The Last 16

As the last round of games are played out in the Group stages, the 2nd Round fixtures begin to become apparent. You can try your best to predict these at the start of the tournament, but sport is sport, often surprising and almost entirely unpredictable. We guessed Brazil would top Group A, but had no idea Chile would emerge runners-up in their own group, which also contained Spain, the Netherlands and Australia.

This meant that Chile would play the hosts in Belo Horizonte, a place beginning to feel like our home-from-home, for a place in the Quarter Finals. The ticketing process for photographers in the knockout stage works in the same way as it does for the group stages, although, as I said before, the group stages had to be applied for in bulk during March / April time. Once both competing teams have been confirmed for the match, the ticketing process opens, usually at around 9pm that evening, and it remains open only for 24 hours. With Brazil being drawn to play their opening knockout game just six hours down the road, it seemed a no-brainer to apply. Uruguay threw a spanner in the works when they could only manage runners-up in England’s Group, D, behind surprise group winners Costa Rica. This pitted them against fellow South Americans Colombia in the Maracana – a seriously tasty affair, and one I was gutted to have to miss.

I discussed the merits of one game over the other with the guys back in London, and it was decided that the story of Brazil’s potential elimination would outweigh that of the game in Rio, despite all it had going for it.

After a couple of days’ recuperation, the game was upon us. Myself, Chris and Matt had all applied to this game, and so with bus tickets booked, we packed our bags and made our way there.

That evening, my body decided to shut down on me and I descended into a weakness and horrific ill health. At 4pm, I felt a bit dozy, nothing new, but by 7pm, I was genuinely struggling to walk. I was hot, cold, dizzy, vomiting…all I wanted to do was curl up and close my eyes. What I DIDN’T want to do was take a taxi to a bus station, board a 6hr bus along one of the bumpiest roads on the continent and then photography the biggest game of Brazil’s World Cup so far. However, conversations throughout that day with the office had dictated that this was the game to do, and for various reasons, it would’ve caused more agro than I could’ve described had I decided to stay put and crawl to the Maracana instead.

Wearing jeans and a hoody for the first time on the trip, I sat down on the cold floor resting up against a marble pillar in the concourse of the Rio Novo bus station, waiting for Chris and Matt to collect our tickets, surrounded by thousands of pounds’ worth of camera equipment, with absolutely no energy whatsoever to do anything about anyone who may have decided having a pop at it. Thankfully, little did they know I was the easiest target in the building at that point, by some stretch. I’d consumed 2 litres of water in the past couple of hours, and continued to down more. A monster 750mg paracetamol taken 4hrs earlier was now being topped up with an additional 400mg of Ibuprofen. “That should do the job,” I thought, as I clambered aboard the 23:55, slumping into my seat with a groan of relief. My head was spinning and my stomach felt like it was at the back of my throat. Thankfully, I don’t remember much of the next six hours, except waking up to the bright lights of the rodoviario in Belo Horizonte.

Although far from tip top, I appeared to be a lot livelier than the other boys, both of whom had experienced a shoddy journey. After finding something light to re-fuel with, we grabbed a cab and headed to the Adagio hotel again, where we were greeted by the ever-chirpy volunteers as we stepped aboard the Media Shuttle bus.

The only stop en route to the stadium took in the Sol Presidente Hotel, just a few minutes away, where another colleague from England’s north west, Peter Powell, joined us. His schedule for the tournament, working for EPA, focussed solely on Belo Horizonte – every match in the city had his name on it, but nothing anywhere else. Everyone we’d spoken to so far on our travels had given us a different perspective to this World Cup. Some were happy to be following one team, others happy to be based in one city, others moaning, some because of the 20 flights they had to take, some because their hotels were terrible or there wasn’t WiFi on every street corner throughout the country. We’d had our fair share of concerns with Joe’s place, and will continue to do so until we leave, but the grass always seem greener and we were hearing plenty of stories from other photographers and journalists, enough to realise there were people experiencing a far worse World Cup experience than ourselves.

