You may or may not be glad to know that I am back safe and well from Brazil, but more on that later. I’ll try and finish off by going through my final few days in Rio de Janeiro before giving a final overview of my time in Brazil and what was, for me, a trip of a lifetime.
All the days roll into one, but one of the days Andrew (my friend from Swansea who had the displeasure of my company) and I went to the famous ‘Escadaria Selarón’ steps which a Chilean artist, now sadly deceased, decorated some dilapidated steps in front of his house in the early 1990s with colourful tiles and then made it his obsession. It is an iconic tourist attraction and luckily when we got there, there weren’t too many people around which meant no-one could get in the way of my photos (I hate that!).
For the next few days it did pour down, well it was winter I guess, so visiting the Christ Redeemer would have to wait. I did book a favela tour, called Santa Marta, it featured in the Michael Jackson video ‘They Dont Care About Us’ (apparently, I haven’t seen it). This particular favela has been ‘pacified’ and it was really interesting to see how people lived and the conditions they have to put up with. There were lots of narrow and winding steps to get to the top of the favela and I went on the slowest cable car in the World. But it was worth it to see the views, as has been said by almost everyone who has been. The people who live in Favelas, really do have the best views of Rio. It was a shame it was raining so much, as I would’ve liked to have taken more photos, but that’s nature!
The weather improved slightly and we took a trip up to Sugarloaf Mountain where you can see more great views of Rio de Janeiro, thankfully we got there early so the queues weren’t too bad and took two cable cars up to the top, this was the day of the 3rd/4th Place Play Off match between Netherlands and Brazil, which we watched on the TV. The Argentine fans were in great voice revelling in the result. A disappointing performance and result for the hosts.
A simple message in a favela
The day after the World Cup Final, which I wrote about here (https://awelshmanattheworldcup.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/the-world-cup-final/) we went to the Christ Redeemer, completed in 1931, I wanted to get there early to avoid the crowds. But unfortunately, it seemed like everybody else had the same idea, the place swarming with mainly Argentinians and Germans. It was hectic up there and no way of avoiding ‘photobombers’. The views of Rio de Janeiro were impressive from up there though and it was a lovely day.
So all in all I’d say Rio was my favourite city of the lot, had the World Cup not been on I would have done much more touristy stuff, as there is plenty to see and do. I was going to watch Vasco da Gama play, as the Brazilian League season started 2 days after the World Cup Final, but they moved their game to the host city of Cuiaba (1900km away), so that was a little disappointing.
The views were good though (one for the programme)
Thoughts of the World Cup as a whole
The World Cup I thought was fantastic, even if the goals after the group stages dried up slightly. Spain going out was a shock, Chile and Colombia doing exetremley well, Costa Rica doing Central America proud, Greece boring everyone as usual, England failing as usual, Suarez biting as usual and so much more I almost forget. Algeria were mighty unlucky against the eventual winners Germany and USA v Belgium was a fantastic game, mainly for Tim Howard. I thought the Germans deserved to win overall, though I would’ve liked to have seen the reaction in Brazil had Argentina won.
The first two weeks of the tournament are definitely the best, it’s great to see all the different fans from different countries and you can sense the buzz around the airports and host cities. Someone told me, but I can’t remember who it was, that once the group stages are over, things start to get a bit more serious and it’s right. So if I was to go to Russia, I would probably go for the knock out stages
This was my first World Cup and I think I picked a good one, I have been, done and travelled a lot around Brazil. So difficult to remember everything. In total I watched 9 games at 6 different stadia, watched 12 different teams, saw 27 goals and no penalty shoot outs, which I was happy with. All the stadia were finished on time, there were no issues I could see when I was there. There was security as you entered the grounds, but all seemed to move pretty smoothly. The only disappointing thing for me and a few others was there was nowhere really to put up flags. Some grounds you could, others you weren’t allowed to. I’ll go through my ‘best and worst’ of the games I went to.
Brazil 1-7 Germany
Up until the semi final I would have said USA v Portugal, but then that night in Belo Horizonte changed all that. An amazing game that will be talked about for years to come and I can say ‘I was there’. Was well worth the 14 hour round trip on a coach from Rio de Janeiro, 8 goals, host humiliated, Klose becoming the World Cup’s highest ever goalscorer and grown men crying and I had a free taxi ride to the stadium.
