BY DREW HICKS
After five days in the jungle city of Manaus, where temperatures lingered around 100 degrees, stepping off the plane to a 60-degree evening temperature in Rio de Janiero felt like a blessing and a bit like home. The beaches of Rio do all the songs justice and are worth the trip alone.
Without match tickets, we naturally chose to watch our last group stage game there. FIFA set up a huge outdoor viewing party on the famed Copacabana beach. Seeing the Germany versus U.S. game there was a perfect way to wrap up our trip.
Droves of spectators packed the FIFA Fan Fest as well as the beach surrounding the enclosed area. We chose to spend our time on the beach with the BYOB crowd, as the screen was viewable from at least a quarter mile away. Without a cooler, we packed our remaining groceries and refreshments into plastic bags, emptied the ice trays from our fridge and headed out.
Once our sacks of local brews melted and ran dry, there was always an entrepreneurial local weaving amongst the crowd, hawking everything from sunglasses and sunscreen to popsicles and beer. Along with hundreds of others, we rented beach chairs from a vendor stand. The beach filled in quickly, row after row of rented chairs, on the perimeter of the Fan Fest. The stage was set.
Both the Atlantic Ocean and Germany brought endless waves of offense, some more welcome than others. At each break in the game action, hundreds of spectators spilled into the ocean enjoying the waves and a moment of respite from the nervousness of the match. Without much to cheer about as a U.S. fan, the loudest cries rang through the crowd each time Portugal scored in the simultaneously played match. All were keenly aware of the intricacies of how the U.S. could advance out of the group stage.
The rare joy of a loss coupled with the eventual friendship of German and American spectators alike, made for an unforgettable evening. Knowing that both of our countries were advancing made the Copacabana beach feel even more magical.