We arrived at Estadio Mineirao and proceeded to head straight to the ticketing desk, where we could collect our queue positions. We’d all been assigned to Priority Group 3. I was the 19th person to arrive in that particular group. I took a seat at one of the many deserted tables lining the long, tented SMC and got to work on the usual admin that never seems to go away. It wasn’t long before I needed a break. A walk outside to mingle with the Brazilians sounded just the ticket. The sun was beating down on the stadium, the blank canvas of the concrete concourse outside awash with brightly-coloured fans taking selfies, posing with beer cups, hats, flags, family and friends.

Inside, the mood was much the same. The 1pm kick-off meant the sun was high in the sky. Once again, fans bathed in the warm Brazilian heat. Singing and dancing, supporters of both sides lit up the arena as FIFA’s marquee event took centre stage right around the world…

 

Fans dressed as Panini stickers
Fans dressed as Panini stickers

 

English referee Howard Webb leads the teams out of the tunnel
English referee Howard Webb leads the teams out of the tunnel

 

The Brazilian players walk out, hands on each other's shoulders
The Brazilian players walk out, hands on each other’s shoulders

 

Crouched down, I can be seen here taking the shot above, of the Brazil players walking out
Crouched down, I can be seen here taking the shot above, of the Brazil players walking out    (PHOTO: REINALDO CODDOU)

 

The game was played at a high pace from the off. This was a signature of the Chilean side, and something the Brazilians had to step up to. They’re fine on the attack, but stereotypically poor getting back to defend. The speed of the game meant my movements as a photographer were fairly lively too. One moment the ball was up at the far end, the next it was in my 6-yard box, then it was being cleared, then there were three short passes followed by a shot. It was continuous. I was switching lenses like there was no tomorrow. Fortunately, I had room to work in on this occasion. I had no one directly to my right, and a photographer with no gear of any notable size to my left. This made space for me to swing my cameras around with a little less care than I would’ve done had it been jam-packed.

The ‘photographer’ to my left, at one point early on, even had the audacity to ask me what shutter speed he should be using. At the World Cup finals in Brazil…“what shutter speed should I use?” Shocked at what I was hearing, I suggested “it depends what you want to shoot”. By this, I meant slow panning shots, or freezing the action, long depth of field, narrow depth of field?

In response, he pointed at the action going on in front of us on the pitch – the football, in this case – and said, “well, this.”

I was lost for words. Literally. I just turned away from him and let him figure it out for himself. He was using a Nikon D4s body and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, both loaned to him from Nikon, worth a total of about £8,000. It was obvious that he’d used a camera like this  perhaps…never. More than anything, it was annoying and embarrassing to be honest. Regardless of which country he was from, and whether his organisation had an equipment budget or not, he shouldn’t have been there…simple. Come the Final, or certainly the busier matches at the business end of the tournament, people like this take valuable seats around the stadium from genuine photographers. The pinnacle of world football should be covered by the world’s leading football photographers and no one else. I’m not saying I’m one of them, but I’ve certainly learnt from one of them, so I know the level I’m at and I believe in my ability and right to be there.

 

Luiz Gustavo of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile
Luiz Gustavo of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile

 

David Luiz of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile
David Luiz of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile

 

Eduardo Vargas of Chile gets away from Daniel Alves of Brazil
Eduardo Vargas of Chile gets away from Daniel Alves of Brazil

 

Brazil took the lead at the far end, with David Luiz bundling in at the far post. 1-0. The crowd erupted, the noise was incredible. I salvaged what I could from being 100 yards away, but it just didn’t work. I was gutted…I felt Chile deserved a goal just as much as Brazil, and that they were unlucky not to have got one…

 

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar celebrates their opening goal
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar celebrates their opening goal

 

