England: The Same Old Story

We arrived at the now-familiar surroundings of Sao Paulo’s Tiete bus station once again not long after 6am. Initial thoughts: it was cold. Even by UK standards, it was fairly chilly. My shorts/ t-shirt combo may have met it’s match. Due to a lack of space in my rucksack, I’d decided to gamble and travel without a warm top. This was the day I was beginning to regret it. After another fresh juice, we hopped in a cab and headed to the stadium. Again, it was far earlier than we needed to be, but logistically there was no other option. There’s not enough to do in the bus station to warrant hanging around there for a few hours…much rather have internet and quiet surroundings to be able to catch up on editing and admin.

It wasn’t all that long before a host of familiar faces arrived courtesy of the official England media trip, coordinated by travel specialists, BAC Sport. Photographers, journalists and reporters from UK organisations flooded into the Media Centre, many of whom were hesitant to express any optimism with regards to England’s chances of progressing from the group. I approached the Canon desk, manned superfluously by Graham Smith, and managed to secure a loaned 200-400mm f/4 lens for the game. Once again, I was positioned in the tribune, so I knew the range and reach of the 200-400 would tick all the boxes.

I climbed the ridiculous number of steps to reach floor 9…without a lift, 30kg can start to take it’s toll after a few flights of stairs. The tribune was, again, sparsely populated. I had enough room either side of me for my bags as well as my laptop…a rare luxury at the World Cup.

As the light began to drop soon after kick-off, the clouds overhead began to deepen in what appeared to be a metaphor of things to come…

 

Flags hang from the stadium roof
Flags hang from the stadium roof

 

A general view of the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo
A general view of the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo

 

The game had a fiery edge from the start. From the moment the teams emerged for the warm-up, the England fans had been making their feelings known towards Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker. After the racism furore, the biting incident, and untold amounts of play-acting and, frankly, cheating, Suarez is more or less public enemy number one…and that’s before the whistle blows. The amount of booing far outweighed the number of cheers as the game got under way, every touch of the ball Suarez got receiving a torrent of abuse from the red and white end of the stadium…

 

A huge presence of England fans in the stadium
A huge presence of England fans in the stadium

 

Some ferocious action ensued, with England’s Steven Gerrard coming up against his club teammate in the middle of the park…

 

Luis Suarez of Uruguay battles with Steven Gerrard of England
Luis Suarez of Uruguay battles with Steven Gerrard of England

 

However, it was Suarez himself – it had to be – who opened the scoring. A great chipped cross from the long-haired Edinson Cavani floated into the box, over the head of Phil Jagielka. Suarez peeled away from the England defender and headed it back across goal into the far corner, beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Joe Hart. 1-0…

 

Luis Suarez scores Uruguay's 1st goal past a helpless Joe Hart
Luis Suarez scores Uruguay’s 1st goal past a helpless Joe Hart

 

Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates his 1st goal
Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates his 1st goal

 

Luis Suarez celebrates on the sideline
Luis Suarez celebrates on the sideline

 

Luis Suarez collapses in an emotional heap as he celebrates his side's opener
Luis Suarez collapses in an emotional heap as he celebrates his side’s opener

 

Suarez celebrated with the intensity he’s become known for. He celebrates every goal like it’s his first, or last, whichever way you look at it. But he’d barely stopped kissing his knuckles and waving to stands before England had drawn level through – finally – Wayne Rooney. Rooney’s first World Cup goal in three tournaments couldn’t have come at a better time. Glen Johnson fought his way through a barrage of challenges on the right side of the box before poking it across towards the far post. Rooney couldn’t miss, and didn’t. 1-1…

 

Wayne Rooney scores England's equaliser, his 1st in a World Cup
Wayne Rooney scores England’s equaliser, his 1st in a World Cup

 

Wayne Rooney peels away after scoring England's equaliser
Wayne Rooney peels away after scoring England’s equaliser

 

Wayne Rooney (R) celebrates with teammate Ross Barkley after scoring the equaliser
Wayne Rooney (R) celebrates with teammate Ross Barkley after scoring the equaliser

 

The game came alive as both sides fought for an invaluable second goal…

 

England hold a high defensive line
England hold a high defensive line

 

Gary Cahill of England competes with Luis Suarez of Uruguay
Gary Cahill of England competes with Luis Suarez of Uruguay

 

Daniel Sturridge of England battles with Diego Godin of Uruguay
Daniel Sturridge of England battles with Diego Godin of Uruguay

 

Steven Gerrard of England tackles Uruguay's Christian Rodriguez
Steven Gerrard of England tackles Uruguay’s Christian Rodriguez

 

And then it came. Once again, Luis Suarez struck gold for his country, latching onto aglanced header from a goal kick and burying the ball in the back of the English net with ruthless efficiency…

 

Luis Suarez scores the winner for Uruguay
Luis Suarez scores the winner for Uruguay

 

Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring a late 2nd goal for Uruguay
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring a late 2nd goal for Uruguay

 

Luis Suarez waves to the crowd as he celebrates his 2nd goal
Luis Suarez waves to the crowd as he celebrates his 2nd goal

 

The few remaining minutes ticked by with little meaningful response from England, and the game finished 2-1 to the South Americans. Suarez comforted a dejected Steven Gerrard, his club teammate. This moment between the two Liverpool stars was always going to be a key picture of the evening, whatever it involved, but the touch of sincere compassion shown by the Uruguayan enhanced the moment even further. The papers were full of it the next day. Our view from the tribune was slightly obscured by another player, which is often the problem encountered when shooting from the stands….

 

England players look dejected following Uruguay's late 2nd goal
England players look dejected following Uruguay’s late 2nd goal

 

Luis Suarez consoles Steven Gerrard at the final whistle
Luis Suarez consoles Steven Gerrard at the final whistle

 

Steven Gerrard looks dejected following England's defeat
Steven Gerrard looks dejected following England’s defeat

 

Fortunately, Mark Pain, Offside’s other man on the ground, managed to capture it himself, making it onto the back page of the following day’s Times newspaper in the process.

As we left the Arena Corinthians, we’d made the wise decision to jump on a Media Shuttle bus and go straight to a designated hotel, from where we knew we could catch a taxi to the Tiete bus station. Unlike our previous visit, when it was the airport we needed, this time we were heading in the same direction as the hotels, so we knew it wouldn’t be a huge round trip. What a relief it was to be able to jump on a free, luxury coach outside the door, arrive at a hotel, get straight in a cab, and within 15 minutes, be right where we needed to be. An 8-hour journey to Belo Horizonte awaited us, as did a hotel and a day off. The little things in life…

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Dean says:

    Sadly Godin not sent off for a clothes line tackle on Stirling was the turning point in the game that and the fact that we are crap.

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