Pride Passion Belief

Three Lions, Four Friends & English football…

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Fans Friendly: Belo Horizonte

England’s early kick off time against Costa Rica meant that the fans friendly activities in Belo Horizonte were scheduled for the day prior to the game on the 24th June, the same day that Brazil faced Cameroon in their final group game. Around fifty England fans met up at the Praça do Papa square in the Mangabeiras neighbourhood of the City. We were met by organiser Tom Gatehouse and after a short walk we arrived at the Papa Parque da Serra, Belo’s equivalent of Table Mountain. Located at the South of the City the Parque da Serra gives stunning views over Belo Horizonte.

Our guide spoke excellent English and was able to point out prominent city landmarks including the Mineiro stadium which would host England’s final group game, the dead-rubber against Costa Rica. Our tour was accompanied by a TV crew from Globo, Brazil’s largest TV channel, who were interested to add another angle to their World Cup coverage and show the interaction between England fans and the Belo Horizonte locals.

Following the tour our group jumped on a coach for the short ride to Savassi, a lively area of Belo which is home to many of the Cities bars and restaurants. After a short stop at the Praça da Liberdade one of the cities most picturesque squares our party made our way to the Chalé Mineiro restaurant. The restaurant operates on the ‘pay per kilo’ concept whereby food is weighed up at the end of your trip to the buffet and charged depending on how indulgent one has been!

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From the restaurant we were guided again by Tom to a local bar to meet some local Brazilian fans to watch their final group game against Cameroon. Brazil is famed for their love of football and watching Brazil play whilst in Brazil is a priviledge that I’m sure every England fan will remember for a long time to come. With Brazil victory sealing their place as group winners the party got started and both set of fans enhoyed their Caipirinhas well on into the night.

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England Vs Uruguay

This post is being written over a week after England’s World Cup dream was ended by an average Uruguay team + possibly the best player in the world right now. A lot can happen in a week; Luis Suarez is facing a 4 month ban from football after sinking his teeth into Italy’s Giorgio Chillini, England completed their World Cup campain with a mundane dead-rubber against Costa Rica and we are sat on a beautiful beach in Guarapari. Assuming that anyone reading this blog will have watched the match, there it little point in rehashing the thousands of match reports and editorial inquests into our pi$$ poor defending, so with that in mind, here is an overview of our match day experience.

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Corinthians Arena

Our first task on the agenda was to get an extra ticket. Joycey’s last minute decision to divert his flight from Australia to Brazil was awesome news but it did mean he hadn’t applied for tickets via Englandfans (England supporters club). Getting tickets in Manaus hadn’t been a problem; the 3000km round trip from São Paolo had put a lot of England fans off attending the first game and the lack of travelling support for Italy also made spares easier to come by. São Paolo, however, was definitely not a buyers market; the increased amount of England fans (many of whom had flown out without tickets) coupled with South American opposition meant all of the 68,000 tickets seemed to be accounted for – we didn’t see a single person selling at the stadium Metro. A good proportion of tickets for every World Cup game had been apportioned for Brazilians only and it seemed they were all keen to attend the matches rather than cash-in, even for up to R$2000 (around £500) which is what some England fans were offering.

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In the back Ref!

We needed an alternative option and it was at this point that Joyce took a gamble, flashing his ticket from the previous Italy match was enough to get him through the outer perimeter security. After 25mins of ambling up to the stadium the next checkpoint was the airport security scanners. No problem getting Joyce through here as no ticket is required, although the stewards did confiscate our World Cup (presumably because it could be used as a weapon) and our t-shirts from the fans friendly because they were not official FIFA merchandise – what a nonsense. The final barrier to entry is the ticket scan and it actually proved a litter easier than we thought; Lee and I scanned our tickets to gain entry to the stadium concourse and passed one ticket with accompanying ID back through the fence. Thankfully, once through onto the stadium concourse the stewards haven’t beeen checking tickets to get to your actual seat which meant I was able to get to my seat (without a ticket) and Lee joined me despite his ticket being for the upper tier. Outside the stadium, Joyce scanned his ticket which was obviously rejected but with 20mins of persistance in the ticketing office a ‘replacement’ ticket was issued and Joyce was in, only missing the first five minutes of the game.

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It had to be.... Luis Suarez

After the refreshing attacking football that we saw against Italy in Manaus, the first half against Uruguay was a return to the more conservative football that got us through qualifing. To win World Cup games you need your best players to perform on the biggest stage. The game was a story of two strikers; Suarez who linked up well with Cavani and was clinical with both his chances and Rooney, for all his endevour, was only able to convert one chance out of three.

