Wednesday, June 17, Santiago, Chile
I was so wrong about yesterday being epic fail day, as Hannes and I giggle hysterically like a couple of schoolboys as we video through the curtain of the breakfast room an unnamed member of our tour party saying his farewells to a Chilean female guest at the front gate; uncomfortable hug and kiss-on-the-cheek goodbye.
The Swiss had been determined to get something out of yesterday's day of cock ups and apparently had a brilliant night out at some samba club in Bellavista, while I decided to go home alone and sleep off the remainder of my flu I've had for the past five days. I do feel flu-free but damaged though for missing out on a great night out.
Today is all about Brasil v Colombia - the top game of the first round (if you conveniently forget Argentina v Uruguay). I'm the only one of us with a ticket and clearly lots of Santa Licia award-winning wine is required if the lads are going to muster up enough bravado to start asking every other stranger they meet whether they would like to sell them some football tickets.
A couple of hours before kick off, we dodge past three stray dogs in winter jackets (?!) and shoe horn five of us into a taxi to Stadion Monumental.
This is a far rougher part of town than Estadion Nacional but clearly there are a lot more tickets floating around here than there were at the other Copa games.
The Monumental is a super stadium: typically South American, with steeply-angled terraces behind the goals, tight to the pitch, and subbuteo floodlights bright enough to land an airplane. This is home to club side Colo Colo but today is absolutely mobbed with Colombia supporters. In fact, it is hard to spot more than a couple of pockets of Brasilians here and there. Four individuals I have spotted though are the Swiss crew, with seats adjacent to the press zone, next to a couple of female Colombian and Chilean TV presenters, procured for the absurdly cheap price of £30 each.
Not only is the overwhelming majority of the crowd supporting Colombia but it is obvious right from the kick off that Colombia want this more than Brasil. While Brasil look vastly more accomplished at the back without the clown-like defending of David Luiz, they look one-dimensional higher up the park. Their only strategy seems to be: give Neymar the ball! But that isn't going to work because he's got one of my favourite players - Carlos Sanchez - as his man-marker and guard-of-honour for the Colombian defence as holding midfielder. I witnessed Sanchez play Messi out of the game in Argentina at the 2011 Copa and here he is doing the same no-nonsense job on another contender for 'world's best player' four years later.
It is a game of few chances but Colombia are bossing it, while Neymar has gifted them possession on more than a dozen occasions. Neymar is often touted as being the best player on the planet but how can this possibly be so when he gives the ball away so cheaply and so frequently? And when Neymar gets booked for trying to handball in the rebound to a header he should have converted from just six yards out, it isn't so much 'Hand of God' as 'Hand of Dog' in his case, with this woeful display of petulance and tantrums. Maradona got away with that in 1986 but did Neymar really think that in 2015 nobody would notice if he scored with his hand?
Colombia's goal is deserved and sends tens of thousands into raptures. In the second half, the Brasilian '11', Roberto Firmino, does finally give the Brasilians another dimension down the left flank but then blasts over the bar from 10 yards out when he has the whole goal at his mercy. With Sanchez dominant to such a degree that he makes most of the other players on the pitch look like small boys, that is clearly the end of Brasil. Yes, Neymar pulls off one incredible trick: a kind of nutmeg-stepover-chip (while running at full pace), which is one of the most outrageously skillful pieces of football I've ever seen, but he's lucky to stay on the pitch after blatantly shoving a Colombian in the chest midway through the second half. And you can pretty much see where this is going to end; the only surprise being that the Hand of Dog waits until just after the final whistle to take a running kick at one of the Colombians, the reaction not surprisingly a 44-man-brawl...well, 42 handbags and two bits of genuine naughtiness. Two are red carded including the Hand of Dog. Brasil - do yourselves a favour and make a mature man like Silva your captain, instead of a young boy who's probably struggling to deal with all the fame and pressure!
The metro station looks like an accident waiting to happen. We don't fancy being in the middle of that giant crush, particularly with the Cabinieros getting agitated. An hour after the game, with the street vendors clearing away their 1,000-peso-meat-sandwich stalls and one-dollar Arturo Vidal face masks, a couple of young kids getting nabbed by the police for drinking beer in the street (when they for some reason ignore the five Europeans doing exactly the same thing), we chance upon a taxi and leave the subutteo floodlights and a dramatic night at the Monumental behind us.