Fun facts about Manaus, Brazil:
- Manaus is hot
- Manaus is incredibly humid
- The USAvPOR match was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time
- Manaus is SOOOOOO hot and humid
Bonus fun fact: I don't believe people actually support Portugal. They only appear to support Cristiano Ronaldo, and Portugal only when they score. At least, that's what I experienced at last night's match at Arena Amazonia.
We started our day like most on this trip. Some food, a little group stage match watching on the T.V. (yesterday was Belgium-Russia), some planning on how the heck to get to and from the match, and then (ultimately) leaving for the stadium.
Our journey to Arena Amazonia couldn't be any easier. We caught a ride with a family member of our hosts here in Manaus. He dropped us off just a few blocks from the stadium about 3 hours before first kick.
While the American Outlaws pre-match-pre-func was about 7 km away, we appeared to stumble upon our own supporters HQ at a watering hole near where we arrived. Thanks to Maura, we scored a table and some ice cold bottles of Skol (the beer) to help take the edge off of the heat and the wait. We had a nice little surprise when a couple from Orcas Island, WA took advantage of the open two chairs at our table to relax and cool down themselves before marching to the match. We've met so many people from the greater Seattle area all the way down here in Brazil. Even more evidence that Seattle is truly Soccer City USA!
With the sun still strong and keeping things super hot, we stayed at this place (which charged R$1 to use the bathroom, R$10 for a small basket of french fries and R$10 for a huge plate of mixed meats) until about two hours before the start of the match.
Around 4p, we walked (through the still super hot temperatures) to the gates and our seats. Our luck in timing continues, as seconds after getting our tickets scanned and our persons checked for metal objects, Team USA arrived at the stadium (they must be waiting for us to enter, because we can't be that lucky).
Or, maybe it's a just a little Disney magic. Perhaps they have a Team USA bus drive through every 10 minutes, so we all think our timing is amazing and we get all sorts of pumped up for the match.
Moving on: Arena Amazonia is a stunning venue. Being brand new and blessed with great (albeit it friggin' HOT and HUMID) weather goes a long way to making this place feel special. My father-in-law and I chatted a bunch about the future of this stadium in a city that doesn't have a top-tier team or enough of a need for a 40,000+ seat arena to sustain the high costs of maintaining the site. I think it would be an absolute crime to let this place be turned into rubble after experiencing a match from some great seats.
As with my past blog posts, I won't attempt to recap the match. Nonetheless, our seats were AWESOME and on the USA team's side. We had the whole team warming up right in front of us and defended the net on our end in the first half. Three of the four goals took place 30 yards from our section. I very much enjoyed watching two of the three of those aforementioned goals.
The viewing angles were fantastic and we really felt like we couldn't be any closer to the action (granted, we were in row L, so I guess we could have been closer).
The thrills and (yet again) emotional roller coster witnessed during the match made the costs of getting to the game all the more worth it. The heartbreaking nature of Portugal's game tying in the 95th minute did take a little bit away from moment, but I did go into the match feeling like it would be a draw. Dempsey's go ahead goal in the 81st completely blew my mind with possibilities and shattered my predicted result. I would have been more than happy to be wrong (this time).
Some other fun observations from the game:
- Ronaldo had a so/so game and every time he failed to do something magical, the USA fans started to chant "MESSI. MESSI. MESSI." I guess this taunt was all about who is "really" the best footballer in the world in 2013
- It is impossible to actually tell how much time is left in the match since this only clock is on the smallish stadium jumbotrons. In Natal, we were sat right underneath the one in our section, so we couldn't see anything. While our seats in Manaus offered direct views to both of the screens in the arena, it was still too small.
- Towards the end of the match, the stadium erupted into a song sang with tremendous pride by the Brazilians - "Eu sou Brasileiro com muito orgulho com muito amor" (I am a Brazilian with a lot of pride and a lot of love).
After the final whistle and after everyone let out a collective sigh in disbelieve of the resulting draw instead of a win, we left the stadium for our own version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" trying to get back to our residence in Ponta Negra.
First, we were led to believe FIFA would be providing buses back to the Fan Fest in Ponta Negra. You only needed to show your match ticket to get a ride.
We walked for about 20 minutes and couldn't find either the buses or anyone who knew anything about these "advertised" buses.
Next, we boarded a city bus heading towards the airport (and points around Ponta Negra), paid our R$2.75 per person and hung on for dear life as this sucker snaked through cars, roads and traffic laws.
Not feeling confident that this bus would actually stop anywhere near where we needed in the large neighborhood of Ponta Negra, we hopped off at the airport and grabbed a taxi back to our host's home.
We "freshened up" slightly and headed out for a late evening pizza at a place called Splash Pizza (odd name for a pizza place).
Not surprising, there were some differences in the preparation and style of pizza in Brazil vs. the USA. For example, the table includes a very different set of condiments in place of the traditional grated cheese and (maybe) red pepper flakes. Instead, they offered olive oil (which they have that everywhere in Brazil), ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and chili sauce. Yup.
The pizza was good and hit the spot after my workout at the match screaming, chanting and jumping around. But, my night was made when I discovered this neat tabletop tool: a little device that allows you to easily open a packet of ketchup or chili sauce without having to risk life and limb tearing the packet open.
I think we should important this to the USA!
Today, we head over to our friends pub and night club to watch the Brazil-Cameroon match. Just like the USA, Brazil needs to close things out this afternoon with at least a draw (a win would be way better) to advance to the round of 16. No heartbreakers, okay?