Italy v Costa Rica, Friday 20th June 2014, 1pm

italy v costa rica 1

This game was quite a late addition to our trip. Originally we’d just planned on seeing the two games in Natal but when another of the FIFA sales windows opened I couldn’t resist buying a couple of tickets for Italy’s clash with Costa Rica in Recife.

Initially I didn’t give much of a thought as to how we’d get from Natal to Recife, after all it’s only one hundred and eighty miles. Once I’d delved a bit more into it though it turned out that there weren’t any flights that fitted with what had to be a day trip, there isn’t a train connection between the two cities and the bus wouldn’t get us there in time for kick-off.

That pretty much left driving and so when we passed a car hire place in Natal a few days earlier we popped in and ended up not only with a car, but with the fella who worked there agreeing to drive us there and back for eight hundred Brazilian reals. That’s around two hundred and twenty quid, which struck me as fair enough, particularly when I recalled that having to get a taxi home from a Boro game in Blackpool nearly thirty years ago cost over a hundred quid.

Italy v Costa Rica ticket

On Friday morning we left Natal at around half past seven. The first three hours or so were relatively easy enough and we made good progress passing pineapple stalls, people riding donkeys and any number of cows wandering around and, I suspect, up to no good.

Did you know that cows bear grudges against other cows? They have little cliques too. That’s worth remembering next time you see one stood by herself looking miserable whilst the rest of the herd are frollicking around on the other side of the field.

One we arrived in Recife everything slowed down. We followed the signs to the stadium through heavy traffic for two hours before we finally broke free of the congestion and arrived at the Arena Pernambuco which is situated just off a dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere.

There wasn’t anywhere to park and the decision to hire a driver paid off as he was able to drop us at a service station ten minutes walk from the ground.

There's the stadium.

There’s the stadium.

We had Category Two tickets for behind a goal, but unfortunately it was the goal that was right around the other side of the stadium and with kick-off approaching we had to get a move on.

Matters weren’t helped by one of the security fellas suspecting that Paul’s sun cream was some sort of explosive device. Paul was initially asked to prove that it wouldn’t go off with a bang by eating some of it, but managed to negotiate a compromise whereby he would apply some to his nose.

"Just eat it"

“Just eat it”

We reached our seats just as the teams were walking out onto the pitch. They were pretty good, high up but under cover. Whilst it didn’t look like there was any prospect of rain it was better to be sat in the shade.

I’d estimate that as the game kicked off a third of the seats were unoccupied. I’m not surprised though as we can’t have been the only ones who underestimated the time necessary to get from Recife city centre to the stadium. There were still people arriving over an hour into the match and I suspect quite a few spent the entire game still in their cars and inching slowly forward.

We had a couple of Costa Rica fans behind us who spent the entire game abusing the opposition, the ref and, I suspect, their own team with shouts of “Puta”. I’d love to have heard how they’d have behaved in a dispute with an actual prostitute.

The view from our seats.

The view from our seats.

Whilst the beer was easy to buy early on, by half-time the queues were prohibitive. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of the bloke doing the rounds with a barrel on his back. Well done, FIFA.

By this time Italy were a goal down and Ballotelli had been subbed. That was a shame as there is rarely a dull moment when he’s around. Even with him off the pitch, I kept casting the odd glance over towards the Italian bench in case he decided to let a few fireworks off.

With their star man withdrawn Italy couldn’t manage an equaliser. The win took Costa Rica through to the next round and briefly stunned the two fellas behind us into silence.

Fans behind the goal.

Fans behind the goal.

Our journey back to Natal was little different to the outward trip. Two hours of crawling along followed by three hours of high speed. The main difference I suppose was that we had a couple of crashes. After the second of them our driver revealed that he’d only had two hours sleep the previous night. Oh good.

And so that was it for Paul and I, another World Cup over and done with.

I rarely think in any depth about much at all, but I gave some some thought as to the way in which the four year World Cup cycle marks the changes in your life. When we went to the Germany in 2006, I travelled from my apartment in Ferrol, Spain.

By the time South Africa rolled around four years later, I was living in Seoul, South Korea. I liked enough of what I saw of South Africa during that 2010 tournament that when the chance came to live there I took it and have been in Gauteng for the last nine months.

I doubt that Jen and I will still be in South Africa when the next tournament takes place in four years time but I’d like to think that wherever we are, I’ll be making my way from there to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.


2 Responses to “Italy v Costa Rica, Friday 20th June 2014, 1pm”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    who’s that big-boned chap in green?

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