Our second week of the World Cup was stellar. Of the eight teams we watched play in the last four games, four would go on to make the quarterfinals (which kick off Friday July 2). We were also able to witness live what many are calling one of the best sports moments in World Cup history on Wednesday, June 23.
Sunday June 20 – Brazil v Ivory Coast.
The appeal to this game was straightforward: the world’s best team against Africa’s best team, live in the biggest stadium in Johannesburg. Brazil, FIFA’s number one ranked team going into the tournament, were the favorites against the Ivory Coast squad, and proved their superiority in an impressive 3-1 win. The game’s atmosphere was stellar. South Africans mostly supported their fellow African side, a team that features Didier Drogba who plays for the English Premier League club Chelsea. There was no shortage of incredible talent on the field, and also no shortage of great goals in the match. It lived up to our expectation as one of the best games we were able to see in South Africa.
Monday June 21 – Spain v Honduras.
The Spain-Honduras game was one of our late additions. When we realized that the Spain game was at Ellis Park on a day where we had no other games planned, and tickets became available, we instantly decided it was an opportunity too good to pass up. We had better seats for the match than any of our other games, and watched as Spain regained its form and beat Honduras 2-0. David Villa scored two incredible goals, and Spain showcased soccer at its finest. Of the teams we were able to see play, Spain was probably the most enjoyable side to watch.
Wednesday June 23 – USA v Algeria.
In terms of excitement, I would put being in the stadium Pretoria in the 92nd minute of this match up against any other exciting moment of my life so far, including the hat-toss at West Point just a month earlier. It took 90 minutes of soccer plus 90 seconds of injury time for the US to get the goal it needed to stay alive in the tournament. But when it finally happened, the crowd erupted into a moment of complete euphoria. We hugged everyone wearing red, white, and blue, and celebrated the goal like true fanatics. It helped that my favorite US player Landon Donovan scored the goal, too.
What made the evening even more exciting, however, was the blitz out of the stadium, as Logan and I sprinted to meet our host, Mr. Verwey, as we prepared to drive to from Pretoria to Joburg for the night game at Soccer City.
3 hours later… – Germany v. Ghana.
Our original itinerary didn’t feature this double header; we had planned only to attend to the Germany-Ghana game. Yet when tickets became available for the USA-Algeria match just an hour away from Soccer City, we knew we had to try to make the quick trip and experience both games in the span of just over six hours. And in the end, it was a great decision. Germany, Logan’s favorite non-US team, played brilliantly and got the win they needed to top the group and advance to the elimination stages. Meanwhile, Ghana also advanced out of Group D, and thus prepared to square off against the US in the round of 16. We were happy with both results. And seeing another night game in Soccer City was the perfect exclamation point on our World Cup experience.
And so ended our World Cup run: in 11 days we saw eight games live in three different stadiums in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Expensive? Yes. Worth every dime? Absolutely. The chance to watch the world’s game at its highest level in Africa was the experience of a lifetime for the two of us. It was a trip we’ll never forget.