The first no-football day of the World Cup gave us the opportunity to walk around the architectural marvels of Oscar Niemeyer (no, not Brazil’s forward-thinking midfield) dotted around Brasilia.
The Congresso Nacional building has amazing, simplistic, lines and the Catedral Metropolitana has beautiful, coloured, light, but my favourite was the Museu Nacional da República, with its celestial exterior and sweeping interior. Lucio Costa, the urban planner responsible for the city’s design, was obviously not a keen pedestrian as we negotiated six-lane highways of charging traffic to travel short distances.
Saturday’s early Second Round match involved Brazil and, now knowing how the country grinds to a halt even on a working day, we were installed in Bar Brahma Brasilia a good hour before kick-off.
João, a Corinthians fan from São Paulo, was our unintentional, yet gregarious, host, asking if he could “buy Howard Webb” before settling on our spare tickets for France v Nigeria on Monday.The inevitability of penalties led to João clutching his ‘lucky’ blue Brazil shirt, more in hope than certainty after seven strong caipirinhas had eroded his faith. Gonzalo Jara’s crucial miss from the 10th spot-kick resulted in an explosion of latent relief, a samba band launching into two hours of familiar hits, occasionally studed with vocal eulogies to erstwhile Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The dreams of a nation remain.
We repeated our footsteps to the Estadio Nacional for France v Nigeria, the first of our two Second Round matches.
Our seats had all been very good to date, but our luck ran out as we were situated way up in the Gods. The steep steps proved tough going for some of the predominately Brazilian crowd but, fortunately, copious beer and soft drink spillages gave the smooth concrete a subtle stickiness that ensured no spectators toppled on to the pitch.
Today, we were sat next to a double coincidence in Valerie, a journalist from Curitiba who had studied at Goldsmith’s and drank in my local, the legendary New Cross Inn. Most bizarrely, she was a Fulham FC regular who had worked as Clint Dempsey’s babysitter whilst living in London.
The match settled down in the second half, with Ogenyi Onazi’s injury, Antoine Griezmann’s introduction and the redeployment of Karim Benzema as a central striker paving the way for a comfortable France win.
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