Having seen the Italians succumb to the Costa Ricans in hot Recife, it was time for me to rush to my next and final north-eastern host city destination of Fortaleza. The sprawling capital of the State of Caera happens to be the northern-most of these four host-cities, so naturally closest to the equator and therefore also the most hot and humid.
Still, it wasn’t the weather that was going to tax me as much, but the travel to witness my 3rd game in 3 days. Yet the tiredness faded as I was finally going to see my favourites Germany live, as they took on the Ghanaians desperate to keep their hopes alive in the tournament.
The German team and players however did not look so unaffected by the climactic conditions to be honest. It seemed to start right from the warm-up, as their players emerged a full 5 minutes after the Ghanaians. The fun part here was the players biding their time to come out of the tunnel as they realised the thousands of Germans would cheer their appearance.
On cue, they ran out behind Lahm, acknowledging the crowd that seemed pro them atleast at that time. Although it seemed a short intensive 20 minute warm-up, there were a lot of water breaks in between for the German players.
For the Ghanaians, the loudest cheers from the crowd were reserved for Kevin-Prince Boateng. It was obviously going to be an interesting pointer of the match with the Boateng brothers coming up against each other. In what is another fortunate quirk of fate, I had been lucky enough to be in the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg in June 2010 when Germany faced Ghana in that group stage encounter, the first time brothers had played against one another in World Cup history.
That too had been my first Germany game of the tournament, a-then-mercurial Ozil having given Germany the vital 1-0 win to see us through to the knock-outs. I was thus hoping for a similar result so as to brighten our prospects of qualifying as group winners.
Once the game started, it however became apparent the locals were backing the underdogs, so maybe the crowd was 40-60 towards the Germans. Nevertheless, the Germans did seem to start brightly with their passing and combination, attacking towards our end, although not managing anything concrete. My wife remarked on the visible improvement in quality of play of this game, as she had witnessed the two Greek games previously.
For me it was a treat to be seeing the likes of Mueller, Lahm, & Kroos live again, having seen them in previous World Cups and the rare Bayern visit to India. Gotze too was showing his class. The disappointment was Ozil, who seemed to be a bit off colour with his work-rate, which seemed even worse off than normal. He also didn’t seem to be hitting it off with his killer final balls.
As the half progressed, the Germans possibly began to fade in the weather conditions. Possibly their base-camp being south of Salvador (the southern-most north-east city) was a bit more pleasant than Fortaleza.
After the teams came out in the 2nd half, it was a disappointment to see Jerome Boateng getting subbed. To me he is vital in the German defence with his acceleration and strength. With Hummels not being fully fit, and Mertesacker not the most agile or quick, I was a slight bit apprehensive. Still, we got the opening goal, which eased the tension.
Then soon enough a jolly fan calmly scaled the barriers in between the dozing stewards and made his way untackled all the way to the centre-circle. I thought only in Brazil could the stewards be so lax, for in other places the trespasser would have been tackled before he got onto the field.
It was quite disappointing when Ghana quickly equalised, with Mertesacker and specially Mustaphi making a mess of the ball in. Maybe the fact the trespasser entered from his part of the pitch had Mustaphi a bit rattled. Who knows?
A small high-point came when Podolski, Schweinsteiger, and above all Klose were sent to warm-up. Myself being seated near that same corner-flag area, I hastily made my way down to snap some close-ups of these star players from as near as I could get. However, soon Ghana got the lead, and the stadium erupted with joy. I did not want it to be USA-Algeria in the round of 16 when I would be in the Porto Alegre stadium and wanted the Germans to atleast get the equaliser.
So Klose was brought on as the last throw of the dice. Oh and what a brilliant throw it was! Him getting the equaliser with his 1st touch, and even more than that, equaling the World Cup record to make history there, live in front of us - well all the hassle and the heat and the up and down agony of the game seemed well worth it. We could not stop jumping in joy for a while.
The game was not finished yet though. Now the Germans were really starting to get and look visibly exhausted in the sapping conditions. Kroos and Lahm did not seem to have the legs to cover the ground in midfield, or string their accurate passes. Nor was the usually immobile Schweinsteiger in my opinion going to help with that. The defenders, specially Hummels and Mertesacker were often on their haunches. I would have been glad to have taken a draw there and then.
Fortunately the Germans managed to get the job done and sealed the result, that meant topping the group was still in their hands. Thus the trip back to the hostel was made more enjoyable in the midst of merrily drunk and singing Germans. But the day was definitely made most memorable thanks to watching Klose make history in Fortaleza.Published 26 Jun 2014, 05:16 IST