The Quarter-Finals

A 7am cab was the order of the day as we began our journey to the Maracana in Rio for the first of the Quarter Finals, between France and Germany. Our party was now 6-strong, so a couple of cars were required. Finding one with enough boot space to cater for our equipment continued to be an issue in Rio, and this morning was no different. I jogged down the road to our favoured hailing spot and managed to secure one of the smallest cars in the city. We crammed our gear in and crawled away from Barra in the morning sunshine.

We arrived at the stadium to a queue of media personnel lined up on the pavement. We expected nothing less, to be honest, so we joined on to the end and got chatting about the previous days’ activities with various colleagues that were arriving in dribs and drabs alongside us…

 

The early-morning queue of journalists and photographers outside the Stadium Media Centre
The early-morning queue of journalists and photographers outside the Stadium Media Centre

 

A couple of friends from Reuters were telling us how they’d had practically all their equipment stolen the previous day in a form of ‘trick’ theft. Their car ‘suffered’ a puncture (which they strongly suspect was not an accident) and whilst their driver was repairing the puncture, a couple of well-informed locals helped themselves to the entire contents of the car’s boot…roughly £50,000 worth, to be precise. No one is immune to the stealthy ways of the Brazilian thief, all you can do is batter away all offers of help from anyone you don’t know and insist on doing things your own way rather than how anyone else suggests. The stories we’ve heard all strongly suggest it only takes a matter of seconds, and by the time you realise, they’re long gone.

The queue for tickets inside the Media Centre was, once again, a complete shambles. There was no clear divide between photographers in Priority Groups 1, 2 and 3, and in addition to this, the locals had decided to form their own queue alongside that. Chaos ensued. Only a rough set of queue positions etched out on a notepad by a couple of Japanese photographers gave proceedings any sort of order. I finally made it to the ticketing desk though, and decided that enough was enough, I couldn’t sit in the same corner of the pitch anymore…Seat #23 it was…

 

A diagram of the pitchside layout used to indicate photographers' positions
A diagram of the pitchside layout used to indicate photographers’ positions

 

Photographers' positions marked out on a diagram of the pitchside layout
Photographers’ positions marked out on a diagram of the pitchside layout

 

A diagram of the pitchside layout used to indicate photographers' positions
A diagram of the pitchside layout used to indicate photographers’ positions

 

The ticket for my pitchside photo position inserted into the plastic sleeve on my bib
The ticket for my pitchside photo position inserted into the plastic sleeve on my bib

 

With my wingman Marc Atkins in attendance for the first time this tournament, we split up to provide coverage both from the pitch and the tribune. Marc made the journey upstairs, and I headed out into the sunshine at ground level. Fans arrived in steady intervals, most probably enjoying their time outside the stadium, where FIFA’s restrictions were far harder to impose. Sponsors and their products are far easier to avoid beyond the confines of the turnstiles.

Once inside though, there was no shortage of enthusiasm from both sets of fans. Understandable really, in the heat of Rio de Janeiro, inside the mecca of football that is the Maracana…

 

A female Germany fan shows her support for her team
A female Germany fan shows her support for her team

 

A pair of France fans get into the spirit of things
A pair of France fans get into the spirit of things

 

A headshot of Germany coach Joachim Low later…

 

Germany coach Joachim Low
Germany coach Joachim Low

 

…and the game was under way…

 

Miroslav Klose of Germany holds off Raphael Varane of France
Miroslav Klose of Germany holds off Raphael Varane of France

 

Jerome Boateng of Germany battles with Antoine Griezmann of France
Jerome Boateng of Germany battles with Antoine Griezmann of France

 

I was shooting with the light for a change, and what a difference it was. Germany peppered the French defence with a volley of chances early on, and the French did little in return. It was no surprise when one of their efforts finally went in, and I was delighted to capture it at my end of the pitch! Leaning out to see around the nuisance Brazilian photographer sat on my inside, I saw the ball float into the box and recomposed my frame to include the attacker and goalkeeper. Mats Hummels climbed highest above Raphael Varane to head home and give Germany the lead…

 

Mats Hummels rises highest to score the 1st goal for Germany
Mats Hummels rises highest to score the 1st goal for Germany

 

 

Mats Hummels of Germany scores their 1st goal
Mats Hummels of Germany scores their 1st goal

 

Marc’s frame from the tribune gives a different perspective of the goal, and even manages to capture me shooting the same moment from my pitchside position. I’m positioned above the ‘A’ in the middle Hyundai wording…

 

Marc Atkins' alternative view of Mats Hummels' goal, showing me in the same frame
Marc Atkins’ alternative view of Mats Hummels’ goal, showing me in the same frame

 

The celebration, as is becoming the norm, went the other way. I expected nothing less. I wasn’t bothered though, to be honest…not this time. I felt my goal picture had everything I could’ve wanted…the scorer, the defenders, the goalkeeper, the ball and the goal…the holy grail.

Both teams continued to press, although the Germans always appeared to have more control over the game than the French. I thought France would offer more in the second half, but there was little to worry about…

 

Karim Benzema of France gets stuck in
Karim Benzema of France gets stuck in

 

Paul Pogba of France battles with Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany
Paul Pogba of France battles with Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany

 

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Patrice Evra of France combine to stop Thomas Muller of Germany
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Patrice Evra of France combine to stop Thomas Muller of Germany

 

A grid of stick pictures from the game
A grid of stick pictures from the game

 

The final whistle went. I’d imagine every France fan in the stadium let out a sigh of relief…the pain was over, what had become the inevitable over the course of the match had come to fruition. Les Bleus were on their way home, whilst Germany celebrated their progression to the Semi-Finals…

 

Antoine Griezmann of France looks dejected
Antoine Griezmann of France looks dejected

 

Loic Remy of France consoles dejected teammate Antoine Griezmann
Loic Remy of France consoles dejected teammate Antoine Griezmann

 

Per Mertesacker of Germany consoles his Arsenal club teammate, France's Laurent Koscielny
Per Mertesacker of Germany consoles his Arsenal club teammate, France’s Laurent Koscielny

 

We retired to the SMC, where, before long, the Sony LCD screens dotted around the room were alive with the day’s second Quarter Final, between Brazil and Colombia. Everyone in the room wished they were there, no doubt about it. Just the sound of the fixture got the juices flowing. There was no way we could have got to Fortaleza though. We’d looked at flights on a number of different dates, and couldn’t find anything for less than £1000. It was a risk to book it any earlier. Had Brazil not won their group, the match up there could potentially have been a far less attractive proposition, so we decided to weigh it up once the teams had been confirmed. Of course, in hindsight, this was a mistake, but one we could do nothing about.

And so we edited away as the hosts emerged victorious to set up a Semi-Final with the Germans in Belo Horizonte. Adjusting my schedule to include that juicy-sounding fixture, I packed away my bits and pieces for the day, and headed off to dinner, safe in the knowledge that at least two of the ‘big four’ that we expected to progress had gone through. The dream Final was still on the cards!

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