Wow, what a 48 hours! It still hasn’t completely hit me yet that I’m in Brazil (!), watching the US Men’s National Team play in the World Cup (!) Let’s start from where we left off in the last post.
Early Sunday, the rain continued pouring in Natal, to the point that flooding became an issue in the streets. As we collected our tickets from the FIFA Ticketing Center, our taxis had to plow through the water. It seemed about a foot deep in some places, though the news channels here showed locations where people were in up to their waists. Luckily, the rain stopped later that day, allowing the city to dry out somewhat.
That night was the official US Soccer night-before party, and I’m incredibly impressed with how US Soccer put the event together. They actually converted a used car showroom into a pop-up “arena” for the night, filled with gigantic TVs everywhere, plenty of food and drink for the huge crowd, and a DJ and Brazilian band. The crowd for the event was great too: we started off with some US soccer chants, then the group just got into the music: crowdsurfers and energy everywhere.
On game day, us American Outlaws were bussed to a pizza-and-sushi restaurant (yes, really) near the stadium. That was another amazing experience: as a convoy of the Brazilian military sent to protect us watched on, we chanted and sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Passing busses of Brazilians snapped photos and cheered us on. It was incredible. When the time came, a group of thousands made the March to the Match, again passing happy and surprised Brazilians in their streets.
The new Arenas das Dunas is beautiful; it was a remarkably intimate experience for a large stadium that seats over 40,000. Part of the credit for that goes to the Brazilian hosts, who made every effort to chant along with a majority US crowd. The group of Brazilians in front of me had a difficult time learning to pronounce “I believe that we will win”, but they eventually figured out a reasonable facsimile. The Dempsey goal was a flash: neither the crowd nor the Ghanaian defense believed that it could happen so quickly. Then progressed 80 minutes of hell. Jozy and then Besler got injured. Dempsey went down. Ghana bore down on the US left side, attacking Beasley to nearly calamitous effect.
Ghana eventually got their goal, and the Ghana crowd erupted, and rightly so: it was a great goal. For the last 10 minutes, the stadium buzzed. As you all know, John Brooks scored, and everyone lost it. The best description: So. Many. Hugs. We all bussed back to the hotel, all still in a daze, all of us not quite believing that the US had finally beaten Ghana and given themselves a great chance to advance out of the group.
We now have five days off in between games, during which I’ll be exploring more of Natal before heading off to Manaus. What a happy five days it will be.