My bio-clock again woke me up at 5am and again I did a bit of tapping on the computer before getting a bit of shut eye. Time to get up and I decided to get some milk and coffee and reconnoitre the local area before setting off to the Mineirao for the big game.
The area really isn't very nice, shall we say, but it's not so much slummy and dodgy as industrial. I found a supermarket and bought some provisions. On the walk back I stopped for a coffee. $R1 was all I was asked for. I gave the biggest tip I've ever done - 100%.
|My Belo Horizonte|
|My place in BH|
Back at the apartment I made a milky coffee (there simply is no English tea) and planned my journey. My apartment was chosen for its proximity to BH, the airport (the domestic one I thought I'd land at) and to the Minerais, the great stadium of BH. So I could, theoretically, have walked the whole way. Instead I flagged down a taxi to take me to Lake Pampulha where I was set to walk by the water's edge to the ground. The taxi driver and I had a weird conversation via Google Translate on his mobile to get me to exactly where I wanted to go. It was a lovely walk although I seem to have missed out on the capybaras and a museum and one or two buildings pertaining to the modernist architect Oscar Neimeyer. Frankly, I am more impressed by the flowers in the trees and some beautiful birds.
|Beautiful lakeside walk to the Minerais|
|Google Translate this...|
|Museum by the lake I should have gone to|
|Mineirao, oh mist rolling in from Lake Pampulha , my desire, is some time to be there...|
|Almost a Canary|
|Mineirao was awesome.... and hot|
|My Walk to the Mineirao|
Anyway, I got to the ground after chatting to various England fans and once in, decided that this was, at last, my chance to buy an England shirt. After queuing to get into the fan shop I finally found what I was looking for. I then had to queue for an other half an hour to pay for it only to find that they didn't accept MasterCard, only Visa. So then I had to queue up to buy a one-off Visa Card with my MasterCard and then back to buy the shirt. Never has buying one shirt been so much hassle. By the time the item was bought I had 15 minutes to find my gate (on the other side of the ground) get into the stadium, through another layer of security and find my block, row and seat.
|FIFA fan shop frustration|
|Finally - got one!|
|And made it to the stadium in time....just!|
I did it in good time, in the end and was able to sing along with "God Save the Queen" before the game.
Jake and Liliana, meanwhile, had been in the ground a while and we arranged to meet up at half time. But sat among the England fans in the direct sunlight led them to come and seek me out just before half time. Brilliant!
We watched a reasonably good game with England again, I think edging it in terms of quality of play, but not in goals. At least this time they didn't lose.
I had an interesting chat with a QPR fan who got quite heated when I suggested that they'd been lucky to beat Derby in the play off final. I'm supposed to hate Derby so much that I should be cheering that QPR denied them the slot in the Premiership but I'm just too nice a guy to do that. Anyway, I eventually got him to calm down and we ended up agreeing quite a lot about England.
|Send her victorious,,,|
|Proudly wearing three lions on a shirt|
|Where is Lallana? - after all the anti-Rooney witch hunt, did he do any better? No way.|
|Jakey & Bongo|
|QPR fan turns nice...eventually|
|England almost win|
|The length of England's appreciation of the fans at the end was unprecedented - brought a tear to my eye|
|Disappointed but proud|
|Great to watch the game with Jakey and Liliana|
After the match Liliana, Jakey and I walked a few km, caught a bus to the city centre and then got a taxi to take us to a trendy café for a quick beer before finding a place to watch Columbia beat Japan. Liliana was very happy with their comfortable win, of course, and it was great to have a real Columbian in our group to explain the chants and to feel closer to their fans.
At half time we went to another place to watch the rest and bumped into a series of people from England. A couple of Leeds fans, another Derby fan and a ex-student of Sherwood Hall, Nottingham University, but ten years our junior.
Then it was off to a nice restaurant for wine and a smorgasbord of Minas Gerais deliciousness. I started a little sing song of "Always look on the bright side of Life..." with some glum looking England fans as I entered the room and later, amazingly, met a guy from Barrow-in-Furnace who knew Jeff Patterson, our long lost friend from uni. At least he knew his dad, who had recently passed away. Hopefully we'll soon be back in touch.
After all that, it was an easy, relatively quick and cheap taxi back here to complete yet another brilliant day.
|Friendliness at the World Cup|
|Between a Forest fan and a Derby fan too|
|Three Sherwood Hall Old Boys|
|The goibada (kind of a conserve) with cheese was particularly scrummilidumptious|
|Taken by a man from Barrow who knows Jeff Patterson|
|Where we ate|
England 0 Costa Rica 0
I agree with Roy Hodgson's assessment about this match. England dominated for all but about 15 minutes and the defence looked far better, albeit against a team without anyone with a bite like Suarez. Hodgson did all the right things again, giving the other squad members a go and giving World Cup starts to several newbies. Forster made a brilliant save in the first half and looked really in control. Maybe time for Joe Hart to lose his place, then. I thought Jones and Shaw looked really good at the back. Lampard was solid in midfield but looking to the future, it's time for one or two of the younger lads to step up. Nice to see Gerrard and Rooney being given a nice reception when they came on. Rooney, although not quite living up to everyone's hopes, is still our best player and the media and some fans should get off his back. (Yes, Jeffrey, I'm thinking of you!)
Sturridge should really have converted one of his chances, but typically for England, it never quite happened. I was a bit disappointed with Lallana and Wilshire but there you go. England's exit at the earliest possible time was a huge disappointment but I honestly think it wasn't a bad performance. It's just margins. If our defence had been a bit tighter against Italy, we could have won that game. Uruguay too. If Rooney's header hits the bar and goes in, instead of out and if the through ball to Suarez doesn't deflect slightly off Gerrard, Suarez is off side. Yes... If If If... but football and all sport is a series of permutations based on a lot of chance events. Surely, one day, England's luck will change... I largely agree with Phil McNulty's assessment.
Uruguay 1 Italy 0
Of course, I didn't see this one but, amazingly, it seems that 'gnasher' Suarez has been at it again. The guy obviously has some serious issues. It seems the game turned on the decision to send off Marchisio. So Group D, as Jakey rightly said, is the exact opposite order that one (England fans) would have hoped for.
Columbia 4 Japan 1
An easy win was expected and that's exactly what happened. Columbia clearly are looking good and if Suarez is banned, as he surely must be, they should be too strong for Uruguay and reach the quarter finals, where they might face Brazil in Fortaleza.
Greece 2 Ivory Coast 1
You have to admire the grit and determination of Greece. Down to ten men against Japan with only half an hour gone, they looked dead and buried, and yet it's Greece not Ivory Coast, with YaYa Toure, who progress. It sounds like it was a dodgy penalty decision (still haven't seen it) so Ivory Coast will be fuming. So who would have predicted that? Costa Rica v Greece in the Round of 16 game. I hope Costa Rica win it, which might set them up for a game against Holland in the quarter finals, in Salvador.
So, we're half way through the final group deciders. Tomorrow, it's Group E and F. You have to fancy France and Switzerland to progress there, to face Nigeria and Argentina, respectfully.
Despite England's and Australia's early exits, I'm still loving it!