.  They were simply holding one another, gazing into eyes with a joy and love that was so pure it was only match by the young Brooks’ celebration.
  • Soccer can warm the heart. The way he celebrated make my eyes water whenever I think of it.  So young, so unexpected–he can’t have even thought he would make the team, much less play, and a central defender scoring a goal?  In the World Cup?  To win the match?  For me, this celebration rivals any the passionate Italians have ever put up–including Spain in 1982.
  • No, we didn’t play well.  Yes Ghana probably deserved better but that’s soccer (and we took our chances).  And though we lost one and possibly two important players, did not play well; all we talked about on our two hour drive back to Pipa was that we had three points.  And points are more valuable than limes in Brazil.
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Yes, the Group of Death

There has been a lot of discussion about our group and whether or not it is the dreaded Group of Death.  Since there is no official title nor does it mean anything, who really cares?  It is a crazy hard group and whoever the two teams are that advance will breath sighs of relief.  The two who don’t will leave disappointed.

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It is this last reason that I would say this is the Group of Death, all four sides expect to advance.  Only two can thus each match will be a dogfight.  Are there groups that I am glad we did not get drawn into?  Yes.  We could have been drawn into Group B, in Australia’s place.  Had that happened there would be no debating the Group of Death.  In this case, poor Australia, they really have no chance.  Consider they are in a group with the two finalists from the last Cup, Holland and Spain.  Even should one of those giants slip up, there is still Chile.  So why is this not the Group of Death?  Simply because Australia is not near the level of the other three.  I’m not saying any team can take a day off, but when Spain and Holland play Australia, it is a step down in class.  While any side will be disappointed when they are eliminated, Australia cannot expect to make it out.  There is no way I would want to be in this group.

How about Group D?  We could have been put there rather than Costa Rica.  Our opponents would be Italy, England, and Uruguay.  Certainly a daunting task, though perhaps not as horrible as at first glance as none of these three would consider them self at the top of their game.  That is not to say one of them won’t go far, they all have wonderful pedigree, it is just that each would admit to not having their finest side.  That said, this is a wonderfully entertaining group.  At the end, I see Costa Rica, while not advancing, having something to say about who advances–I believe they will take points.

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One of the great things about this Cup is that no real powers failed to qualify.  There are still a few weak sides, Iran, Algeria, and Honduras all come to mind–however we have certainly had our problems with each of them over the years.  This year, Sweden, Turkey, Denmark and the Ukraine are probably the top sides to not join the party, solid sides, all, but not marquee names (Zlatan aside, who will be missed.)

So, at the end of the day, yes, we are in the Group of Death.

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Speaking of this group, and the piece I wrote yesterday, about the horrible commute out team will face, the longest of any team including 5 flights of 3 1/2 hours or more before the final group match.  Looking at the three other teams in our group and where they play, Germany has it the easiest. They play in Salvador, Fortaleza, and then Recife–all in that northeast area. Ghana play in Natal, Fortaleza, then Brasilia–similar in total travel to us, but with their long trip their final match. Portugal probably have the worst travel to match as they are in Salvador, Manaus, and Brasilia. However what really will make the difference is where their base is.

Germany has really done it right, they built their own place and it’s close to their matches in the northeast: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2619742/Germans-logical-solution-address-World-Cup-security-fears-build-luxury-new-25-million-base.html

Portugal are also located in the city of Campinas, which is in the state of Sao Paulo, however: 1. They are much closer to the airport and 2. Their schedule is much further south than ours. Their location is not ideal but it is not remotely as bad as ours. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/832810.shtml

Ghana is also up north, as they should be: http://myjoyonline.com/sports/2014/February-3rd/-brazil-2014-ghana-picks-maceio-as-2014-fifa-world-cup-camp-baseghana-who-will-be-participating-in-her-third.php

Germany has about the perfect set-up, their matches are all relatively close and they are well situated.  They will go into that final match with us much fresher.

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