Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 39 - Sao Paulo to Paraty for the 2nd semi final

This adventure is spinning towards its end now. Today I am on my way to Paraty, tomorrow it’s Ilha Grande and then there are just three more nights back in Rio before it’s all over. The good news is that in 5 days time, I’ll be flying to California to meet my darling for another holiday in the USA for just the two of us.

To say it’s been great is an understatement. It’s definitely been the best holiday I’ve ever done on my own and although, like anything, with the benefit of hindsight I might have changed a few things, the overall experience has been far, far better than I had hoped. The same is true, of course, of the football itself. If only England had been a little sharper in defence and a little luckier in front of goal, maybe I’d be looking forward to a semi-final today between them and Argentina, rather than Holland. I suppose it’s asking too much that Germany might actually one day have a bad tournament, where their best player gets ruled out of the tournament, instead of the best player of their opponents. Or where their captain, their solid defender, gets a needless yellow card and so misses a key game, rather than Thiago Silva, but let’s not dwell on anti-German sentiment too much. Well, okay, just a bit more. I mean, really, what was so good about Germany’s display against Brazil last night? Did they do anything that was spectacular? Did any player make you gasp with a bit of brilliance? Schurrler’s, the 7th (!), was a great finish to be fair, but apart from that it was just the usual robotic display of passing and exposing weaknesses in the defence of the other team. Those 18 minutes, where Brazil decided to commit football suicide, was the key factor. Brazil handed Germany a sword and Germany gratefully, clinically, accepted it. The lack of marking for the first was schoolboy level. For the second Cesar should have held the ball but instead pushed it straight into the path of the German striker. The 3rd was a good finish, I suppose, but like England against Italy, where was the closing down? Cesar really should have saved it. The fourth was comical. Brasil handing the ball straight back to Germany from the kick off and contriving to open up gaps at the back as wide as a motorway. The 5th was just shell shock as Germany did the Barcelona, tappy tappy thing.
At 28 minutes, with the score Brasil 0 Germany 5, the contest and Brasil’s World Cup dream, was already over.

I have never witnessed anything like it but the blame really has to be placed in the Brasil defence, rather than credited to Germany. I guess the proof of that will come in the final. Argentina or Holland will surely not be repeating such charity and both teams have quality of the level of Neymar to hurt Germany too. As long as Robben or Messi avoid injury (and wouldn’t it just be typical of Germany if they were) then we should see Germany given a serious test for the first time in this World Cup.

Anyway... I must say I was very impressed with Sao Paulo. As always, the prior impression the media gives you is a bad one - terrible traffic, crime etc. As always, that impression turned out to be completely false. After waking up thanks to my biological clock, rather than my mobile phone (lucky, that!) I managed to check out and be walking up the steep hill to the metro station by about ten past 7. The hotel must have had an automatic power shut down because I left my phone to charge up over night - and wake me up at 6:30, but it actually ran out of battery during the night instead. So, that could have ended up going quite badly, especially after the amount of wine I'd quaffed with Craig last night.

Anyway, no worries, as the metro trip to the bus station (the biggest in the southern hemisphere, apparently) was simple and easy - just four or five stops south on the blue line. I got my ticket nice and easy and was on the bus in good time for the trip to Paraty.

Again, the countryside in Brazil is so beautiful - verdant and hilly, lush green hues everywhere and practically everything is covered with gorgeous forest. As we approached the coast, the road got very bendy and there were some spectacular views as the bus bent to the right and the left as it crawled over the hills down towards Paraty.

I got there with two and a half hours to spare before Argentina v Holland so that was another bonus. Having got off the bus, I asked a cab driver to take me to the place and he said "Nao e longe. Cinquo minutes a pe" So, grateful, I set off to walk there. Unfortunately, my map wasn't very detailed so I had to ask again to confirm I was going in the right direction. I was - but didn't realise that at the time - and the guy who I asked sent me in completely the wrong direction. Again, it seems some Brazilians have a very poor knowledge of the places they live and/or poor map reading skills. Anyway, I asked another person who told me I was going in the wrong direction again. I ended up back at the the taxi rank and paying R$25 to go 800m to my poussada. Of course, once I knew where it was, it was easy to see how close I'd been the first time.

The guy that runs the poussada is an interesting guy - a retired project manager with some programming background in clipper, VB and TSQL. The room was really excellent again and having had a quick shower and got changed I headed off to explore.

Paraty is a beautiful place, one of the earliest (if not THE earliest) Portuguese settlements. A bit like Ouro Preto, it has a completely preserved historical centre with endless rows of cute, painted colonial style buildings. I walked around a bit and headed down to the port where I saw some beautiful boats, including one called "My Love". After that I headed back to the main touristy street where there are many bars and restaurants. I found a great spot right in front of a massive screen, next to a Dutch couple and ordered a bottle of red wine (I'm really over the bland Brasilian beer) and ordered some olives and some water.


Paraty is lovely

Just can't do without... My Love

Paraty Paraty

Paraty, Paraty, Paraty

Getting ready to party in Paraty

Messi means business
The match was an intense affair with defences understandably (considering last night's affair) on top. Of course, the game ended 90 minutes and then extra time still on 0-0. So, onto the inevitable penalty shoot out.

For some reason Van Gaal didn't use substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul this time (maybe he'd already used all his subs) so we didn't get a repeat of the Costa Rica match and Holland missed two key penalties to allow Argentina into the final.

Yet again, the team I wanted to win failed. So, Germany v Argentina is the final, one few people really wanted or expected. It's been a fantastic World Cup despite the fact that so many of the games have, for me personally, been very frustrating.

Oh well. During the second half there was a massive storm and so I had to tip toe through the cobbled streets to the fantastic fish restaurant I'd spotted earlier. The fish moquequa with crab sauce was superb. After that I went to another bar where a Brasilian duet performed some cool music. I had a nice caipirinha as a night cap and then staggered back to my poussada, no problem, where I hit the sack after another great day.


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