Today is another travel day, taking us from São Paulo to the city of Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon. We have tickets to see U.S.A. vs. Portugal at Arena Amazonia, a pivotal group stage match if the U.S. of A is to keep its knockout stage hopes alive. And so it was that we met our 6:30 AM wake-up call a bit more eagerly than usual, performed the final packing procedures and after another delicious breakfast headed to the airport for our 9:30 AM departure. This will be our final stop in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, and our goal is to leave Manaus wearing big smiles (and hopefully clean clothes too!).
After a modest attitude adjustment Carlie took some great video with the GoPro as we descended into the Amazon, right around mid-day, through some of the largest and puffiest clouds we’ve ever seen. She’s going to edit our 2 weeks of Brazil footage down into a movie, using the skills she acquired during her junior year elective class in Video Production over at Brophy. The executive producer hasn’t committed to a release date yet, so the photos I snapped during our descent will have to suffice for now.
With the game being Sunday at 6:00 PM, we had Saturday afternoon and evening, and the first part of Sunday, to be tourists in Manaus. We had already booked a ½-day Amazon River boat tour for Sunday morning, and also had registered for the private “Night Before” party for U.S. Soccer Supporters Club Members Saturday evening. So in reality we didn’t really have all that much down time to fill, and of course there was the Germany vs. Ghana match set for Saturday afternoon.
After about five nanoseconds of discussion, we decided to wander around the indoor shopping mall just two blocks from our hotel for a bit, find lunch and return in time for the 4:00 PM kick-off of the GER vs. GHA match.
Laid out along a main spine with more branches than we could count, the Amazona Shopping Mall was enormous, although we only recognized the Havaiana shop, and of course Bob’s Burgers, where we ended up having lunch. On the way out we found a place selling Paninis, so of course we re-loaded. Carlie’s Panini is about 90% complete, which means there are about 65 or so blank spaces she still needs to fill. The stack of dupes is growing, so she will make an excellent trading partner for someone out there.
Back at the hotel, we were of course pulling for Germany to deny Ghana any points at all out of this match, and after a scoreless first half it did appear we may get our wish when Mario Götze put them ahead shortly after the break. Our joy was only temporary though, as Ghana equalized just a few minutes later, and somewhat unexpectedly went up a goal about 10 minutes after that. Turning to one of his veterans in a time of need, Joachim Löw subbed in Miroslav Klose, one of my favorite German players and my second most favorite one to pronounce—the first of course being…
Within less than two minutes of Klose coming on, he delivered the equalizer in record-tying fashion, equaling the 15 World Cup goal total of Brazilian striker Ronaldo, which he reached in Germany during the 2006 edition, against Ghana no less. He’s 36 years old now, and while he still plays professionally for Lazio in Italy’s Serie A, this is no doubt his final World Cup. If nothing else he ought to retire his customary flip, which he under-rotated a bit; not nearly as impressive as his goal, and he came close to injury, I think.
After 20 or so more nerve-racking minutes, the final whistle came and the sea-saw match was over. In position to punch their ticket to the next round, Germany could only manage a draw, putting that much more pressure on the Americans to get a positive result in Manaus, and effectively eliminating the possibility they would face the German “B” squad in Recife on the 26th.
The Americans just need to take care of their own business on Sunday, and not rely too much on how the other chips fall in the group. With those positive thoughts in mind, we headed off to U.S. Soccer’s Night Before party, where we were to meet up with Steve Fox, an Estate Planning attorney in Scottsdale, AZ and his 14-year old son Dallas. Steve is very good friends with one of our neighbors back home (Michael and Janice Blake), and when Michael heard Carlie and I were headed to Brazil, he made the connection for us before we left.
The party was raucous and in full-swing when we arrived around 6:30 PM, and with the GoPro headstrap on for most of it, you will be able to get a good feel for the revelry when the movie is released. Since the party was organized by the U.S. Soccer Federation, it only made sense that there would be some VIPs and player family members in attendance. As you can see below, Carlie managed a very nice photo op with Sunil Gulati, President of the U.S. Soccer Federation and, in effect, Jurgen Klinsmann’s boss.
In addition to “enjoying” the ear-splitting house music in the main hall (there was a quieter patio area outside if you wanted to have a conversation), and some excellent U.S. Soccer highlight videos, we were treated to an appearance on stage (and RAH! RAH! RAH! speech) by Pres. Gulati.
It was a lot of fun and we’re glad we went, but after spending a few hours enjoying the unique camaraderie that can only occur when people who’ve never met find themselves in a distant land supporting a common cause—we were hungry and peeled off to a Brazilian steakhouse called “Bufalo” for a late dinner. Steve had been there the night before and recommended it, but unfortunately there was a very long wait for a table (we didn’t actually plan this one out ahead of time), so we settled for room service back at the hotel.
Final Score: Germany 2 – Ghana 2
A special shout-out to the Bosnia-Herzegovina fans we sat with in Rio for the Argentina match: Even though you were eliminated in a 1 – 0 loss to Nigeria tonight, your fans and your team did your nation very proud. Good luck, and we hope to see you again in 2018. Your spirited cheer still rings in our ears…