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Fine Margins: Rooney so close

England did improve their game once behind and after the wild celebrations when we equalised the belief was that we would go on to win the tie. However, courtsey of some Sunday League-esque defending Uruguay were able to take the lead and use every single trick in the book to ensure they held out for the victory. Time wasting needs to be addressed in football and from our viewpoint the refaree had several opportunities to deal with Uruguay pushing gamesmanship to the limit. Three times he warned the keeper to speed up his goal kicks but not once did his yellow card come out for that, or for what looked to be a horror tackle on Ross Barkley.

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I think he'll live

The grapes turned even more sour as we left the stadium to collect our confiscated items. The t-shirts had entirely disappeared as had our Copa – not even a simple raffle ticket system had been put in place and so the collection point had turned into a bit of a free-for-all. Thankfully three other Replica World Cup trophies had been confiscated and after close inspection we made our way back to the Metro with a replacement in hand. It took over and hour to get onto the Metro, with the military police ensuring everyone had a valid ticket – what ever happened to free match day travel?! Maybe the protests against FIFA and the World Cup had persuaded the governmenf not to fork out for a free travel. Either way, it meant that we spent about 45mins queuing along with jubilant Uruguay fans. Of course these minor complaints go completely unoticed when your team wins but when you loose and are out of the World Cup every little hurts. As we queued for our Metro tickets amongst thousands of Uruguay fans in full voice, (no idea what they were singing but it sounded amazing) I realised that we have twice travelled half way round the world only to see England knocked out of the World Cup after just two matches.

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Down & Out

Still, could be worse, two weeks left in Brazil and a trip to Rio, Belo Horizonte and beyond still to come. The World Cup is not just about England, we would be here whether England qualified or not…

A full set of match pictures can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYWNw4Y

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Fans Friendly: São Paolo

São Paolo is Brazils largest city and hosted England’s second group match against Uruguay. On the morning of the match the England fans team met up in the East of the City for our fans friendly match against a local Brazilian side from Vila Madelina. The game had been organised with the help of friendly ex-pat Vince, who had liased with the municipal government to organise and pay for the pitch. The game had also been sponsored by Beats Audio, the headphones brand masterminded by Doctor Dre himself. Beats provided refreshments for the game along with free t-shirts featuring either Danny Sturridge or Neymar.

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With a strong squad of around twenty players to choose from, the England team had a different look from the side that started in Manaus and opened the game brightly. The opposition team had come from a local favela and were a relatively young looking team. Thankfully the conditions were more favourable for England than the temperature and humidity experienced in the Jungle – a temp of around 17c and light drizzle meant the English were definitely made to feel at home.

The game started off at a high tempo with both teams competing for every ball. England were keen to show their Brazilian counterparts they could play and maintained some good spells of posession in the opening period. Its was clear that the Brazilian team were technically very good with both their centre back and central midfielders showing great footwork and close control when under pressure. However, this was a strong England team who were comfortable in possession and were able to stretch their opposition with some slick passing.

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Competitive till the end...

The first goal came from some excellent link-up play on the right hand side between Sam Overnall and right back David Rhodes. Just as it looked like the Brazilian left back had intercepted a slick one-two, Rhodes managed to extend a long leg and whip in a cross which looped over the keeper and nicely onto the head of striker Ashley Deekes who made no mistake, heading home from five yards out.

From the restart Brazil were straight back into the game, playing out from the back and creating some good chances down the left hand side. England remained confident in possession and looked dangerous on the counter attack, with Derek Atkinson breaking away and putting a delicate lob inches over the bar. It was Brazil who scored next, making their pressure pay with an excellent move down the left hand side, the pacey striker latching onto a through ball and finishing neatly past England goalkeeper Dickens Richards.

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Brazil close control

Before half time England manager Ed Rhodes began to show his hand, introducing brothers Daniel & Joe Simmons into midfield and Glen Thornton at centre back. The revised team kept a tight line and despite some dangerous attacks from Brazil, the teams went into the half time break at one-a-peice. Half time saw further changes to the England lineup with both Jo Friar and Brett Ackroyd making an impact from the bench. It was Brazil though who started off the brighter in the second half, with their pacey striker again showing a clean set of heels to the English defence and slotting and excellent finish in-off-the-post past England’s goalkeeper for the second half, Andrew Fryer.

