Saturday, August 9, 2014

Brazil 2014 - Day 4 (6/16/2014) - Nigeria vs Iran

The main activity on the docket for the day was the World Cup game between Nigeria and Iran.  We got a late start because we didn't have anywhere we needed to be besides downstairs for breakfast by 10:00 and checked out by 11:00.  After checking out and stowing our big bags, we walked down to Arena da Baixada just to check out the stadium area, which turned out to be heavily secured by military police.  We then wandered around trying to find a place to watch the 1:00 game between Germany and Portugal.  The two places that Raj had read about were both closed, so we ended up going to Devassa in Patio Batel.  Along the way, we picked up three Nigerians (friends from secondary school, two being brothers) who were also looking to watch the game.  Our group, with 4 green jerseys, began to get some attention and shows of support (especially by honking/yelling drivers in the street), which was a welcome change from having seen more (though not a ton) Iranian support thus far.

At the bar, Raj and I ordered a couple more rounds of cheese pastries (which we had shared a couple of nights before) and drinks.  Our Nigerian companions invited along even more Nigerians to join our table, one of whom was bringing a ticket for one of them.  Raj and I left the bar a bit before the end of the early game, as Germany clearly had control of the game up 4-0 (which turned out to be the final score) and one man, and walked all the way over to the stadium (having to show our tickets to the military police to get past a couple of street barricades).

The line at our entrance into the stadium was pretty long, and it took us well over a a half hour to get through the line and the security checkpoint - I'm definitely glad we showed up early. Once through, we found our seats, which were literally in the last row of the upper deck.  Despite this, our view of the field was actually pretty good (though both video boards were obstructed).  The game itself was a bit of a snoozer - it ended 0-0, and the quality of play just about fit that scoreline.

After the game, we walked back to our hotel to pick up our big bags.  We then crossed back over to the Estação mall to watch the US a vs Ghana game at a pizzeria there.  We each ordered a personal pizza (they had a lot of vegetarian choices) and drinks while we watched the game.  We left to catch the shuttle to the airport just after Ghana's late equalizer, but were still walking through the mall when Brooks scored what turned out to be the late winner.

Our flight to Fox do Iguaçú was supposed to depart at 10:42, but was delayed by about 30 minutes.  There was a large group of Nigerian fans at the airport who were all apparently traveling next to Sao Paulo.  One struck up a conversation with me - he was a sporting director and football (soccer) writer, though our conversation was mostly about other topics.  After eventually boarding our plane and flying to Foz (which only took somewhere around an hour), we were a bit surprised to find a driver waiting for us at the airport (Raj forgot having arranged this).  He drove us to Bella Italia Hotel in the city, where we checked in and soon called it a late night.

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