Iran 0-0 Nigeria
No contest for me, I had been saying for days that this game would be 0-0 as all the other games up until then had been great and full of goals. There were hardly any shots on target or great pieces of play, most of the crowd in Curitiba ended up losing interest in the end. That’s why I was so surprised that Iran did so well against Argentina in the following game, as against Nigeria they just parked their bus and seemed happy with a 0-0. If I ever have to watch this again, it would be too soon.
Jermaine Jones (USA)
Götze’s in the Final was a good one, as was Schürrle’s against Brazil but I quite liked Jermaine Jones’s against Portugal for USA, a great curling shot from about 30 yards moved the momentum the USA’s way in that game
Tim Howard – USA v Portugal
Tim Howard’s (that man again) fantastic save from Eder after the ball had rebounded off the post stopped the game from going 2-0 to Portugal, I stood up and clapped anyway.
Neymar Jr (vs Croatia)
No-one really stood out for me that I can think of. I got to see Messi and Ronaldo play (and Shola Ameobi), but they didn’t live up to my expectation really. I picked Neymar as against Croatia he was the only player on the field that looked as if he could win the game for Brazil. And he did. He scored a very good equaliser, which just crept in as well as a pressure penalty but he was exciting everytime Brazil attacked.
Eder – Portugal
Fred almost made it! Eder came on for Heldar Postiga against the USA and the Emnes look-a-like looked as if he had won a competition to play International football. He couldn’t hold the ball up, his first touch wasn’t very good and looked a bit like a headless chicken. I was getting annoyed with him and I’m not even Portuguese.
Difficult to pick between them and Argentina, but the U.S.A fans were really enjoying themselves in Brazil and there were loads of them and maybe surprising to some, they were all really knowledgeable about football (not soccer) too. I felt a bit sorry for them in Manaus against Portugal as they conceded a 95th minute equaliser.
Arena Amazonia – Manaus
On the edge of the Amazon jungle and impressive looking from the outside and seemed to hold the noise in pretty well. Not sure what’s going to happen to it now the World Cup is over though.
Thoughts on Brazil
I went to 6 of the 12 host cities, (I would’ve liked to have gone to 12 but that was nearly impossible) and I was happy with the ones I picked (Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Manaus, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte). Maybe after speaking to people along the way Fortaleza and Salvador would’ve been good cities to go for, but I wanted to visit Iguazu Falls and the Amazon on my trip.
It was difficult to combine tourist stuff and watch the World Cup, but I’m glad I went to Iguazu Falls and even on my Amazon iver tour I watched games on the boat, so there was literally no getting away from the World Cup. I thoroughly enjoyed my 38 days in Brazil and there was a lot of scaremongering going on beforehand but Brazilians are one of the friendliest people I’ve met, all were very welcoming. Even though the language barrier was tough in certain places at times. Even going into a McDonald’s proved more difficult than you’d think.
No-one wanted to mug me, attack me, steal my things like many predicted beforehand and I’d recommend anybody going to Brazil. I felt very safe in all the cities I went to (And I was out at night!). There was a heavy military police presence, which wouldn’t have been there if the World Cup wasn’t in Brazil, but still no issues. I’m sure similar issues will arise before the World Cup in Russia and everyone will have a great time.
I have met so many great people along the way from so many different countries, I’d like to thank them all for their company, there were so many I have forgotten some of their names (oops). Apologies for not telling any of them that I had a World Cup Final ticket, but I thought the less people that knew the better.
I hope the majority of you have enjoyed reading my blogs throughout these past 6 weeks, hey even my haters read them after saying they weren’t interested!
I wonder if I have a job to go back to on Monday…..
No Brazilian is disappointed that Fred has announced his retirement, even his mother (probably).
I am personally impressed that I organised this whole trip myself, booked all the flights and hostels/hotels and there were no hitches. I also didn’t lose any of my World Cup tickets – which was a big burden on me for most of the trip! I was travelling alone for the most part too, but it didn’t phase me.
The language barrier was difficult at times, though I learnt the Portuguese word for ‘Wales’ to tell people where I was from (País de Gales) and they usually replied with ‘Gareth Bale’.
I wish I had done other World Cups, but can’t complain I guess!
Lastly I really liked this wall in Rio, it depicted the story of the World Cup (see below)