Friday, November 23, 2007

Peru v Brazil November 2007

Played in the Monumental stadium in Lima this World Cup Qualifying game attracted 61,000 plus some others who, despite having tickets never made it into the stadium.
The authorities closed the gates because of an apparently full ground.

Its takes a taxi ride & a longish walk to get near the stadium. Because there is only one way in , the stadium being ringed by mountains, the roads are blocked at various points by the police.

But when the weather is pleasant enough & the surroundings impressive despite the blatant advertising (see pics) it is a very traditional way to approach a game, amongst the fans.

Your correspondent had about 3 days in Lima.
Choosing to be in the centre is not the best option as the hotels are generally old & uninviting & apart from the very impressive main square there is not too much to see.
So i'll opt for nearby Miraflores as a base next time.

But football was the focus.

It was a mediocre Brazil performance , at times languid, but lit up by a sublime finish from star-man Kaka.
Having taken the lead you would assume Brazil would go on to win especially considering the past history (3 wins by Peru from 37 encounters)

But Peru had plenty of play & deserved their equaliser, even though it was from a deflected shot. It certainly got the locals animated & the goal was shown repeatedly on television.

It was my last game on this trip to South America & I finished off the evening with a couple of pisco sours (a very reasonable alternative to a caipirinha) & a steak.

Atletico Paranaense v Sport Recife November 2007

your correspondents' plan was to visit Asuncion for a weekend.
However this schedule was amended as the Gol flight bound for Paraguay was unable to land due to bad weather and went on to Curitiba , in Brazil.

One perhaps not always recognised aspect of travel , being by definition outside of most normal routines, is to cope with situations that arise unexpectedly.

My choice was to take an indirect flight (there being no available direct flights - 'until wednesday') to the Paraguay/Brazil border then a bus onto to Asuncion to arrive at maybe 5 or 6 am the next day.

Or I could stay in Brazil - a quick check of the paper confirmed there was a game in Curitiba on the Sunday.
So that was my choice - unwind the Asuncion reservation & settle in Curitiba for the weekend.
And enjoy the odd caipirinha, my favourite cocktail, at a budget price.

A pleasant enough centre of a largish city with an interesting historic area Curitiba was bright, sunny & vibrant on a Saturday morning.
Still trendy platform boots were the most recognisable fashion statement as on my last visit to Brazil.

As nice as Saturday was mingling with the locals enjoying the sunshine my preference (as always) was to see a game. My optimism was raised slightly as I saw some Coritiba fans at a garage - unfortunately there were 4 of them , in a smallish car, otherwise I would have asked them for 'lift'to their game in Florianopolis (against Avai)
Due to the distance involved & my need to get back to Curitiba , my only realistic hope had been to do the trip by car.

But I had to settle for just the one game - played on the Sunday between Atletico Paranaense & Sport Recife.

Atletico are one of three main teams in Curitiba - they and Coritiba have the biggest support followed by Parana. Incidentally I was told that the 3rd best supported team in this city was actually Corinthians (of Sao Paulo)

Atletico play in a 2/3rds built European style stadium (see pic) that they expect to expand to a capacity of 41000. Like many in Europe (not least Wembley) it had the seats decked out in red.

The impression was of a go-ahead club (the club have given Japanese electronics company ,Kyocera, the stadium naming rights) that will be prominent in promoting its stadium/city as a candidate for the 2014 World Cup.

Certainly the combination of a modern ground & a pleasant/secure city seem like a winning formula to this observer.

Sadly the game didn´t really live up to the surroundings (or the support from the ultras)

It being goalless despite Sport playing with ten men for the last quarter. Atletico had a bag full of free kicks - only one of which got very close.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Argentina November 2007

1. Clasicos - two Argentinian Derbies

Belgrano v Tallares 0-1

The Estadio Olimpico, also known as the Estadio Cordoba, is an interesting 1978 world cup stadium on the outskirts of town.

Interesting partly because of the particularly poor sightlines that would be apparent to anybody standing behind the goals. Curiously , because of the poor viewing & no doubt because of the World Cup connection, it brought back memories, to this observer, of the White City in 1966.
Then (for France v Uruguay) it rained - this time it was fine & warm.

Despite being nominally Tallares' home ground the stadium was full of only one colour, light blue, as Belgrano were the designated home side in this big Cordoba derby.
Since this was in the Nacional B, the 2nd level in Argentina, no away fans were allowed entry.

The Belgrano fans certainly produced plenty of atmosphere in the 36000 crowd .
Even in the vast open bowl of a stadium they still generated quite some noise.

But their team missed a number of gilt edged chances (headers especially) , had a man sent off & were then frustrated by a Tallares side who scored then wasted time fairly blatantly afterwards.

And so it was I trooped back towards town with the downcast fans, finding a taxi up the road for a ride back to the centre.
There some roads were blocked as the police re-directed traffic around the Tallares fans celebrating in one of the central squares.
So black & white became prominent as the light blues were diverted along different streets to a quiet homecoming.

Incidentally in their next home game Tallares had over 30000 for their defeat of Godoy Cruz - no doubt they were in very celebratory mood.

San Lorenzo v Huracan 1-1

A traditional Buenos Aires clasico with added spice as they have not met for 3 or 4 years .

Good but not great, the Neuvo Gasometro had a slightly disappointing 32000 inside - not full in either the San Lorenzo plateas(seats) or at the Huracan end (due to restricted ticket sales)
But at least there were away fans , including the somewhat notorious barra brava with their red & white umbrellas.

Huracan had most cause to celebrate as they came away with a draw (1-1) , a moral victory.
Their fans prolonged the agony by taking their time to depart the visiting section , such that it was at least 40 minutes before the gates were opened to the rest of us.

Incidentally Huracan are one of couple of teams that have announced some stadium development plans (Boca being the other)
For sure their fairly old ground is in need of some cover as anyone who has experienced a game in the rain will testify.

And most of Independientes old stadium has now been demolished.
The schedule is to build the new stadium (European style) by June 2008 - which might well be a little optimistic.

2. Copa Sudamericana

For this writer hardly a goal-fest.
Three games seen in this competition & three 0-0 draws , all involving River Plate.

The first against Defensor of Uruguay (guess they don't score many goals anyway)
then two games against Argentinian opposition :

Arsenal v River, River v Arsenal

the first game played in the smallish (c. 15000 attendance) 'Viaduct' stadium in Sarandi was a bit of a chess match with few clear cut chances.
Though Damonte of Arsenal did catch the eye at times.

Prior to the draw it was considered a surprise if Arsenal (known rather disconcertingly as arse) ,a relatively new & unheralded team with limited support, beat one of the giants of Buenos Aires.

But it happened following another goalless draw in the Monumental watched by 50,000.

This time with more close things including Biagini of Arsenal hitting the bar in the opening minutes.

Overall Arsenal defended well & their goalie (Cuenca) starred with a number of saves as well as scoring the final penalty (a la Rogerio Ceni) blasted home to seal victory. It helped that River had a man sent off.

But River did have a small ,tricky left footed midfielder called Diego (Buonanotte) - expect to see more of him in the future.

So a place in the Final awaits Arsenal, against America (of Mexico)

Whereas Rivers' coach Passarella's stay is at an end. As he said when it goes quiet at the Monumental, as it did at the finish - thats death.

3. The Apertura title race

Can Lanus win the title for the first time ever ?

I saw them overcome Tigre, 2-1, before a large, passionate (what else ?) crowd of 40,000 & maintain their lead at the top of the Apertura.

From the way they attacked they will take some stopping this season.