After five days in the Amazon, we head back to the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo and our flight back is in good spirits. All the England fans are still confident that we can beat Uruguay and qualify for the next stage — especially amidst rumours that Suarez might not even be playing.
Arriving late night Wednesday, it's a quiet one for us as we are on an early start next day for the crunch game at the Arena Corinthians. The official England Fans hub is in the Squat Bar in Jardims. It's a bar I know well, and it's just across from my local O'Malleys where I usually go to watch the Tottenham games.
However, the England Fans hub is a waste of time as everyone is getting well pissed off with the organization there, so we dingy that and head up to Rua Santos where loads of England fans have plotted in the local corner bars and tied their flags up. As songs ring out and a good pre-match drink up ensues, it's a good few hours there before heading off out east to Itaquera on the metro for the game.
It's another top atmosphere in the ground, and even though most of us are stuck in the unfinished part of the stadium that feels as if it's about to fall down at any second, at least it's not searing hot like it was in the Amazon. The England fans are in full voice again and everything is going well, until England's defence decides to repeat its woeful Manaus performance and let Suarez in for their first goal. It's grim, and the chase is on for an equalizer as the fans do their best to encourage the team. Although we don't hit the performance heights we hit against Italy, we somehow manage to get an equalizer and the whole of our stand explodes with beer and arms flying everywhere.
Football-wise, it's probably the highlight of the tour for me, right there. Too good to be true that we could hold onto a point, and here I think was our worst moment — our naievity in not being able to shore things up and keep Uruguay from pinching a winner, which obviously is what they did. Mass depression hardly comes close to the feeling in our stand after that, and when the final whistle goes it all kicks off with some stupid locals in Sao Paulo football shirts who have just been looking for trouble. Time for a sharp exit, and as we leave the stadium and head back into the city centre there is that knowing that we can now be knocked out of the World Cup after just two games. Well, we all know that's how things did eventually pan out, but as we walk up to Rua Augusta, the main bar and club street in Sao Paulo, I can sense the mass exodus of England fans already.
A few of us do the bars in Rua Augusta to drown our sorrows but there are not many England fans about and we have to concede defeat to loads of Uruguayans that we meet out and about that night. Next day it's the hangover from hell, and with Italy's defeat confirming England being knocked out, I'm left dumbstruck with our swift World Cup exit and the fact that our last game will be a dead rubber.
Can't really think of much to say about the days in between that and our last game in Belo Horizonte five days later, other than the inquests had begun and the nights in the bars were spent discussing our woeful campaign, our poor performance and our bad tactics.
Still, off to Belo Horizonte we go, determined to enjoy this trip somehow. It's going to be twenty-four degrees the day of our last game, so at least a nice bit of sun will be out for us. We arrive the night before the match and head out into the fanzone, but again there are not many England fans about and we've heard that a lot of fans have already canned this last game and not even bothered coming.
With the streets full of Brazilians celebrating hammering Cameroon and qualifying for the next stage, we head to a local rodizio restaurant — a kind of BBQ buffet with loads of different cuts of meat on the menu — and get ourselves fed right up before what will be our final match of England's campaign tomorrow. By this stage, even just a goal would give us something to shout about, and as we approach Minerao stadium there is a feeling of relaxed resignation in the air.
I've been to the Minerao stadium before to see a local game, Cruzero vs Ponte Preta, but this was years ago before the stadium was done up and I must say it's an impressive place now compared to what it was like back then. All the England fans bask in the sun and still give a good account of themselves in the singing stakes, with ironic shouts of “Our World Cup's over” and “Football's going home” etc — but there is no love shown by the local Brazilians who are all shouting on Costa Rica. The game itself is exactly what it was going to be; a dead rubber, a goalless draw, and in my opinion the worst display of the three games. Oh well, finally all done and dusted and as Daniel Sturridge, Luke Shaw and Frank Lampard throw their shirts into the crowd, the England fans continue to sing aloud as the whole team applaud.
It's a long journey back home and as my mates take off up north on holiday, I head back to Sao Paulo with thoughts of what might have been. Still, I'm lucky that I live here and will still get to enjoy the rest of the World Cup here in Brazil, especially if Brazil can go all the way to the final and win it. If not, I fear that the protests and riots might return as quick as they left. With reports of over 50,000 Argentinians in Brazil so far, I'm rooting for a Brazil vs Argentina final because just imagine the atmosphere in Rio de Janeiro for that! Even though at this stage I doubt I'll get a ticket, I'll definitely be there in Rio for the final weekend. I wouldn't miss that for the world.
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