Today was a match day for us (Spain vs. Chile at 4:00 PM), but we had a few things on the agenda ahead of the game. First up an early trip to Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer (2nd attempt), followed by lunch with our friends Loren Morales and his wife Diana, who were just arriving to Rio that morning. We also had the pleasure of meeting (and dining with) Loren’s brother Paul, another soccer fanatic who was accompanying Loren and Diana on the Morales World Cup circuit. Oh, and we also had to collect our laundry before departing for São Paulo the next morning.
As we had hoped, our second attempt on Corcovado was a success in terms of the weather. We weren’t aware there was a second option for getting to the top (we drove the first time, then rode a minibus a short way to the top), so when Marcos suggested it we readily agreed. The Trem do Corcovado (not an aerial tram, but rather a little funicular) begins in Cosme Velho and winds its way up the steep mountainside through the tropical Parque Nacional da Tijuca, dropping passengers right at the stairs to the summit.
The rail option adds some additional time to the trip (the 2-½ mile ride takes about 20 minutes each way), but it was well worth it. As you can see from the photos below, upon arriving to the summit we found clear blue skies and were able to get some decent shots of the statue and the panoramic views below.
By the time we reached the bottom it was a little after 9:00 AM, and of course Carlie was hungry. She switched on the snack radar and within a few nanoseconds had spotted the concession and locked in on the Pringooools. She had a healthy breakfast anyway, for what it’s worth.
Loren, Diana and Paul met us at our hotel and we took the short walk to a restaurant Marcos had recommended (Via Sete). Unfortunately they were full and we were short on time, so we walked across the street to Allesandro e Frederico (Rua Berta Lutz, 899) where we were able to sit right down. Carlie and Loren has previously agreed to bring their Paninis, so after ordering our lunch the “dupes” were pulled out and the trading frenzy got underway.
Lunch was not as leisurely as we might have hoped, due to our need to make our way up to the arena in time for the 4:00 PM kick-off, so we agreed to give Via Sete another try for dinner later that evening. On to the match!
With Spain having already received a 5 -1 hammering by Holland, there was no getting around the fact that it was a “win or go home” scenario for Team Ramos. Carlie was quite confident they would rebound, and I supported the notion—if for no other reason than great teams usually rise to the occasion and win the games they must.
What actually happened though was quite unexpected, with Spain going down a goal early, and never finding any of the rhythmic, prolonged possession and build-up for which their “tiki-taka” style of play is well known. Even consistent playmakers like Xabi Alonso and Iniesta looked off, and the whole team difficult to recognize—almost as if we had come to the wrong game.
Down 2 – 0 after Aránguiz’s goal in the 43rd minute, things were looking pretty bleak for La Roja, and nothing we saw gave us any hope it was going to get any better. The stretches of possession we’ve grown to expect from Spain were both too few and too fleeting; the crowd was definitively not on their side either. The sea of red at the Estádio do Maracanã was not for Spain, but for Chile. Clearly we did not have the right level of appreciation for how passionate (I’m being kind) the Chilean fans were about their team, or how many of them would show up, so this too was unexpected.
In America we tend to stand up and cheer a great play, or perhaps during pivotal moments, but then we sit back down and enjoy the action. In South America (and most of the rest of the soccer world), a cacophony of cheering, chanting and referee (and player) taunting and berating can be heard throughout the game—with little or no intermission. It’s entertaining, and the chants are often quite clever (when I can understand them), but it’s different. Maybe we need more of it in the U.S.
Spain needed to be great for this must-win game, and they just couldn’t summon the greatness. Chile did. Even if just one player dug deep and found something special, it could have changed the game, but no one did. Vargas and Aránguiz from Chile did. Chile and their fans got the win they deserved, and Spain got the early (and record-setting) exit they earned.
E-LIM-I-NA-DO! E-LIM-I-NA-DO! E-LIM-I-NA-DO!
That one is easy to decipher, though hard for Carlie to hear. She’s over it already, and can now turn her focus to and lend her support more completely behind the U.S.A. We will be in Manaus for its upcoming match with Portugal, and I must say the excitement is already building.
We met up with the Loren, Diana and Paul Morales for dinner at 9:00 PM, and this time Via Sete (Rua Garcia d’Ávila, 125) was able to accommodate us. We enjoyed a wonderful meal along with a very nice Cabernet from…can I say this out loud?…Chile, talking all things soccer and World Cup. They are true experts on such topics, including Diana for anyone that may assume otherwise, and it was a real treat to “dive deep” with all of them. In addition to the U.S. they support Columbia, who as I write this sit atop Group C with 6 points. Their berth in the Round of 16 already secure, their match against Japan on the 24th will only determine their opponent. Happy times.
Three hours passed by before we knew it, and we returned to the hotel after midnight. We hadn’t planned on sleeping much that night (if at all), what with our 5:10 AM departure to São Paulo, so we set the alarm for 2:45 AM (we had a 3:15 AM pick-up scheduled) and caught about two hours of sleep.
To their credit, when we left for the airport at 3:15 AM the Chileans were still celebrating on the sidewalk outside the bar in our hotel. It was a much smaller group, but their vocal chords were still intact.
E-LIM-I-NA-DO! E-LIM-I-NA-DO! E-LIM-I-NA-DO!
Final Score: Chile 2 – Spain 0