Here is a few seconds of video I took showing the 30,000 Chilean fans prior to kick off against Uruguay:
At Cordoba central station I grab a taxi for the 15-kilometre drive to the stadium, which is looking like one big traffic jam.
Against all the odds, and almost 24 hours on from when I first tried to set off from Mendoza for Cordoba, I make it to the stadium with an hour to spare. Leamington Spa comes and meets me outside with my ticket and I'm in!
The Mario Kempes stadium is named after the star of the 1978 World Cup, which was held in Argentina. That tournament was when I first fell in love with football, aged 7. Thirty years later it feels like a great privilege to be here.
Just taking my seat, who should stride past, dropping his shoulder to sidestep curious onlookers, but the great man himself. Yes, it is Mario Kempes in the Mario Kempes stadium, while down on the pitch below a new generation of Brasilian stars such as Neymar are just beginning their journey of fame.
Brasil are fancied to easily overturn Ecuador, but it is 28 minutes before Pato gives them the lead with a header thanks to a nicely floated ball from the left flank. But, Ecuador,aren't about to roll over and reply inside ten minutes with a speculative shot from Caicedo from outside the box, which squeezes horribly under Cesar.
Brasil retake the lead early in the second half thanks to a great strike from Neymar but, Caicedo not to be outdone, conjurs up another long range effort that this time easily beats Cesar to make it 2-2. Brasil look rattled but the mark of a class side is to retake the lead when their backs are against the wall. Neymar gets on the end of a loose ball to make it 3-2 on the hour mark, and when Pato scores his second and Brasil's fourth with 20 minutes remaining, it destroys what was left of Ecuador's valiant effort to qualify for the quarter finals.
Final score: Brasil 4 Ecuador 2
Mendoza’s streets are lined with sycamore trees giving the city a slight similarity to some of the cities of the former Soviet Union such as Tbilisi. It is a nicely laid back place with the Plaza Independencia pride of place amongst its grid of streets, where the odd colonial gem of a building peaks out at you from behind the sycamore leaves, and the enormous San Martin park on the edge of the city gives residents an easy and attractive escape from urban life. I get the feeling that Mendoza is the nicest of Argentina’s sizeable cities.
Just outside of the city are some of South America’s best vineyards, where the likes of Sottano Malbec and Ruca Malen Kinien are harvested for wine connoisseurs and casual post-office Monday night drinkers in Europe.
Looming above the city are the Andes mountains. It is just 2 hours from Mendoza before you can reach their true spectacular beauty and another couple of hours before the mountain pass reaches the Chilean border and its high point at around 3,000 metres above sea level. And it is also here, with the popular Los Penitentes ski resort and abandoned railway towns disappearing with the elements, that you can glimpse the roof of the Andes and South America’s highest peak, Aconcagua at 6962 metres.
The mountain really is a spectacular site, rising high into the heavens in the distance despite the fact that it is still a good 20 kilometres away from the route 7 mountain pass.
The Incas built a road through here, the British built a railway, and in 1935 a 60-metre tall wall of water rushed through the valley and destroyed whole sections of both. Most of route 7 escaped the carnage but when you see the remains of the road today you appreciate just why only drivers with a special license were permitted to attempt to negotiate the road…it truly is a scary and dangerous mountain pass, with it appearing impossible for two vehicles to have passed it each other in certain places. The new route 7 is far from scary and is in remarkably good condition considering that this is the main artery between Santiago and Argentina.
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info
I am sat with a very cold bottle of Andes beer in a retro hotel kitchen feeling a bit sorry for myself. At this very moment I should be tucked up instead under a very posh blanket, sipping red Malbec on the overnight luxury express from Mendoza to Cordoba. Obviously, you will conclude from this that I have managed to miss my bus...
Big deal you might say, but by missing the Cordoba bus by 10 minutes - it left exactly as scheduled at 10:30pm - it means that I will not be able to get to Cordoba in time for the Brasil v Ecuador match tomorrow (the 13th). Just to rub salt in the wounds I have lost the 70 euros it cost for the bus ticket, I have spent a small fortune in taxi fares chasing buses and trying to find hotel rooms and, until 30 minutes ago, it was looking like I really really might have nowhere to sleep tonight.
You see there were 35,000 Chileans in town for tonight's 1-0 victory over Peru, and a big proportion of them are spending the night in Mendoza. Rooms have been booked up for months. I know, because I booked my room here for the previous four nights, two months ago, when many hotels were already fully booked.
It was all going so well...the match between Chile and Peru was great value and with an atmosphere to match ( report to follow). With the game kicking off at 7:15 I reckoned I should have enough time - even allowing for disasters - to make it to the coach station for my 10:30 bus. With the game finishing at 9pm, I was the first on the press bus at 9:10. The terminal is only about 20 minutes away so I had bags of time. However, two press conferences and a very unhelpful jobsworth driver later, time was beginning to run out. I couldn't walk because I had my rucksack with me and the central park has a reputation for being very dodgy at night. It was also impossible to get a taxi because of the sheer demand relative to supply. Basically, I was stuck and dependent upon the bus filling up and leaving in enough time.
