What Does 6,896 Miles Look Like? by Ian Hameroff

Yes, we are just hours away from our first (of many!) elimination round matches.

The start of the #USAvBEL match cannot come any sooner.

I am ready!

I believe!

One Nation. One Team.

And, I have lots of (remote) work to do today and the Argentina vs. Switzerland match to keep me distracted until the 17:00 (or 5:00 pm) local time kick-off of the USA bout.

So, to keep me focused (and before I dive into my next major work item), I thought I share the amount of flying we did to catch all three USA group stage matches these past two weeks.

As many of you have likely read, Team USA endured the worst travel schedule of any of the teams in the World Cup. From their base of operations in São Paulo to the three cities in the north, the USMNT tallied about 8,900 miles. Interestingly, our opponent for the match later today earned the honor of traveling the least amount for the group stage.

Maura and I came fairly close to equaling this long distance achievement (we did not have the "luxury" of flying back to São Paulo after each match, like the USMNT did), racking up nearly 6,900 air miles on our own journey through the first phase of the FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.

Our travels during the Group Stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals

Our travels during the Group Stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals

I can actually feel the physical toll and impact of multi-legged journey to Natal, Manaus and Recife.

Here are our vital stats:

Leg 1
São Paulo to Brasilia - 540 miles
Brasilia to Natal - 1,099 miles

Leg 2
Natal to Manaus - 1,721 miles

Leg 3
Manaus to Brasilia - 1,208 miles
Brasilia to Recife - 1,027 miles

Leg 4
Recife to São Paulo - 1,301 miles

For a grand total of 6,896 miles!

We actually flew more air miles than Team Belgium did to get from their home nation to their camp in São Paulo state (approximately 6,000 miles).

Yeah, it was brutal, but so worth it!

And, I think we would have made the trip up north to Salvador for today's match if we both weren't swamped with work and just completely wiped.

Nevertheless, I'm hopeful our big investment will have more than a little impact on the team's performance later today...where we will make waffles out of them Belgium!


The 95th Minute by Ian Hameroff

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.

Arena Amazonia a short, hot and humid walk away

Arena Amazonia a short, hot and humid walk away

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!

Supporters at Bar Near Arena Amazonia

Supporters at Bar Near Arena Amazonia

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).

Team USA Arrives at Arena Amazonia

Team USA Arrives at Arena Amazonia

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.

Just saying.

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.

Walking into the most beautiful of the new World Cup stadiums - Arena Amazonia

Walking into the most beautiful of the new World Cup stadiums - Arena Amazonia

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.

I'm ready to support "The Yanks" from our U.S.A. supporters' section in Arena Amazonia

I'm ready to support "The Yanks" from our U.S.A. supporters' section in Arena Amazonia

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).

Pano of Arena Amazonia

Pano of Arena Amazonia

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.

We're on the Onibus post-match trying to return to our Manaus base of operations

We're on the Onibus post-match trying to return to our Manaus base of operations

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.

A neat tabletop tool!

A neat tabletop tool!

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?

Vai Brasil!

Game Day (and I Still Believe)! by Ian Hameroff

#IBelieveThatWeWillWin has been running through my head, non-stop, since yesterday afternoon.

Maybe it was the result of the Germany-Ghana match. What a stunner, eh?

I was pulling for a big, soul crushing win for Die Mannschaft at the onset of the match. I felt it best to eliminate our pals from Ghana, to our hope for knockout stage glory. I've come to realize that the draw makes things even more freaking interesting for today's bout against CR7 and the Hairdos. If we can pull off the win, we'll own the top spot and qualify for the round of 16.

Holy shit!

Two matches in, and we could be heading to the elimination round.


Deep breath.

Lets not get in front of ourselves.

The German win was a little bittersweet in Brazil, however. With Klose's game tying goal, he tied a very personal record for Brazilians, Ronaldo's (the Brazilian one, not the haircut) record 15 World Cup goals tally. Granted, Klose is like 90 years old and has been in one more Copa do Mundo than Ronaldo. It still stings.