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Overnall heads for goal

Brazil further extended their lead around 30mins into the second half as their striker claimed a well deserved hat-trick. Trailing by two goals and with only 15mins left on the clock it would have been quite easy for the visiting team to capitulate.  However, the English team stuck to their game, being tough in the tackle and showing good forward movement when in possession. From the substitutes it was perhaps Thornton who had the biggest impact, with some astute defending supplimented with accurate deliveries into the box from set peices. And it was from a set peice that England equalised – referee Dave Beverley blewing up for a free kick 25 yards outside the box, from which Thornton smashed an upstoppable shot into the bottom left of the net.

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Referee Dave Beverley blows for full time

With five minutes remaining it was clear that the game would go right to the wire. It was England who were applying all the pressure with several corners being put in from the right hand side. Brazil had replaced their keeper with Vince (our host) and after successfully defending three corners in a row, England were finally able to make their pressure count. A great delivery into the far post was met by Sam Overnall who headed towards the top left corner of the net. Just when it looked as though the equaliser had arrived, Vince sprang into action making an unbelievable save to his right hand side. Unfortunately for Brazil, the save of the match meant nothing as England were able to pick up the second ball and scramble it over the line to celebrate a scrapy but well deserved equaliser.

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Penalty Shoot out after 3-3 draw

After a closely contested match, the man in black blew up for full time and signalled for a penalty shoot out. As the players swapped shirts and the crowd gathered towards one end of the pitch, five brave English players put their names forward to attempt break England’s duck by winning a World Cup penalty shoot out for the first time.

It was Glen Thornton who stepped up to taks the first pen, again smashing the ball into the net past the Brazilian keeper. Brazil missed their first penalty and England capitalised by scoring their second to make it 2-0. Brazil scored their second penalty to make it 2-1 and then it was England’s turn to miss, dragging their third past the left hand post. Brazil equilized with their third penalty to make it 2-2 but England extended their lead to 3-2 with their fourth. The fourth Brazilian penalty was uncharacteristically blazed over the bar and England’s victory was complete as their fifth penalty was converted to secure a 4-2 win. 

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Presentation of the trophy

The match was followed with a short presentation in which our hosts thanked the English players for a great game and told us that it meant a lot to them that the English fans had made the effort to come an visit their community. We were lucky to have a visit from the municipal Mayor, who via our translator Vince, agreed that the fans friendly iniatitive is what the Wolrd Cup is really all about; meeting new people and learning about different cultures through football.

We would like to express a huge thanks to our hosts who showed us such a warm welcome and the Mayor who showed a real interest in the match and provided the pitch. A massive thanks also goes out to Vince and and Mark Perryman for all their work arranging the match.

A full set of pictures are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYYtPio

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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!

Manaus - England Vs Italy

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….
Woooooaaaaaoooooaaa. Woooooaaaaaoooooaaa…..

The National Anthem

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Fans Friendly: Manaus

A lot of the talk in the build up to England´s World Cup opener in Manaus has been whether the English will be able to cope with the heat and humidity in the Jungle. We decided to put that theory to the test with a fans friendly match against a local Brazilian side. The game had been arranged by Mark Perryman from the England Supporters Club with the help of a local expat, Adrian Barnett, who had sourced the opposition and a pitch at a sports and social club.

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Kick off was set for 2pm and the England team was bolstered by a guest appearance from the British Ambassador, Alex Ellis, who started at centre back. With several ´fans-friendly´ regulars also making the starting lineup, England had a strong team and started the game off on the front foot, taking the game to our Brazilian hosts. In the opening minutes England looked assured in possession and kept the ball well, with midfielders Barrie Tullis and Sam Ovenall linking up well on the left flank.

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Unfortunately for England, a momentary lapse of concentration at the back meant they were trailing the game after only 10minutes as the Brazilian striker capitalised on a defensive mix up and finished from a low angle on the left.

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Despite being a goal down, England were still very much in the game at the mid point of the first half but the heat – 32c started to take its toll as Brazil defended well and hit England on the counter. Several changes were made to allow players to take a breather and take much needed water. The result was the England lost their shape and it wasn´t long before Brazil took advantage, this time by a freak goal as a deflected shot looped high over the excellent Steve Exeley in goal and into the back of the net.

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At 2-0 down and playing in temperatures well outside their confort zone it would have been easy for England to captulate but they stuck at the task in hand and pulled a goal back through EnglandFans team regular, Lee Pendrey. Going into half time at just a goal down would have left England in a good position but Brazil didn´t let up and their pressure high up the pitch resulted in a third goal just before half time.