But then it came. Alexis Sanchez took the ball forward at the top of the box and slammed it home into the far corner to draw level. Realising I’d left it too late to switch to my short lens, I stayed tight on the 400mm and shot it as it was. Unable to zoom out on the fixed 400mm, only the roar of the crowd indicated to me that the ball had gone in. I watched replays on the big screen afterwards and was annoyed not to have switched to the 70-200mm…that goal picture would’ve had everything in it and would’ve opened my account properly. Alas, it wasn’t to be…

 

Alexis Sanchez scores the equalising goal for Chile
Alexis Sanchez scores the equalising goal for Chile

 

Brazil pressed hard for a second goal. Chances came their way, but they couldn’t convert them…

 

Hulk of Brazil sees his shot saved
Hulk of Brazil sees his shot saved

 

Charles Aranguiz of Chile challenges Marcelo of Brazil
Charles Aranguiz of Chile challenges Marcelo of Brazil

 

Jo of Brazil sees hisshot blocked by Gary Medel of Chile
Jo of Brazil sees hisshot blocked by Gary Medel of Chile

 

Neymar of Brazil gets past Francisco Silva of Chile
Neymar of Brazil gets past Francisco Silva of Chile

 

Fernandinho of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile
Fernandinho of Brazil battles with Arturo Vidal of Chile

 

David Luiz of Brazil shouts back at Eduardo Vargas of Chile
David Luiz of Brazil shouts back at Eduardo Vargas of Chile

 

First came extra time, but with no change in the scoreline after another half hour’s play, nothing but penalties could decide it. The first knockout game produces the first shootout of the tournament so far.

I’d spent the previous five minutes locking my gear to my seat and double locking the bags to each other. I didn’t want to stray from my chair during the penalty shootout and return to find my entire collection of equipment gone. As the final whistle went, I made my way to the halfway line, from where I could move to whichever end I needed to in the same amount of time. An official from FIFA informed us all that the spot kicks would be taken at the far end. Armed with three cameras – all 1DXs – and lenses – a 400mm, a 70-200mm, and a 24-70mm – I trotted down the sideline to the far end as quickly as I could. Just after I arrived, I looked up to see referee Howard Webb walking towards the far end, with the players lining upon the halfway facing the other way. FIFA??? He had ONE job to do! ONE!

I jogged all the way back to where I’d just come from, and settled back into my original seat on the edge of the penalty box, with the goal to my left. FIFA officials manned the area behind the goals with extreme efficiency, strictly enforcing the rule that photographers could only shoot penalty shootouts from a seat, or from a standing position behind the seats. Under no circumstances could we go behind the goal or even just to one side. Perhaps this would be ignored for the Final, but it wasn’t worth any hassle at this stage of the tournament.

Up stepped David Luiz, the curly-haired Chelsea defender, to strike first. A whole mixture of emotions rumbled around the Minerao as he placed the ball on the spot. He rifled it home into the bottom left corner, sending goalkeeper Claudio Bravo the wrong way. 1-0. Off and running.

 

David Luiz scores the 1st penalty in the shootout for Brazil
David Luiz scores the 1st penalty in the shootout for Brazil

 

David Luiz celebrates after scoring his penalty in the shootout
David Luiz celebrates after scoring his penalty in the shootout

 

I adjusted my position slightly, to try and get a tighter angle to the goal. And then I moved back again. The seat I was in left a large gap between the striker and the goal, with nothing but press seats and dugouts for a background. I had no option though. If I moved to the other side of the goal, I’d have to stand even wider because of the TV cameras over there, and would be shooting the goings-on in the shade, with a sunny stand lit up behind. With each spot kick that was taken, I reverted from my 70-200mm to my 400mm, to record the emotions and responses from players of both sides lined up on the halfway line. Some were down on their knees praying into the ground, others had their eyes closed, unable to watch, the fate of their tournament in the hands of a handful of individual teammates.

