Here in the Lonely Planet offices, we’ve been as glued to the ups and down of the world’s biggest football tournament as our fans have. Our eyes remain firmly fixed on Brazil as all the drama of the quarter-finals gets set to unfold.
Inside the stadium at Belo Horizonte. Image by Kevin Raub
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Our on-the-ground author Kevin Raub has been immersed in the action and atmosphere, flying back and forth around the country. Here’s what he has to say about the third week of the World Cup, and its many moments of nail-biting tension:
‘A draw with Mexico was one thing, but you could cut the tension with a piece of old tin foil during Brazil’s Round of 16 clash with Chile. I was watching at São Paulo’s GRU Airport, which turned out to be a fantastic place to watch the game. Many others seemed to lack the same travel planning foresight as me, and the viewing area at the airport (Torcida GRU) was an overflowing ball of high-strung, blood-boiling tension as the match went into overtime. As I went to board my flight, my wife warned me, “The pilot will not take off while the game is still going!” She was right. Everyone on the plane was receiving text updates from friends and families as the match went to penalties; and when Gonzalo Jara missed Chile’s final penalty shot and Brazil survived 3-2, the plane erupted in joy. Then the pilot pulled back from the gate!
In Recife, two World Cup zebras (that’s Portuguese for a cinderella or underdog) went head-to-head for a quarterfinal bid, something neither Greece or Costa Rica had ever dreamed of doing in the past. The match went to penalties. What more could you ask for? A calm and collected Costa Rica team saw themselves through to the quarter-finals for the first time ever. Both Round of 16 games on Sunday featured 11th hour goals to win or draw – Mexico also lost a heartbreaker to Holland after dominating the entire match but conceding two goals in the final minutes. Devastating.
On Tuesday, São Paulo was painted light blue as Argentines converged on the city (Brazilians would say invaded, but I’m less impartial). At the match, most Brazilians we’re defiantly pulling for Switzerland and took the opportunity to taunt Argentines fans with various chants the whole match, some of which highlighted Diego Maradona’s colorful past. In the end, Argentina had the last word as a goal in extra time sent them through to the quarter-finals. And then there was my good ole’ USA, who also lost a heart-stopping match to Belgium in extra time. Heroic Team USA goalkeeper Tim Howard’s 16 saves were the most by a World Cup keeper since 1966. Both the US and Switzerland had as good a look on goal as one could ask for in the closing seconds, but fate wasn’t a kind friend to either team. Football is a real heart-breaker sometimes.”