Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 32 - Brasilia to Foz do Iguacu and two days off football

Daniela, Rafael & Benico are a lovely family and it was a real pleasure and a privilege to be a small part of it for a couple of days. It reminded me a bit of our hectic lives when Kesy was small. Both of us trying to get everything ready to go to work but having to take the boy to the cr̬che, whilst trying to be good parents at the same time. Benico like all little boys got upset over little nothings and the parents were already well trained in laughing at them and causing distractions to restore calm. Their helper came in again and made me a nice coffee as I was packed and all ready to go nice and early. I handed my gift over and Benico seemed genuinely delighted Рat least for the three minutes I was there. He was just as impressed, to be honest, with the blue balloon that was stuck to the box, however.

Rafael kindly dropped me off at the airport and the automatic self check in went very smoothly. I’m tapping this away waiting by the gate.

Benico and Rafael and I

Coffee at Brasilia airport
Two days off from football now, so time to reflect on what surely has been the best world cup ever, with the possible exception of Mexico 1970. Practically every game has been exciting. There have been some great goals and very few teams have tried to park the bus.
The quarter final line up is (with one major exception) pretty much ideal and three of them should be really exciting affairs. The odd one out is, surely, Holland v Costa Rica. Los Ticos have had an amazing World Cup but if Holland do not take the game for granted (like I am here, I suppose) then they surely will get through to the semi finals. Who would they play? The winners of Argentina v Belgium. Now there’s a game to savour. Neither team have really clicked as their supporters would have liked, but then again, they have both won all four games they’ve played. Argentina’s Messi has certainly clicked and is playing brilliantly but Argentina are much more than just one man. Belgium have a constellation of incredible talent and on paper should be a match for anyone. I’m going for Belgium.
The other semi final will be between the winner of the all-European clash (France v Germany) and the all-South America clash (Brasil v Columbia). Two more great quarter finals in prospect there. Columbia and France have won all their games, whilst Germany and Brazil have both drawn games, so I think on form in the World Cup so far, one would favour Columbia and France. However, of course, there’s the Brasil factor – they are at home and almost everyone bar Columbian fans will be hoping they win. And, there’s the German factor too. They always seem to perform better than one would expect. So both of those are very difficult to call. I guess the smart money would be on Brasil v Germany.
The World Cup started with a refreshing flurry of goals but, perhaps expectedly, the goals/game went down round after round. The Round of 16 games produced only 1.5 goals/game if one ignores penalties and goals scored in extra time. Now we’re in a sudden death scenario, it would not  be surprising if defences tightened up and coaches became more negative, but I really don’t think that has happened. Belgium v USA last night was 0-0 after 90 minutes but there were dozens of clear cut chances created. Maybe it’s just nerves. The strikers are fluffing their chances because of what’s at stake. The bottom line is the goals/game average is now back to 2.64 - about what it normally is.
Anyway, as I keep saying to anyone that will listen, surely it’s time to revisit that law of the game (fixed since 1848) that says the goals must be 8 yds x 8 feet. A major sporting contest determined by an average of 2.6 goals per game is ridiculous. If the rule simply stated that the goal dimensions must be in a 3:1 ratio, with the actual size left to the organisers of the tournament in question, that would allow each World Cup to tweak the goal size each time to try to get a goals/game average around 5, which is what it was when the goal size was fixed. The simple fact is goalkeepers have got bigger since then and defences far fitter and better organized. A 5 goal/game average would not eliminate 0-0s but it would make them rarer. You’d get a few “crazy” scores, like a 7-5 but most would still cluster around 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 4-2, 4-3. Am I the only football fan who longs for scores like that every game?
Ok. Rant over.
I’m now flying south to Curitiba where I guess I’ll change to go to Iguacu. This holiday is whizzing by now and I can’t quite believe that in less than two weeks I’ll be with Lelejane in San Francisco. After almost two days seeing the waterfalls in Iguacu, I have two days in Curitiba watching the four quarter finals before I head north for Santos, Sao Paolo, Paraty and then back to Rio. I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to do all that and I’m still thinking about hiring a car.

Flying South from Brasilia to Curitiba
 I do feel pretty exhausted and although I wouldn’t say I’m “over it” I really am looking forward to a less hectic pace with Leb in the USA. At least my head flu seems to have abated, or at least transformed itself into a standard slight tickly cough.

Another 1,600 km
I arrived in Foz do Iguacu where it was surprisingly warm. I had put three layers on, my boots, and thick old trousers in anticipation of it being quite cold but, not a bit of it. Looks like I will be chucking those now too. The airport is the smallest one so far, it felt a bit like doing a Fly in fly out job in WA. The taxi drove me straight to my new place where I was greeted by Fernandino and his lovely wife and their lovely, very clean and comfortable house. I was made a cup of tea and they quickly advised me to go to the falls today, as it might rain tomorrow. I followed their advice but decided to for a helicopter tour. So they all came as Fernandino drove me to the heliport. Amazingly, once I'd paid (R$280) and started waiting, a chap came up to me and complemented me on my Forest shirt. Another couple of Forest fans and a chap from Sheffield. They adopted me as a fourth team member and we shared a 'copter.
I'd only been in a helicopter once before - on the Rye at Wycombe - so I was keen to do this. What a view! The trip only lasted ten minutes but I think it was worth it.

Approaching the Falls
Afterwards, Mark, Mike and Raz asked me to join them for a few bevies later on as they were going to have a bit of night out before flying to Salvador the next day.
So, they dropped my off back at the house where I had a nice shower and got changed. Then, I set off to find the Bier Garden bar they'd said they'd be going to. Fernandinho told me it was opposite McDonanalds' so I couldn't miss it, right? Wrong. I took a wrong turn and was heading off into the dark before I realised I must have made a goof up and turned round and found the place just in time.

I had a couple of half bottles of red wine - I'm really over the beer here - and ordered stroganoff, which was again, far too much for even two people. Luckily, Mark fancied it too so shared mine. Mark was quizzing me about SQL Server as he's a web developer who needs to upgrade his database skills. Small world. Mike runs a VAT company in Sheffield and his business is above an Italian restaurant, owned by the other member of their group, Raz. These guy had just come from Argentina and Uruguay and were on their way north to watch the rest of the World Cup in Brazil. Amazing how many Forest fans I've bumped into on this trip.
Anyway, several beers and wines later, I crashed out back at the house to get a nice night's sleep.
Foz do Iguacu

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