BY BRUCE JONES
After a humbling loss to the Netherlands in its opening match, the pressure on Spain to get a good result against Chile on Wednesday was even more significant than on our group trying to get from a day of sightseeing around Rio to our apartment and then to Maracana for the late afternoon match.
Locals suggested taking a taxi to “save time” rather than the buses that we had been riding for the past week. Although bus drivers in Rio all seem to be race car driver wannabes, we took their advice and hailed a taxi. However, we almost immediately came to a stop along with all other traffic. After a few minutes of bumper- to-bumper traffic and frequent checking of my watch, traffic began to move. A sigh of relief and we were moving along quickly… until we again hit the “wall” that did not provide any relief after a 15 minute wait.
Then our taxi driver, who spoke excellent English, suggested we get out and walk the 20 minutes or so as it would be faster and we wouldn’t be paying “for nothing” as we were not moving at all. We thanked her, paid our fare and hit the sidewalk, and streets, as we walked anywhere we could find space but constantly watching for motorcycles speeding between stopped cars.
As we walked to our apartment, we realized we had gotten caught in the traffic backup due to street closures. They had closed down three hours before the match and even though we were miles away we had been affected.
After a quick lunch and a change of clothes into our rave green Sounders FC jerseys, we headed for a bus to get to the stadium. Still keeping an eye on the watch, and knowing the lines we would encounter once we got to the stadium, it was going to be close to kickoff by the time we got to our seats.
Not surprisingly, we got on a bus and encountered more slow traffic though we were still making progress. However, the bus driver suggested we get out as the street ahead was closed and he was going to be turning rather than following his usual route.
We arrived at the stadium a few minutes later and we were still barely “on schedule” to get to our seats before kickoff. We learned later that while we were moving through the lines to get into the stadium, Chilean fans without tickets were trying to break into the Maracana. Fortunately, we were not affected in any way.
We finally arrived at our seats a few minutes before kickoff, allowing us to enjoy the atmosphere created by a capacity crowd that seemed to be almost all supporting Chile. The passionate fans lifted Chile to a convincing victory over Spain and knocked the defending World Cup champions out of the tournament.
The win by Chile set up a great match with the Netherlands to determine who will play the winner of Group A where Brazil is the huge favorite. Even with all of the traffic. After all, it kind of reminded me of Seattle.