Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 17th 2014 Contents A68
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 17, 2014
SAO PAULO---One of the
World Cup s most exciting
games had the most empty
seats in the first round of the
tournament in Brazil.
More than 3,500 seats were
empty when the Netherlands
routed defending champion
Spain 5-1 in the northeastern
city of Salvador on Friday,
according to Fifa s match reports
and its numbers on stadium
Although it wasn t the worst
crowd---48,173 attended the
match at the Arena Fonte
Nova---it was the game with the
most unused seats.
Crowds have been good so
far, but there were many match-
es with empty seats across the
12 host cities. Nearly all matches
were sold out ahead of the tour-
nament, and Fifa said "the
empty seats corresponded to
either no-shows or people who
did not collect their tickets."
Among the matches with vis-
ible empty seats was the high-
profile encounter between Eng-
land and Italy in the jungle city
of Manaus, when 39,800 were
More than 503,000 people
have attended the initial 10
matches of the first World Cup
in Brazil since 1950.
Another match with a high
number of unused seats was
Ivory Coast-Japan in Recife,
when 2,316 chairs were empty,
according to the most recent
numbers on fifa.com. The
Uruguay-Costa Rica match in
Fortaleza had 1,669 empty seats,
while the Colombia-Greece
game in Belo Horizonte had
1,085 unused chairs.
The other matches played by
Sunday were mostly full, accord-
ing to the numbers available
The biggest crowd was at the
Argentina-Bosnia match, when
74,738 fans were at the Maracana
Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. FIFA
said 39,216 people saw the Mex-
ico-Cameroon match in Natal,
the smallest attendance by Sun-
More than 62,100 people
attended the World Cup opener
between Brazil and Croatia at
the Itaquerao stadium in Sao
Football s governing body said
it received "an unprecedented
number" of more than 11 million
requests for the nearly 3.1 tickets
available for the tournament in
Brazil. More than 2.98 million
tickets were sold and only about
14,000 remained on sale on the
eve of the competition last week.
Fifa said that just over 7,100
tickets were still available on
There were online tickets
available for only six matches
on Monday afternoon, mostly
the ones involving less promi-
nent teams. FIFA said there were
only two matches with more
than 400 tickets left unsold. The
Bosnia-Iran match on June 25
in Salvador was the one with
the most tickets available on
Fifa s Web site.
Portugal lets down Brazilians
SAO PAULO---Outside Restaurant Haddock Grill
hangs a big flag of Brazil, and a small one of Portu-
gal.Inside, businessmen in suits and ties are having
their lunch break --- chattering loudly over their
dishes with their eyes glued to the screen above the
buffet offering. Portugal is playing its first World
Cup game, and the mood suddenly turns dour as the
team surrenders its second goal of the first half, en
route to a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany.
Even though Brazil has been independent from
Portugal for nearly two centuries, most of the diners
appear partial to the squad of their former colonis-
"Portugal is in our blood, in our body," said Andres
Szarukan, a 37-year-old business manager for a digi-
tal media company. "We still have a lot of families
who came from Portugal and the connection is
Among those are the Martins, the owners of the
diner in downtown Sao Paulo who placed the flag
Sandra Martins says her parents were born in Por-
tugal, so naturally their allegiances were to the team
of Cristiano Ronaldo---so long as they weren't play-
ing Brazil. The 38-year-old frowns after Germany
Belgium, Algeria step up
Under towering palm trees in Belo Horizonte's
main square, about 100 Algeria and Belgium fans
engaged in a friendly but very boisterous sing-off.
They chanted back and forth at each other in
Praca da Liberdade yesterday, to the bemusement
of residents who use the square for taking a stroll or
running. Algeria fans were the loudest, blowing air
horns and even vuvuzelas. One group of Algerians
even got up on the plaza's bandstand to shout down
at the Belgians.
But it was all in good humour. The Algerians made
their way down from the bandstand to join the Bel-
gians, and they danced and sang in a circle. The
square is one of Belo Horizonte's iconic images, sur-
rounded by landmarks including the Minas Gerais
state government headquarters and an Oscar
Algeria and Belgium will play in the Group H
opener at Mineriao Stadium today.