After the break Brazil used the heat to their advantage and started to dominate possession. Only assured perfomances at the back from Graham Taylor and JB prevented the goal tally increasing, as did some excellent saves from Mel who was in nets second half. Brazil hit the cross bar with an absolutely scorching drive and came close on several occasions before increasing their lead to 4-1 about ten minutes into the second half. England puffed and panted their way over the line and it was a relief to get into the bar with a respectable scoreline in tact and in much need of refreshments.

A special thanks goes out to Adrian for putting on such a great day out and to Dave Beverley, the man in the black who reffed the game to his usual high standard. Thanks also to our Brazilian hosts for the excellent food and hospitality + a winning performance on the pitch.  Next step, Arena Amazonas for the real thing…. bring on Italy!

A full set of pictures for the fans friendly game can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYWxvyC

 

 

 

 

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Amazon Sunrise

This is the view we had at 5:45am yesterday. Great couple of days in the Jungle, watched the opening game with our hosts but for now just a picture…

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The Heat in Manaus

It is HOT in Manaus. Its not the refreshing ‘I’ve just walked out of the airpot in Spain / glad to be out of the UK weather hot.’  It is intensely and uncomfortably hot. Walking from the bus to the hostel we were dripping in sweat, I felt drained after just five minutes walk.
So how does this impact on Englands chances against Italy?

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Hawking Talking

I was lucky enough to be invited (courtsey of Spashion magazine) to see Professor Stephen Hawking present his findings from a month long study into the elements that effect Englands World Cup performances. Comissioned by bookmakers Paddy Power the Cambridge physicist analysed data from every tournament since 1966 to come up with a formula which provides the best circumstances for English success. Unfortunately for Roy Hodgesons men, Pro Ste believes the heat, the altitude and the distance from home are all key factors, all of which will work against England in Manaus.

http://youtu.be/zsmJp3zNpbg

It was interesting to read that Italy will arrive a day later than England on Friday, just a day before the game. Whilst they are likely to be a little more heat resistant than England I would have thought they would need more than a day to acclimitise. Having said that, maybe it would be better to just get in and out as soon as possible before being energy-zapped by the humidity. Either way, ill be thinking twice about berrating England players to ‘close him down’ or ‘get at him’, especially in the second half.

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World Cup winning formula

One thing that is clear; possession is going to be important in this game, it’s just not possible to chase the ball for 90mins in this heat. The use of substitutes could also be key. The Italy game will be a good test to see how far England have come from two years ago, when we spent the best part of the game in Kiev chasing shadows. Are the current crop of youngers more adept at keeping the ball at International level? How will we cope with Pirlo? Only one way to find out….bring on Italy for the Rumble in the Jungle…

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Heading for the Amazon

Its been four years since the last World Cup. South Africa was the most amazing experiene – we all wanted to come back for another World Cup. The fact that this years’ tournament is in Brazil makes it an easy decision – if you have the chance to go to a World Cup in Brazil, you’d take it. Luckily enough we have that chance and it feels amazing to be here, looking out of the plane window on the Amazon jungle as we fly from Sao Paolo to Manaus.

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Four years ago, I remember flying back from Soutn Africa on Ethopian Airlines, hungover, strapped for cash and heading straight into work from Heathrow – wondering if our trip to Brazil would be a little better organised, baring in mind we’d have four years to prepare. In the mad rush to get out of the office on Monday; to get the Picadilly line to Heathrow, with a half crossed check list stuffed into a makeshift wallet, with keys still to drop off and an SD card for my camera still to pick up, it’s safe to say that organisation this time round isn’t any better. LONDON IS A RUSH…. thats what makes it such a great city but also what makes it feel sooo good to be escaping to Amazon jungle with your best pals. Flights and football tickets sorted, no accomodation = no problem, thats what the internet + airport Wifi was made for.

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The obstacles of modern life  sometimes make it diffiuclt to look forward to anything until it arrives in your face. Short termism is a problem of modern economy, but when you finally ditch your bags, skip through security and have that first pint in the Weatherspoons you can finally relax because you know that holiday has finally arrived. It makes the hard work worthwhile…

I have been to the rain forest once before in Thailand. Its the most amazing place and I havent been for nine years. Everything is supersized, it makes you feel small, young and insignificant. At present, the prospect of dissappearing into the Jungle for a couple of days to see all sorts of weird & wonderful creatures has completely eclipsed the excitment about England’s World Cup opener against Italy on Friday. Hopefully we’ll see a Jaguar, some snakes or a group unrurly baboons roaming around. I like life at home, it’s good to do well, be busy, make money….but if you work too hard, it’s easy to loose sight of what is best for you….and you won’t always get what you’ve been promised.

Its so amazing to be in Brazil, we’re about to land…. I cant wait to start a new adventure in the Amazon.