There are several press buses but the driver wouldn't leave until the very final seat was taken and he had finished his 25th cigarette. He also refused to drop any of the journalists anywhere aside from his final destination.
I jumped out of the bus as soon as we hit the centre of town. Ten minutes of pointless sprinting down the street and wild gesticulations at passing taxis later I managed to flag one down. The driver was a star, doing a Hollywood style full speed dodge in and out of the traffic to try and get me to the station on time. He did pretty well. I got there at 10:40...
...but this is Argentina, a place of great contradictions. It might have taken me one hour to change a single US 100 dollar note today because of 'broken bank systems', very odd banking rules and the absurdly long daily queues at banks here, but the buses always run on time.
I offered several drivers cash to chase the Cordoba bus but three told me their taxis weren't fast enough to catch the Andesmar bus! Swearing like a sailor in the central bus station wasn't really helping either; in fact it was in danger of making me some new unwanted friends.
So, i get another taxi back to the hotel I stayed at before (which I knew was full, but would at least server as temporary sanctuary). What happens next? My taxi breaks down. Yeah, really. You can't make it up, can you? More swearing like a Ukrainian sailor, although at a much quieter tone this time, and i have to walk the last 15 minutes. trying to keep my options open, I ask at every hotel en route: "Full", "Full", "Complit".
As it turns out, my friends at the one-star City Hotel do everything they can to help, even to the point of letting me have the room of some Chileans who remain a no-show (probably still in the pub).
But after the 70 euro wasted bus ticket and two taxi fares - not to mention the damage of missing the Brasil match - I now have the addition of having to pay for a 2-person room (i.e. twice as much as my previous single) here in Mendoza tonight, and will also have to pay for a room I will never use in Cordoba tomorrow.
...time for another beer me thinjks...
It is not often that you pass on the opportunity to watch Argentina play, but it was either a trip up into the Andes or an overnight bus to Cordoba to watch Argentina v Costa Rica. I decided to take the high road west...
Images of Route 7, linking Mendoza with Santiago, Chile:
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info
Images from Mendoza on Argentina's July 9th Independence Day:
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011
There were 43,000 'football tourists' in Mendoza for the back-to-back matches between Chile v Uruguay & Peru v Mexico played at Mendoza's atmospheric Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Friday evening. Could four sets of football fans (five if you included local Argentines) exist in the same stadium without mayhem ensuing?
The omens didn't look good when local Argentine youths attacked visiting Chilean fans in the main square, Plaza Independencia, prior to the match, on what had been an otherwise good-natured day in Mendoza.
Once inside the stadium the terraces were truly buzzing. Uruguay had perhaps four thousand fans in one section, Mexico and Peru maybe 1,000 each, while Chilean fans had taken over the rest of the stadium with 30,000 or so fans creating an electric atmosphere that even the Argentine fans could not come close to matching in their two opening games in La Plata and Santa Fe.
It was an absorbing match (click here to see the highlights), with Uruguay creating many of the better chances in the early exchanges, with Luis Suarez looking particularly dangerous for the blues. The match ended 1-1 with goals from Pereira for Uruguay and an equalizer for Chile from Alexis Sanchez shortly after the hour mark. As the game reached an exciting climax it was Chile that looked the more dangerous, largely thanks to substitute Valdivia, who had the beating of the Uruguayan defence.
There were some small incidents of crowd trouble but, bizarrely, the most memorable fight of the evening involved members of the press from Uruguay and Chile. It seems as if you can put thousands of opposing football fans together in the same stadium but, when it comes to journalists...
With Chile now on 4 points and Uruguay on 2, Chile must fancy their chances of winning the group when they play again in Mendoza on Tuesday evening, with tens of thousands of fans expected to be present again, many of them staying on in the wine city, while thousands will once again make the 7-hour bus journey over the Andes from Santiago.
Less than one hour later Peru kicked off against Mexico in the same stadium. Reappearing from the press centre many of us expected to see the stadium still full with the tens of thousands of Chileans, assuming they would stay to watch the second match. However, as the national anthems played the stadium remained only about one quarter full, with most Chileans either celebrating in Plaza Independencia or beginning the high altitude drive home.
As the mercury dropped, it is fair to say that the second match was something of a soulless anticlimax. Mexico had several players sent home for 'bad behaviour' prior to this match and those that remain are mostly young and vastly inexperienced players who do not look good enough for this tournament. Either that or Mexico simply don't have their heart in this one. The match ended 1-0 to Peru thanks to Guerrero, with the 'white and reds' bossing the game in the final stages.
Peru now meet arch rivals Chile in the same stadium on Tuesday evening.
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info
Here are images from the back-to-back games in Mendoza between Uruguay v Chile & Mexico v Peru:
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info
Just arrived in Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes, after a 14-hour overnight bus journey. Following on from yesterday's custard cream incident there was more bizarre stuff with the steward inviting everybody to play a game of bingo on the overnight Andesmar bus. The bloke sat next to me was a dead ringer for Christopher Lee (the 80s Dracula star).
In Mendoza ahead of today's double-header between Peru & Mexico, and Uruguay v Chile. Still not quite sure how they are going to deal with four different sets of fans in one stadium for two simultaneous matches
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.