World Cup 2014: Day 5

It’s always nice to have two countries to support at the World Cup.

Thanks to my friend Mike’s wheeling and dealing on his flight to Natal last night, he was able to secure two tickets to tonight’s USA-Ghana game for face value. It would be my first time seeing the USA play in person since a World Cup 2010 qualifier in Chicago against Trinidad and Tobago.

We headed to the Arena das Dunas a few hours before kickoff and arrived at what appeared to be a giant construction site. Large bulldozers and other construction vehicles were parked outside with building materials littering the ground. Thankfully the stadium was finished, but the whole surrounding area was a complete mess.

Construction zone at Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil

Construction zone

The team buses flew past us as we walked to the stadium, with the crowd erupting in cheers.

 

We followed a colorful and festive group of Ghanaians walking to the stadium, beating drums, dancing, chanting, and singing creative songs. The only responses we Americans had was the typical “U-S-A” chant , “I believe that we will win”, and the occasional “Ghana sucks” (real classy). We need to be more creative. And I have to get it off my chest – “I believe that we will win” is the dumbest chant I’ve ever heard. Where did this come from? Have I been living out of the US that long?

 

Anyway, finally getting through the chaos at the security checks, we made it into the stadium. It’s a beautiful venue and one of the nicest places I’ve ever watched a game.

We sat next to a Japanese-American couple from California who were actually in Brazil following Japan. Greece and Japan play here on Thursday, but at least for tonight, we would be supporting the same team.

Two very moving national anthems got things underway. The huge crowd of Americans erupted at Clint Dempsey’s goal just 29 seconds into the game. It was estimated that 20,000 Americans and 5,000 Ghanians were in attendance, with the remaining 15,000 Brazilians and others were mostly supporting Ghana.

National anthems USA vs Ghana World Cup 2014 at Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil

National anthems

The rest of the game was painful to watch. After Jozy Altidore went down early, the US was simply outplayed. Ghana pushed and pushed, had some great chances, and finally were able to put one past Tim Howard. But fortunately, the football gods were smiling on Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad – on only the American’s 3rd corner of the game in the 86th minute, they took back the lead and held on for the win.

 

The US played a great game for the first and last few minutes of the game, like garbage in between, and still managed to come away with three points. Ghana could’ve been celebrating a win just as easily.

USA vs Ghana World Cup 2014 at Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil

USA vs Ghana

Getting out of the stadium was an adventure, and not in a good way. I’ve never seen more unorganized crowd control and outflow at a sporting event in my life. Brazil should be embarrassed. First, because there is no public transportation to and from the stadium, we had to walk 45 minutes to find the shuttle to our side of town. There were no signs to guide us, nobody to tell us where to go.

Once we arrived at the shuttle stop, I didn’t even know it was the correct stop until I asked someone. There was nothing to indicate where the shuttles were going. I expected there to be a long line of shuttles constantly moving people out. Not the case at all. Worse, they were not even shuttles, but normal city buses that were only passing by at about a rate of one every ten minutes.

A couple Americans who had been to the last few World Cups told me this was by far the worst they have ever seen. At the other host countries, people were moved in and out quickly and efficiently for the most part.

Two final complaints – 1) neither of the two stadiums I have been to so far have had a clock or scoreboard! That’s important. It’s very hard to see the small print on the jumbotrons if you aren’t near one of them. 2) the FIFA Fan Shops have absolutely nothing available that was promised in the World Cup guide that was emailed to me. No jerseys and t-shirts “for most countries participating”, programs, and other items – just Brazil-related items.

These problems don’t take away from the World Cup experience, but they are simple things that should be expected of a country hosting a world-class event.

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