England Vs Italy
After our fans friendly game it was straght to the stadium for the match. We passed the Stadium Amazonas on the way from the airport and it´s fairly impressive from the outside. A bit like Wembley it´s in the middle of an industrial estate but once we made our way through the warehouses and onto the main road outside the stadium you could feel the atmosphere start to build. After a few photo stops with the World Cup we made our way up onto the concourse outside the stadium and stocked up on beers – R$10 each – thanks FIFA!
After a couple of beers as the sun set, we headed into the stadium. This is it… One of the best things about a football game is that moment when you walk through the concourse into the stands and have a full view of the pitch. We had left it reasonably late to make our way into the stadium which meant the stands were full up and the atmosphere was AMAZING, it´s such a good feeling. At away games, no-one sticks to their allocated seats so we piled in to the lower tier and I immediately managed to loose all my mates! Not a problem, I ended up stood in the steps midway up the lower tier just to the left of the goal next to Billy the Bee who I met in Ukraine and a couple of lads I knew from the LondonEnglandFans forums prior to Brazil.
After the national anthem and a couple of Jungle related chants the game kicked off. The best ways that I can describe the atmosphere was excitment rather than expectation. In the media there is a good level of excitment around a youthful England team and this was reflected inside the stadium, especially because of the bold and attacking formation Roy Hodgeson had picked – I wouldn´t have thought that both Wellback and Sterling would start – nice move Woy!
The positive selection certainly seems to pay of as England were straight out of the blocks, attacking Italy and willing to committ men forward. This was certainly a million miles away from the ´backs-to-the-wall´approach in Kiev two years ago. One of the best things about this team is that the manager has the luxuary of picking England players who are coming off the back of a great season with their clubs, namely the Liverpool contingent of Sterling, Sturridge and Gerrard. Confidence is so important in football, especially in the attacking positions and it was refreshing to see Sterling especially in the first half running at the Italians, committing men, putting them on the back foot.
The Italians are one of those team that you can never write-off, you don´t win four World Cups without having a good football pedigree, they will always put out team who can challenge for trophies. Pirlo was again outstanding player and Balotelli looked sharp up front. The Italian goal was a well worked training ground move – an excellent dummy from Pirlo threw off the England defenders and left space for Marchisio to drive his shot past Hart. It wasn´t long before England equalised and Sturridge´s goal sparked fairly wild celebrations in the England end.
The second half slowed a little in terms of pace but absolute credit goes out to the England lads for keeping such a good tempo and managing 18 shots against such good quality opposition in the Jungle heat. The second Italian goal didn´t really deflate the England fans because we believed the equaliser would come, right until the very last minute.
In the end it wasn´t to be so after a night out in town a down day spent recovering the defeat is well and truely out of our system and we go to Sao Paulo with confidence from a good pérformance against top opposition. The general feeling around Manaus, for those of us who are still here, is that if we play in the same manner against Uruguay in less challenging conditions, we will get a result.
Chant of the night
Several amusing chants flying round about the Jungle but for me, chant of the night has to be:
Roy Hodgson, Roy Hodgson, Roy Hodgson
He´s taken us to Rio, to Rio, to Rio,
and that is why we like him, we like him, we like him,
in fact we f*cking love him, we love him, we love him….
The National Anthem