Sadly, the poor Internets has made my attempt to provide a full multi-media recap of our past two days impossible.
Man, I have pictures, videos and more that I'm super anxious to post to show you how awesome (and trying at times) the Natal stop on this World Cup journey has been.
Where to begin?
After we (with our two new friends from the States) spent hours at Shopping Natal waiting for the stores to open and searching for some foul weather gear, the rain did let up in time for the pre-match festivities and the game itself. Funny how that works. We did find the last four rain ponchos in the city, which is why the rain stopped.
Thanks to Maura's negotiation skills, we had a driver to take us to the U.S. Soccer pre-match party at "Peppers Arena" (a makeshift and temporary venue sandwiched between car dealerships), to Arena das Dunas for the game and then back to our hotel after an anticipated victory.
The pre-match party was cool. We had screens everywhere to witness the German thrashing of CR7's Portugal, "enjoyed" some pricey cans of Budweiser beer and a Brazilian version of bad American pizza. Just after the end of the GERvPOR match, family members of the Yanks arrived to have their own pre-match meal and fun before boarding their buses for the stadium. We got to chat with a few of them, including Jozy's older brother (who is a nearly a twin with that same signature smile) and Fabian Johnson's sibling. We saw a quick game of "kick the ball and run around" being played by the future USMNT players made up of the offspring of Dempsey, Jones, Bradley and others. The cherry on top of this awesome sundae was free U.S. Soccer scarves handed out just as we left ourselves. A nice souvenir.
Our driver took us over to the stadium area where we met up with about a "million" American Outlaws (the famed USA supporters group). I wish I could upload the video of the packed open air pizzeria and the none stop chants. I'll fix that once we get some good wireless again!
We did our own "march to the match", walking the mile from the AO pre-func to our seats in the Arena das Dunas. People were cheering and chanting the whole way and lots of good natured taunting between fans of all the teams, not just the USA and Ghana.
I won't recap the game, but I will say what an emotional roller coaster of the Emerald City's own Clint Dempsey scoring the opening goal in 32 seconds, followed by the injuries to he and Jozy. Then the nail biting of watching the USA getting pounded by the Ghanian attack with so little possession of their own, the late goal by Ghana and then John Brooks stunning game winning header in the closing minutes that took place in the goal closest to our seats.
That's all I can say.
And, the rain returned just as we exited as victors. Funny, eh?
Today is our last full day in Natal, and the rain is back. We'll catch a few quick sights before finding a dry location to watch the Brazil-Mexico match.
Oh, and I need to rest my voice as I think I lost it somewhere in Section 220 last night. Let me know if you find it!