Greece v Japan, Thursday 19th June 2014, 7pm

greece v japan 1

When we bought the tickets for our two World Cup games in Natal it was before the draw had taken place and so in theory we could have seen any teams. Apart from Brazil that is, who as hosts had their route to the final mapped out. Oh, and the likes of Scotland of course, and all those other those diddy nations that don’t go to World Cups anymore.

As luck would have it we followed the Ghana v USA fixture with another clash of the titans, Greece against Japan. Whatever. It’s a World Cup and so it’s all good.

We’d had two days off between the games and that meant seeing a bit of Porta Negra. It’s a seaside town just outside of Natal and I suppose you could liken it to what Seaton Carew is to Hartlepool, albeit without the penny arcades. Less dog shit too.

Porta Negra has got a decent beach that was popular with surfers. I suppose when you are on that top corner of Brazil you’d expect to get some pretty big waves coming in.

Just like Seaton.

Just like Seaton.

There were also plenty of bars and restaurants in Porta Negra and with three games a day to watch on the telly we got around a fair few of them. The food that we had varied from those lumps of meat that are skewered on a large metal spike and carved at your table to tapioca from a street stall.

The atmosphere was good everywhere, nowhere had any hint of trouble going on and the people couldn’t have been friendlier. I like that about World Cups.

Another bar.

Another game, another bar.

When it was time to leave for the Natal stadium we decided not to bother with the shuttle bus and instead accepted a lift from a fella who offered to drive us there for a total of thirty reals. That compared very favourably with the hundred reals each we’d paid for the shuttle three days earlier, although we did still have to find our way back to Porta Negra after the game.

The wannabe taxi driver dropped us close to the stadium at around three thirty. Our plan was to watch the England v Uruguay game at four o’clock on a big screen inside the ground and it all worked reasonably well. The gates didn’t open until bang on four and so we had half an hour or so of milling around outside with mainly Japanese fans. We did see a few Greek supporters but they were heavily outnumbered.

Mount Fuji hats were popular.

Mount Fuji hats were popular.

It didn’t take long to get through security and we were soon watching the England game on a big screen. It was sponsored by Budweiser but luckily we weren’t forced to drink their beer. There was a Brazilian beer, Brahma, on sale as well and so we stuck to that.

I thought FIFA managed the whole alcohol situation extremely well. Simply selling the stuff puts them ahead of UEFA who only serve non-alcoholic beer at the Euros. They also allow you to drink your beer in your seat. English FA take note. To round things off they have beer fellas walking around with a barrel on their backs for when your cup is running low.

So, whilst they might be incompetent and corrupt they have got the odd mitigating point.

Suarez behaving himself.

Suarez behaving himself.

As expected England lost again and we made our way up to our seats. This time we were down the side of the pitch, almost at the back of the lower tier. These were Category One tickets costing a whopping one hundred and seventy-five dollars each.

Japan v Greece ticket

Despite the price our seats weren’t far enough back in the stand for the roof to cover us.You’d think Category One would at least mean you stayed dry. It briefly rained a couple of times during the match, just long enough each time for me to put my coat on and then have to take it off again within a few minutes.

The view from down the side.

The view from down the side.

Aside from the neutrals, it was mainly Japanese fans in the seats around us. There was also a big section of them behind the goal to our right. Most of them brought and blew up plastic bags in the way I recall Lotte Giants supporters doing in Korea, although this lot didn’t loop the handles around their ears and wear them on their heads like the baseball fans.

I only spotted a couple of small pockets of Greek fans. Maybe the financial crisis is still taking its toll over there. Or maybe they just didn’t fancy their team’s chances.

Whilst I hadn’t seen anyone selling tickets outside before the game, a fella in front of us was trying to shift a couple for the upcoming Japan v Columbia tie. It didn’t look like he had any takers though.

That's the way to advertise.

That’s the way to advertise.

As for the match, well you might have seen it. Japan did more of the attacking, but struggled once they got inside the box. As soon as Greece went a man down they dropped even deeper and settled for the goalless draw.

Japan fans to our right.

Japan fans to our right.

Paul and I were sharply away after the game in the hope of beating any further rain, We picked up a lift in a minibus taxi for twenty reals each and forty minutes after the final whistle we were back in Porta Negra.

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