 

Brazil players look concerned during the shootout
Brazil players look concerned during the shootout

 

Brazil's Neymar kisses the ball before taking his penalty in the shootout
Brazil’s Neymar kisses the ball before taking his penalty in the shootout

 

It was a strange shootout. Both sides missed a surprising number of attempts on goal…unfortunately for Chile though, they missed more than Brazil. I lost track of the score until, it emerged, the decider was imminent. Gonzalo Jara blasted his penalty against the inside of the post, the ball seeming to take forever to travel back across the face of goal before becoming clear it hadn’t gone in. When it did become obvious, the crowd quite simply erupted.

The Brazilian players surged forward from the halfway line with manic excitement to congratulate goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who had saved two spot kicks to help them to victory…

 

Brazil players celebrate victory in the shootout
Brazil players celebrate victory in the shootout

 

Julio Cesar, the Brazil goalkeeper, celebrates victory with his teammates
Julio Cesar, the Brazil goalkeeper, celebrates victory with his teammates

 

Chile players stand dejected on the halfway line following their defeat in the shootout
Chile players stand dejected on the halfway line following their defeat in the shootout

 

Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo looks dejected
Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo looks dejected

 

Jorge Valdivia of Chile pulls his shorts up and his bib over his head following their defeat in the shootout
Jorge Valdivia of Chile pulls his shorts up and his bib over his head following their defeat in the shootout

 

Fabian Orellana of Chile leads the applause as the dejected players go out of the tournament
Fabian Orellana of Chile leads the applause as the dejected players go out of the tournament

 

The mood in the stadium was a mixture of joy and dejection. This is always the case after a penalty shootout, with both sides starting on level terms and ending up at opposite ends of the emotional scale. However, the sheer weight of Chilean support seen throughout the World Cup meant their team’s elimination from the tournament would leave a lasting effect felt far beyond the confines of the La Roja dressing room. They’ve been one of the highlights so far in Brazil…despite the misbehaviour of a small group of fans in Rio, their support, on the whole, has been first class. No other team, bar perhaps Argentina and the hosts, Brazil, can boast of a set of fans capable of producing the sorts of decibels the Chileans have shown.

For the Brazilians, the feeling was a combination of elation and relief. They know their side is far from perfect, and that their defence remains the weak link in their game. However, as long as they keep winning, everyone stays happy. Buses keep running, trains keep going, planes keep flying and roads remain clear. For more than just footballing reasons, few people currently on the ground in Brazil will be anything but overjoyed to see the home nation make it all the way.

We packed up and caught the penultimate Media Shuttle bus out of the stadium, reaching the Best Western Sol Hotel 30 minutes later. Here, we had a bite to eat in a room full of Brazil supporters gently engrossed in their own analysis of the game, many of whom we could tell were also discussing their reaction to Uruguay’s surprise exit at the hands of Colombia.

The tail end of my illness was still hanging around. I thought a good meal would improve things but it did little to help…if anything, the opposite. We hailed a cab outside the hotel at 11pm and headed to the bus station, just a short ride away.

Getting our gear onto the buses has never been a problem, although we’ve always had to convince the driver to let us take it on board. The bags we use are the maximum size permitted as carry on for airlines – they’re not huge, by any means, but they can appear to be too big for certain situations. The buses all have overhead compartments, just as you’d find on a plane, but obviously they’re not quite as large. With nothing tucked into the slim pocket on the front, they can just about fit into these compartments. Getting on early helps…firstly you’re guaranteed space to put your bag, and secondly, the drive can’t see you cramming it into a space barely large enough to accommodate it. Bumps, cracks and scratches have been part and parcel of every bus journey, some of which wouldn’t have gone down too well with the driver, but we couldn’t afford to put them down in the hold where they’d get knocked about for hours on end and risk being taken should we fail to get off the bus in time at the other end.

Lights out and we were off to Rio. We had two days free ahead of us now before our next Last 16 match – Argentina vs. Switzerland – although as we now knew, the first of those two would be more or less a write-off, thanks to our arrival time back in Barra and the follow-up work that would be due.

