Probably the biggest group game ticket I had managed to scalp was up next: USA versus Germany in Recife. The US did themselves and Germany a big favour with the late equaliser against Portugal, and having seen the Germans thankfully manage the draw previous to that against Ghana in Fortaleza, this wasn’t going to be too stressful a match for me as a supporter. We needed a draw to qualify as group winners (which would be doubly satisfying as I had tickets to that particular round of 16 clash in Porto Alegre), while the US could progress from the group when no one had given them a chance.
We took the overnight bus from Fortaleza to Recife. It was going to be my 3rd pit-stop in Recife, and I was desperately hoping for some time to see around atleast the city-centre by the shore. My previous 2 trips here had also been virtually in transit, from airport to bus-station or bus-station to stadium. The rain however had other plans.
The weather had mostly been sunny, clear and hot in the 10 days I had spent in the north-east of Brazil, but the clouds burst open right through the night, so by the time we were entering Recife, the highways were virtually flooded, as the traffic into the city was crawling from several kilometres out itself.
This also resulted in our bus reaching the Rodoviaria almost 2 hours late, which obviously meant we had to drop our plans of a quick dash to the city before the game. With the water pouring down, I was even anxious for a bit whether they might have to postpone the game entirely, as I had a flight to catch later in the night to Rio. Luckily those fears did not come to pass.
In our bus, and more so at the bus-station we encountered several Americans and some Germans, so we obviously realized that the US might have the majority of the support. Having quickly deposited our bags, we headed early to the stadium via the Metro-shuttle, for there was no point taking a chance in getting early to the venue in such harsh conditions, as there was also going to be a long walk involved all the way up to the isolated hill-top Arena Pernambuco.
However it was not all doom and gloom in the rain for everyone. For along this long walk, the local vendors selling the simple plastic rain-sheets for 10 Reals each must have made a decent profit given the thousands who walked the kilometre to the stadium as the rain lashed down.
Luckily, despite the rain, the match was going ahead as scheduled. When we reached in good time, we could see the pitch inspection taking place. From the way the assistants laid out the cones, one could deduce the pitch was quite soggy and the warm-up would take place outside the sidelines.
It was interesting for me personally as a coach to see how the teams adjusted to this last minute change in their very important pre-match routine. But the players seemed professional enough and took it in their stride, even as it meant they were closer to their cheering fans who pumped them along as they went through their paces.
The arena slowly filled up as it took some time to reach full capacity because many fans were stuck in the weather and traffic. Unsurprisingly it was the Americans who were the most boisterous, loudly cheering and singing their songs right up until kickoff. Even more unsurprisingly, they didn’t have much to sing about once the game started and the Germans dominated the possession and the proceedings for long periods.
Even though it seemed the US probably had more of a physical presence in midfield who were trying to outmuscle the more technical and smaller Germans, the likes of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and Ozil were quite comfortably able to keep passing the ball around. This resulted in quite a lot of the Americans sitting all around me and already pretty drunk having to concentrate more on buying the beer that was quickly selling out than cheering for any attempts of note by their team.
After a few 50-50 decisions by the Uzbek ref, the chants from the US changed to ‘Bull-s**t’, ‘Bull-s**t’, from their earlier one of “We believe that we will win”.
The initial result coming in from the Ghana game gave the Americans some cheer. Then Muller calmly slotted home early in the 2nd half to give the Germans the lead, and it was the turn of the slightly lesser number of Germans in the stadium to get more loud, as “Deutschland, Deutschland” started sounding all around.
Although the Americans missed a late chance right at the death to equalize, the win for the Germans, combined with the favourable result in the other group game, ended in the odd sight of both teams going to respective sides of the stadium to acknowledge their fans, all of whom were applauding and happy! The happiness had overflowed so much that there was no more official beer left to sell in the entire stadium complex!
It just kept getting better after the game. On the walk back to the shuttle, Germans and Americans happily took photos and sang with each other. Other merrily drunk fans started sliding down the wet grassy hills on their bellies and dancing in the puddles!
Then in the Metro back to the airport, the German and US groups took turns to sing their chants in a sort of drunken face-off, and it all ended with a human train of joyous German-American-Brazilians dancing and moving up and down the carriages. It was an ending everyone in Recife was happy with, even in the incessant rain.Published 01 Jul 2014, 01:32 IST