My initial two night stay in Manaus was geared towards watching both World Cup semi-finals and organising a trip into the surrounding Amazon Jungle. A dream Brazil v Argentina final was still possible but the hosts faced Germany as significant under-dogs with captain Thiago Silva suspended and star player Neymar injured. The second semi-final pitted my other favourite team Holland against South American giants, Argentina. Was it to be a surprise or sadness, cause for celebration or catastrophe?
Brazil v Germany
Despite flying early from Salvador (via Brasilia), crossing time zones meant the 4pm kick-off was fast approaching and buses were not forthcoming. Luckily a Portuguese-speaking American organised three of us to get a taxi, scoffing at the quoted standard airport price for tourists to agree on a fair fare. Check-in was swift at ‘Local Hostel, Manaus’ so I transformed quickly into my Brazilian costume and walked literally thirty seconds to the main square, Praça de São Sebastião.
There were two big screens showing the game, with the pink walls and mosaic dome of ‘Theatro Amazonas’ completing the backdrop. I joined the back of the crowd, beer in hand, to watch the German’s first half destruction of Brazil’s so-called defence. They were 5 goals up within half an hour including 4 goals in 6 minutes! The crowd’s reaction went from disappointment to disbelief as each goal was scored. Though the crowd had thinned for the second half, their spirit was not quashed entirely as they cheered two more German goals before celebrating a late consolation goal. One lady was removed from the stage as she spurred on fans to keep supporting their nation.
But win or lose (even 7-1), the Brazilians came to party with live music and dancing continuing into the night. First sitting alone to watch one guitarist/singer blast out classic rock tunes, I was soon adopted by a group of Amazonas to drink, dance and fail to communicate for the rest of the night!
Argentina v Holland
I spent the morning organising my jungle trip, followed by shopping for jungle attire (purchasing a long-sleeved shirt and failing to find a waterproof jacket) plus a fake Dutch shirt. I tagged along with a couple of Aussie guys to the square, getting photographed within seconds of sitting down by an official cameraman. Rain interrupted our viewing in the first half and the trees offered insufficient cover so we attempted the ‘flip-flop sprint’ back to the hostel. Another all too familiar 0-0 knockout game ensued: Holland dominated possession without creating many chances, while Messi was man-marked all game (though Argentina did create the only decent opportunities through Higuain and Messi).
Resorting to the fourth penalty shoot-out of the tournament, the luck of the Dutch finally ran out with Messi leading his team to victory. While two Mexican girls were jubilant, I was left regretting the loss of both my back-up World Cup teams in the semi-finals…perhaps I would have to buy a German or Argentinian shirt for the final!
I joined the Australians for another tasty ‘moqueca’ meal with caipirinhas on the balcony of a restaurant overlooking Praça de São Sebastião, then retired early ahead of my exciting trip into the Amazon Jungle!