And we’re off again! All of the 8 group winners are through to the quarterfinals for the first time ever.
The big story in Brazil yesterday was the collapse of an overpass under construction that tragically killed several people riding in the bus it fell on in Belo Horizonte, one of the host cities. Although there were many concerns about the quality of construction of the stadia, there has been little to worry about thus far and with only 8 matches remaining, these concerns seem unnecessary; touch wood.
Today’s early game is France vs Germany in Rio (31C, 100% Humidity, clear) at the Maracana. There are no concerns about this match. Typically, both countries have fans whom are reasonably well behaved. The later game is Brazil vs Colombia in Fortaleza (30C, 65%, clear). Security services have been put on standby in order to respond in case of a Brazilian loss, not only in Fortaleza, but throughout the country as well. The concern is the potential for wide scale rioting in the face of defeat as has been seen in a number of other cities including Vancouver after they lost the Stanley Cup finals.
Last night was another captivating day of football with both matches going into extra time. A crushing defeat for the Americans who’s goalkeeper, Tim Howard, set a new standard for the number of saves in a match. The match was briefly interrupted by a politically motivated pitch invader with a history of doing so. There was no real disruption and the match continued unhindered.
Some reports indicate protestors are congregating in the vicinity of FIFA’s Rio headquarters with riot police responding accordingly. Expect these protests to be short lived with a harsh response from security forces. If you find yourself in an area where crowds are gather, leave at the first sign of trouble.
The quarterfinal match-ups are now set as we go into the first of two rest days; the first quarterfinals are on Friday with France vs Germany in Rio and Brazil vs Colombia in Fortaleza.
Brazil scraped through by the skin of their teeth… without biting! From a fan security point of view, this is probably a positive outcome as the longer Brazil stays in the less likely they are to start trouble protesting. I’d rather see the population glued to the screen than getting into fights on the street with visiting fans who goad them on if or when they lose.
Today’s games are in Fortaleza (31C, clear) and Recife (28C, drizzle and could get heavier). Heavy weather in Recife has proven a problem prior to recent matches when a 40min trip to the stadium has taken 4hrs. Neither city has seen any serious problems with fan security at games or at fan fests.
The last 24hrs has seen a few security events but none have been in close proximity to fans. The protests in Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia were small, up to 200 people, but it’s only those who are prepared to get tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets (neither of which are much fun) who are now showing up. The police have made it clear that these will be dispersed rapidly and they will not interfere with tourists and football fans. France24 wrote a good report on the summary of events yesterday, read it here.
Two armed men and a police officer were shot and killed during violence in the Complexo do Alemao favela in Rio de Janeiro. There is an inexplicable tendency to want visit the less-affluent parts of Brazil, which is incongruous most tourist activities. Tourists were not piling into South Central Los Angeles in the wake of all the gang violence there but in Rio it seems to be a good idea… If you do venture into the favelas, be aware that you are always a target for crime because your plane ticket may have cost more than they make in a year. Exercise caution, keep your valuables out of sight, and don’t get lost.
On the fan safety front, an Australian fan was ejected when an altercation started with a Brazilian fan. Unsurprisingly, the police took the Brazilian chap’s side. The police are friendly and helpful but, like in most places, if you get in a fight with a local, don’t expect the police to take your side; especially if you can’t muster a word of Portuguese. It’s also a great way to extort a bribe from a tourist.
Today’s fixtures are in Natal (28C, 88% humidity, increasing chance of rain in the evening), Belo Horizonte (24C, 83%, clear), Cuiaba (33C, 83%, clear), and Fortaleza (30C, 83%, dry). Belo Horizonte was recently added to a warning to UK citizens for a high likelihood of protests. Be aware of locations where protests have previously occurred and avoid them. Leave at the first sign of trouble but if you do get caught out, get inside and ride out the storm.
FIFA have announced it plans to beef up security around the Maracanã in Rio following the attempted breach by 87 un-ticketed Chilean fans. This is will come in the form of an increased presence of security forces as there is insufficient time to appropriately enhance security infrastructure. Be aware that this may cause further delays to getting into matches as cordons may be widened and more ticket checks put in place.
Today’s matches are in Belo Horizonte (22C, 81% humidity, slight chance of rain in the afternoon), Cuiaba (31C, 88% humidity and clear), and Fortaleza (30C, 88% humidity, Rain early, not for game time).
There have been no major fan safety incidents reported over the past few days and most of the wrinkles that arose in the first days of the tournament have now been ironed out. That said, be aware that problems may flare up very quickly if protestors choose to march and get violent.
A reminder of previous advice: take a photo of your tickets so if they get stolen, you can show them to security and the thieves can be arrested in the stadium.