The game was on a Saturday, meaning we could join the rest of Rio on a genuine day off the following afternoon. That afternoon, we decided to venture down to Ipanema to see what all the fuss was about. Everyone we’d spoken to – both Brazilians and foreigners – had told us Ipanema was ‘the nice one’, as opposed to it’s uglier, busier and more threatening bigger sister, Copacabana. Both are the names of districts here in Rio, but the districts are known for their beaches, both of which stretch for kilometres down the eastern coast of the city.

I broke the GoPro camera out of the bag for the first time this trip as we took a cab from Barra and headed east along AutoEstrada Lagoa-Barra towards Rio. On this occasion, just as we reached the Gavea Golf & Country Club, the driver peeled off right and down onto Avenida Niemeyer, the coast road that look down over the cliffs and beaches all the way into Leblon and then Ipanema. At this point, the windows went down, the breeze rushed in and on went the camera. Passing it between us all, from one side of the car to the other, and without any sort of viewfinder or screen to work with, we filmed with no more than a fully automatic setup and a bunch of enthusiastic guesswork. No doubt an edited breakdown of the footage will appear shortly.

We arrived in Ipanema under blue skies, but as it was lunchtime and there was also a game on, we decided to head to a bar for something to eat. Frontera, a kilo-style restaurant close to General Osorio metro station was a popular choice and left us needing little else to eat for the remainder of the day. We witnessed Mexico’s late, late defeat to the Netherlands before heading down to the beach, where Chris paid a steady sum for a pair of deck chairs from where he and I could watch the world go by.

I took time before deciding to take my camera out and go for a wander. I felt safe enough to do at this point. With a rucksack on my back and a 24-70mm lens attached to the 1DX, and walked off down the beach to see what I could find. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I just wanted something appropriate to the World Cup that could disturb the consistency of my match action photos. The light was quite flat, so pictures weren’t jumping out at me quite as much as they may have done on a sunnier day. Despite this, there were one or two moments worth snapping…

 

Sunbathers wearing Argentina shirts on Ipanema beach
Sunbathers wearing Argentina shirts on Ipanema beach

 

A scarf seller wearing a Neymar shirt on Ipanema beach
A scarf seller wearing a Neymar shirt on Ipanema beach

 

After a couple of hours enjoying the sights and sounds of a sunny Sunday on Ipanema, the brightest of the light was beginning to fade away. People continued to play keepy-uppy right along the beach…my eyes were drawn to the distant view of dozens of footballs bobbing up and down for hundred of yards down the beach. Keeping a low perspective, it looked like the backstage scene at some sort of jugglers’ convention. Every time four or five more came down, another six or seven popped up. It didn’t stop. Everyone was at it. The very obsession I’d envisaged appeared to be live and well. It made for much better video than it did pictures…perhaps it may have worked had I been able to see just a few feet over everyone’s heads and use a longer lens to compress the perspective a bit more…

 

Boys playing keepy-uppy on Ipanema beach
Boys playing keepy-uppy on Ipanema beach

 

As the light dropped even further, the chance of any silhouettes disappeared with it. The iconic mountain tops at the western end of the beach provide an incredible natural backdrop for pictures, and have proved a popular setting for generic footballing pictures throughout the build-up to the tournament. As keen as I’d be to give this a go myself, I wanted to see if I could find something a little different. The lack of light and colour by this time meant I had to make the picture up another way. Fortunately, some puddles left by some over-zealous waves earlier on provided me with the perfect solution…

 

A young man is reflected in silhouette as he plays football on Ipanema beach at sunset
A young man is reflected in silhouette as he plays football on Ipanema beach at sunset

 

A young man is reflected in silhouette as he plays football on Ipanema beach at sunset
A young man is reflected in silhouette as he plays football on Ipanema beach at sunset

 

I was extremely happy with these. It’s always satisfying to make something out of nothing. Something as simple as a puddle gave me the platform to create a really special picture, and the lade having a kickabout just beyond it completed the image. It made the wait worthwhile.