Another reason for my glee and confidence may be the "neat" moment at a Manaus restaurant yesterday evening for dinner. Seated at the table next to ours was famed Brazilian footballer Pedrinho.

Well, I just learned about him yesterday, but all of the people at the place were coming to get his autograph and not mine. Therefore, he is way more famous than I am in Brazil. The nerve!

Perhaps it is just because the game is just a few hours away.

That's most certainly it. Time to gear up and lace up my red, white and blue boots.


Meeting of Waters by Ian Hameroff

Man, it feels like an eternity until our boys in the Stars and Stripes take center pitch to do battle with Cristiano Ronaldo (and the other 10 guys who will not have as nice of a hairdo) here in Manaus. Six days between matches is a blessing and a curse. Yes, this gives our Yanks time to get (mostly) healthy and Jürgen a chance to watch film on both our sides first group stage game.

The downside?

The adrenaline rush has fully worn off from the stunning victory against Ghana. I feel a little bit empty, but the upside is I get to recuperate my poor voice after screaming it off in Natal.

We've done our best to fill the time in Manaus.

It's an amazing place almost literally in the middle of nowhere.

As I learned (again) today from a tour guide during our voyage on the Rio Negro, the only "safe" way in and out is by airplane or a long boat trip down the Amazon. They do have a couple of highways, but these only go so far and offer little in terms of...well...road. For example, BR-319 is only paved for 100 km (or 62 miles) of the 857 km. The rest of it is just dirt and chaos. If your shocks survive the journey, you've only made it to Port Velho.

I digress.

Since arriving here on Wednesday, we've kicked back and watched a lot of group stage matches from the comfort of our hosts amazing home near Ponta Negra beach.


Just realized this is the second Ponta Negra we've stayed in on this trip. The other was in Natal.

Our couch potato'ing was mostly due to the monsoon-like rain we experienced yesterday. Seems like Brazil really wants us to remember our Pacific Northwest roots.

We did steal away yesterday to visit the famous Teatro Amazonas, the city's opera house. It's a pretty neat joint, featuring lots of art and fruits of the Amazon "rubber boom" in the late 1800s.

I took a LOT of pictures of the place, including this one of the theater's painted ceiling:

Teatro Ceiling

See. This guy cares about more than just futebol. Photography is another passion.

Perhaps one of the best benefits of our rainy day visit to the teatro, was seeing this dude playing his accordion as a member of a three-piece band situated just outside of the entrance.

Brasileiro Accordionist

It's the little things in life that make you smile.

Yesterday was just a warm up for what we embarked on today: a trip down the Rio Negro to the Encontro das Águas (or "Meeting of Waters"). This amazing phenomena is where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões combined to form what you and I know as the Amazon River. Due to the nature and chemistry of these two rivers, a fascinating effect is witness. Instead of attempting to describe it in words, here's another picture:

Encontro das Águas

Wow, right?

It was really neat to see this first-hand, even after seeing countless photos across all the tourist sites and agencies in the city. The full day boat tour also included a trip through the flooded forest by smaller craft. This is where you see things like the famous giant lily pads and during the rainy season (like this time of year) experience what a forest looks like when submerged in 15 feet of water.

In the Flooded Forest

We are back to our Manaus base of operations and enjoying some more group stage matches. Man, Switzerland had their bell rung by the French. Dang!

Where in the Brazil...are you going? by Ian Hameroff

Map of 2014 FIFA World Cup Host Cities (Source: FIFA)

Map of 2014 FIFA World Cup Host Cities (Source: FIFA)

Thanks to a recent Tweet from the "fine folks" at FIFA, I can share with you a "colorful map" of the host cities for the World Cup. I've marked up the key places we'll be visiting during our time in Brazil.

From our base of operations in São Paulo, we'll be traveling up to the Amazon and the north east of Brazil to support "The Yanks" as they do battle against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in three of the twelve host cities for the tournament: Natal, Manaus and Recife.

Even though it's technically winter (well, actually winter), these places are expected to be hot and humid. What else would one expect when traveling to the word's largest rain forest and beach cities close to the equator!

We've got lots of shorts and sun block to keep us as comfortable as possible. We'll keep you posted.