Justin Cook’s World Cup Diary - Day 6 and 7
Getting to this Manaus game had been very hard, both finically and logistically.
I bought a ticket in March this year from a web-based company, and it cost $670 US and was in a really good place in the stadium.
The ticket was going to be sent direct to Manaus three days before the game. A day before I flew to Manaus from São Paulo I emailed the company to confirm the the ticket was in carriage. My email was bounced back with the domain name not being recognised. I then went to their website and found that too had been taken down.
I had researched this company online for reviews etc and they seemed good in the whole but the horror of the situation dawned on me that I could have spent all this money and that I would not be able to see the Italy game.
I called the company and again no one answered. I made my peace with the reality that I had no ticket and flew up to Manaus anyway, making a mental note to deal with the company again.
In life I have learnt (the hard way) that if something goes wrong there is nothing you can do about it and you just have to go with the flow as going against it will only take more energy so I knew that something would turn up if I just waited and looked further down the stream.
I made some loose enquiries at the FIFA fan fest centre in Manaus and their were tickets floating about, but at increased prices beyond my planned budget and someone I met on the plane had promised that they had spares that I could buy but I still did not have a ticket in my grubby little hands.
The day of the match came and I was chilling at the guest house in Manaus and waiting for some people to call me back about a ticket.
Then it happened: Daniel had gone to collect another guest from the airport. Daniel drove into the car park and introduced me to his new guest.
Mathew is a photographer/journalist from the States and was covering the World Cup for a major magazine from there. I introduced myself and within two minutes Mathew told me that he had three tickets available for the game and would sell me one for face value at £100.00.
I nearly kissed him and we concluded the deal. The tickets were really good and were seven rows from the front on level one; basically amazing tickets that meant you were so close to the game.
It was decided that Daniel and his nephew Mathew would join with American Mathew and I to attend the game. So the four of us got ready to leave. The match was starting at 18:00 and the stadium opened at 16:00.
So the day had finally come, and with the Uruguay losing 3-1 to Costa Rica this was an ideal opportunity to make some ground ahead of the São Paulo game for England so with a fair level of excitement and nerves we all got in the car and made our way to the Arena Da Amazonia for the rumble in the jungle with England versus Italy.
The four of us decided to grab some food on the way as we were starving. We went to a food hall and ordered some food. Whilst all waiting at the table we heard a commotion coming down the road and we rushed to the road to see what was happening. It was the teams heading to the arena.
As we stood there the England bus went past in police convoy followed by the Italy bus - so cool. The atmosphere was really building and all four of us were getting really excited.
We parked the car and started walking to the Arena. It was a joyous sight watching everyone walk to the greatest show on earth in Brazil.
Daniel’s nephew Mathew is ten years old and was so excited and had already decided to support England, good boy!
We entered the Arena and to my surprise I saw two English police officers. At first I thought it was fancy dress but actually it was a real policeman and policewoman drafted in for the UK to keep and eye on the English fans - so, so cool.
The sad thing about this tournament is that in most games the FIFA allotted corporate seating areas are always mostly empty and this is awful really.
Why not give these seats to kids homes or something more deserving than fat cat corporate companies who have no respect for the beautiful game? England versus Italy was the same with a large area of empty corporate seating.
The four of us took our seats and waited for the game to begin. The players all filed out and started their warm up, the closeness to pitch side was amazing and you could see all the players and all of a sudden the pitch seemed really small.
It always happens whenever you go see a live game the pitch always seems smaller as watching on TV does give a distorted view of the scale and it felt like you were so close to the action you could of been watching a game in your local park... amazing.
The game began and unbelievably England's defence was holding its own really well and the boys looked sharp with their passing game too.
Their shape was excellent and discipline good. Early on however Jaelkia was loosing a yard regularly and it was plain to see, again and again his opposite number was getting on side of him by a yard and this was worrying.
Raheem Sterling was snapping at everyone's heels again and doing a fine job with his pace and talent. Rooney playing on the left looked sharp enough and Sturridge was prowling round looking for that layoff or goal scoring opportunity.
I think in that first half England had about three or four goal scoring opportunities and they simply did not take their chances and if you don't take your chances at this level and the other team does then you will be in trouble.
Claudio Marchislo scored for Italy and we were in trouble, 1-0 kind of trouble. Within five minutes England had levelled with a sublime lay off by Rooney to Sturridge. 1-1. Then half time came and we all let a sigh of relief out. It was all to play for and in the balance.
The second half started and we looked tired. The defence started to become loose and Rooney was still misfiring. Jack Wiltshire came on and quite frankly does not look fit or look like an England player, he just seems weak and seems to be not strong enough to hold the ball with any real strength.
Then it happened: Balotelli scored a simple header on Joe harts near side post. Then the game was over... very disappointing but that's football.
So that night we went out and forgot about the game and enjoyed the fun that Manaus had to offer. No details I’m afraid, as your man in Brazil has to have some down time, right?
The next morning very bleary eyed Daniel drove me to the airport and I flew to Salvador. Salvador is a very industrial city with approximately three million people living there. They call Salvador the Africa of Brazil.
I was met by my old friend Marcio at the airport and we drove to the ferry port where we caught a ferry to the Island of Itaparica. We then travelled to Barra Grande.
Marcio is a final year graduate of Salvador University and is studying marine biology. I met Marcio three years previous when I was staying in Paraty. He lives on the island of Itaparica with his wife and daughter, Paulina and Andrea Marina.
His house is on the beach and it's going to be great spending time with them as a family and teaching three year old Andrea Marina English.
As I sit here on Monday morning approximately I week after I arrived I am thrilled with all the travels and things I have seen so far in this beautiful country.
I am looking out of my window onto the beach right now and straight ahead is Africa (5,000 miles away) and North West (5,000 miles away) is Europe.
I will not blog again until Thursday as there is no internet really here and electricity only at specific times of the day, so my IT options are limited.
Upon reflection of the game I don't think we did too bad and maybe we can still qualify.
As I send this I am at Mike’s beach bar on Ponte de Areia and it's paradise really, listening to Bob Marley and just about to watch the Portugal versus Germany game on TV and facing onto the ocean. Not bad Brazil, not bad at all.
Read Day 5 here