We later watched the latter stages of Costa Rica’s game with Greece, a game that, on paper, sounded as dull as dishwater. However, a cracking finale took it all the way to penalties, and in a bar full of South Americans, there was only one team to support. The winning penalty went in to the sound of roars all around, as the favourites secured a last-eight spot against the Netherlands. We made our way back to Joe’s, all the while discussing which games were do-able, what we could and couldn’t get to, and what we could and couldn’t afford. Just like everyone else, we were gripped by World Cup fever.

Monday was a slow day and nothing of great interest went on as far as we were concerned. Joe had finally got the internet installed, so basic communication was no longer a time-consuming task. As a result, most of us were happy to catch up on our various to-do lists from the comfort of the apartment balcony. A balcony, that is, the size of my sitting room at home. With wireless internet access, the perfect al fresco office space.

That night, we had bus tickets once again for a journey back to Sao Paulo, to see Argentina take on Switzerland in the penultimate game of the Last 16 round. Marc Atkins, another photographer covering the tournament for Offside, was arriving into Rio that evening on British Airways’ daily direct flight to join up with me for the business end of the tournament. I left early to go and meet him at the international airport and welcome him into the unknown! We enjoyed a couple of beers in the lobby of his airport hotel for the night before I went to the rodoviario to meet the other boys for another 6 hr drive.

We climbed aboard the bus to be greeted by the finest seats we’d seen so far on our travels. Huge comfortable loungers, almost fully reclining, blankets, pillows, the works. I handed over my ticket, stashed my bags, laid back and woke up 7 hrs later. Easy…

 

The cabin inside the Leito bus
The cabin inside the Leito bus

 
Having explored various methods of getting to Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, today we decided to give the metro a go. Despite having all our gear with us, on the metro, in rush hour, we’d been reliably informed that this was by far the easiest (and, yes, cheapest) way of getting to the ground. It was certainly the cheapest…$R3.00 per person, the equivalent of about 80p, and to be honest, it felt OK in terms of safety too. We pulled into the last stop on the line at Corinthians-Itaquera about half an hour after boarding, and the footbridge that had previously been closed was fully open to use, saving us a serious walk. A queue had formed and wasn’t getting any shorter – it became apparent the security officials had decided no to let anyone in yet, and didn’t know when they would be letting anyone in either. It was more than an hour before they decided the group of irate photographers and journalists were permitted entry, by which time it was less than four hours before kick-off. This might seem like a long time, but with so much to do, including preview pictures to build up to the game with, it’s not that long at all. A rush to the ticketing desk was followed by some hurried admin, and before we knew it, the game itself was just around the corner.

Argentina’s fans were out in force once again, although this time a fresh set of faces made their way to the front of the stands. There was a more humorous side to the supporters…

 

An Argentina fan dressed as the Pope reveals images of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona on his robes
An Argentina fan dressed as the Pope reveals images of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona on his robes

 

Argentina fans with banners of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, either side of the Pope
Argentina fans with banners of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, either side of the Pope

 

Fans dressed as Superman
Fans dressed as Superman

 

A happy Argentina fan smiles in the sunshine
A happy Argentina fan smiles in the sunshine

 

With the stadium full, the Argentinian fans made the Swiss work for their share of the noise. I wasn’t easy for them though…the South Americans were there to win. There was no other option…

 

Argentina players line up behind their flag for the national anthems
Argentina players line up behind their flag for the national anthems

 

I sat in Seat 228 – I shot into the sun, with the goal to my left, covering Argentina’s attack for the first half. Again, this approach provided me with even light more or less throughout the entire match, and gave me the chance to capture the likes of Messi, Di Maria, Higuain etc. running at me for the first 45 minutes, hopefully with a goal and celebration thrown in for good measure. How I needed that goal and celebration. I’m still feeling like the tournament has flown by without those match-specific pictures coming my way from pitchside positions…

