(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info

These Columbian lads have travelled thousands of miles down through South America to follow their team. Check out the lad on the far left's black eye. 

(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info

With no hotel booked in Santa Fe, I hang around the bus station and take a café con leche until it gets light. It is nearly 8am before it gets light in this part of the world and the thermometer starts to rise north from zero. Many of the budget hotels are close to the station and I get the feeling that arriving a day early has been a good move. Aside from those trying to cash in and charging three times the going rate, I do manage to grab the last single at Charlitos, an establishment run by the Argentine equivalent of Basil Faulty. In reception I get chatting to an Englishman, Daniel, who is in Argentina doing his PHD on the Argentine economic collapse of 2001/2 and how parallels can be drawn with what is happening to the middle class in Europe now, particularly in Spain. It is one of those conversations that could go on for hours, particularly the idea that the European middle class is about to get squeezed to the point at which many will fall into relative poverty. Daniel has an Argentine girlfriend and for her birthday is treating her to a hotel and ticket to Argentina v Columbia. As he goes off to meet her I briefly lie low, enjoying the relative luxury of having my first hotel room of the trip. The hope that my room might actually be warm was, though, asking for too much. The warmest I have been so far in Argentina was fifty feet below on the Buenos Aires metro.

At the press centre I run into Nurnberg Charles, who is also queuing up for his ticket for the Argentina v Columbia match. Tickets back of the netted, Charles and I explore the area around the Rio Santa Fe; the river flowing south from here all the way to Buenos Aires. Santa Fe also has an impressive array of colonial buildings and an intoxicating lived-in feel that gives the city a certain charm.

After a quick spot of sightseeing, it is time to get ourselves to the Santa Fe Union stadium to watch Columbia train ahead of tomorrow’s match with Argentina…