 

My seat for the match - #228
My seat for the match – #228

 

Argentina attacked from the off and looked like they might be able to bag an early goal. I felt confident I’d get something out of the first half, be it a goal, celebration or incident of some sort…

 

Lionel Messi, surrounded by opposition players
Lionel Messi, surrounded by opposition players

 

Gelson Fernandes of Switzerland battles with Ezequiel Garay of Argentina
Gelson Fernandes of Switzerland battles with Ezequiel Garay of Argentina

 

Lucas Biglia of Argentina holds back Valon Behrami of Switzerland who approaches Javier Mascherano of Argentina
Lucas Biglia of Argentina holds back Valon Behrami of Switzerland who approaches Javier Mascherano of Argentina

 

It wasn’t to be though. Another match made it to 90 minutes without a goal, and so it was to extra time. The teams rotated once again, so for the second time, I had Argentina attacking my end of the pitch. Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swiss playmaker, tried his best to encourage his team…

 

Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland gets the crowd going
Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland gets the crowd going

 

Lionel Messi and his teammates were finding it hard to see how they could break down Switzerland’s defence…

 

Lionel Messi cuts a dejected figure as Argentina struggle to score
Lionel Messi cuts a dejected figure as Argentina struggle to score

 

Even the ridiculous hairstyle of Rodrigo Palacio was unable to destabalise Switzerland’s back line…

 

Rodrigo Palacio of Argentina with his 'interesting' haircut
Rodrigo Palacio of Argentina with his ‘interesting’ haircut

 

The second half of extra time arrived. The match was just 15 minutes from penalties. By the time it was just 2 minutes from penalties, that’s when Messi guided the ball across the face of goal for Angel Di Maria to score what had to be Argentina’s winner. Another late, late winner. Once again, at the far end…

 

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero celebrates their late winner
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero celebrates their late winner

 

Stephan Lichtsteiner of Switzerland looks dejected
Stephan Lichtsteiner of Switzerland looks dejected

 

Desperation ensued. Switzerland threw everything they could at the Argentinian defence in the final couple of minutes. Their goalkeeper was up, tackles were flying in, the ball was pinging around like a pinball, but it just wouldn’t go in for them.

 

Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio attempts an overhead kick late on
Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio attempts an overhead kick late on

 

And then the whistle blew, and Switzerland were out.

 

Argentina celebrate around dejected Switzerland players following their late winner
Argentina celebrate around dejected Switzerland players following their late winner

 

Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland cries after their defeat
Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland cries after their defeat

 

Granit Xhaka of Switzerland looks dejected after defeat
Granit Xhaka of Switzerland looks dejected after defeat

 

Fabian Schar of Switzerland looks dejected after their defeat
Fabian Schar of Switzerland looks dejected after their defeat

 

The blue side of the crowd reacted with joy. They sang for ages after the final whistle. For the third time this tournament, their side had struggled to victory over a seemingly-lesser side. They stumbled to wins over Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran in their group, and then took 118 minutes to score against Switzerland. I’m not convinced they can expect such luck to stay with them as the business end of the tournament comes round. Better teams will damage them if they don’t play like everyone knows they can play. As things stand though, the dream Final is still alive. Brazil against Argentina is the Final we all want to see. In the Maracana, the home of South American football. There’s still hope!

Advertisements

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Damien says:

    Simon,

    a great read !!! Excellent pictures !!! A really enjoyable perspective to the world cup….Totally different, ……bring on Brazil v Argentina !!.

    cheers,

    DD

    1. Thanks Damien! I’m enjoying it, although, like everything, it’s the little things that are taking their toll! I hope your legion of loyal customers are enjoying it too.

  2. Damien at the Old Red Lion says:

    Yup!!!!!!! We have a blog wall in the pub !!!! You will have to come down one night when you are back and we can have a review of the competition and your photos ….etc……see if we get invite some of your professional colleagues …and have a good night…….regulars will love it !!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s