No jeering for Blatter
At least this time, Sepp Blatter wasn't booed.
The Fifa president tweeted out a photo of himself
shaking hands with NBA star Kobe Bryant during
yesterday's World Cup match between Germany and
The Los Angeles Lakers guard grew up in Italy and
is a big soccer fan.
Blatter, routinely jeered when he's shown on sta-
dium video boards, watched the game with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel.
So how do you really feel, Landon?
US star Landon Donovan, cut from the World Cup
team, tweaks coach Jurgen Klinsmann's decision in a
video released Monday, the day of the Americans'
opener in Brazil. The promo for EA Sports' 2014 Fifa
World Cup Brazil video game depicts Donovan's sup-
posed life without soccer---and not-so-subtly hints
that his passion for the game would be the differ-
ence in lifting the US to glory.
After sleeping in, Donovan slips on a USA robe
and slippers. The camera cuts to images of soccer
gear, then a newspaper with the headline: "Does
Team USA have enough firepower?"
As Donovan sips his coffee, he knocks a replica
World Cup trophy off the kitchen table and shakes
his head. The clip ends with Donovan playing the
video game, scoring a goal as himself to lead the US
to the championship. He then looks into the camera
and rolls his eyes.
Spain, Netherlands play with most empty seats
Dutch soccer fans pose for a photo with a Chilean soccer fan, centre,
while watching the live broadcast of the World Cup match between
Spain and the Netherlands, inside the FIFA Fan Fest area on
Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday. The Netherlands
thrashed Spain 5-1 Friday. AP PHOTO
BELO HORIZONTE---Belgium returns to
its first World Cup in 12 years brimming
with confidence and determination
before the Group H opener against Alge-
Belgium s best cluster of players in a
generation is in fierce competition for a
starting place today at Estadio Mineirao.
It s so fierce that a couple of players have
picked up knocks in aggressive training
Coach Marc Wilmots hopes the com-
petitiveness will produce a strong fighting
spirit against the Algerians, who have been
playing with more flair in recent years. In
some respects, Wilmots doesn t know
what tactics to expect from the African
"I can t really look into the cards of the
Algerians," Wilmots said. "They have been
playing a 4-3-3. They can play a 4-4-2.
We can prepare for 3,000 different options
---the only thing we can do is be ready."
Belgium is widely considered the
favourite in Group H, which also includes
Russia and South Korea, even without the
presence of preferred lone striker Christian
Benteke, who missed out on Brazil because
of injury. Belgium boasts a crop of talent
playing for top clubs teams in Spain and
England, including goalkeeper Thibaut
Courtois, midfielder Eden Hazard and
captain Vincent Kompany.
But Algeria comes to this tournament
hoping to surpass the achievement of the
1982 World Cup team, which beat Euro-
pean champion West Germany in a group
game. Even though it didn t get past the
group stage, it s still considered to be the
north African country s best team.
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic
acknowledges that Belgium is considered
the favourite to win, particularly as two-
thirds of his squad is playing in a World
Cup for the first time.
"We will be playing against a very good
Belgian team that remains for me the
favourite, but in football everything is
possible," he said. "We have worked hard
for an upset here in Brazil. We have a lot
of respect for the Belgians, but we have
assets to exploit."
One of those assets is star player Sofiane
Feghouli, who was born in France to Alger-
ian parents. His fine first touch and deft
passing ability in central midfield makes
him Algeria s biggest threat. The country
is lucky to have the 24-year-old Feghouli
after France tried to lure him to its national
team. Algeria s other attacking options
include Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Sli-
The 1982 World Cup still hangs heavily
over Algerians. After the country upset
West Germany, Algeria was eventually
eliminated after a seemingly contrived
result between Austria and Germany in
their last group match put both of the
European teams through to the next round.
It s the bitterness still felt by Algerians
over that tournament that drives the cur-
rent group of players.
"If we want to stage an upset Tuesday,
we must be effective and play with heart,"
Feghouli said. "The World Cup is a tour-
nament that motivates each player, who
knows he has a duty in front of 40 million
Algerians that love Algeria, so we just
need to get down to work."
Belgium full of confidence
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots points
while standing on the pitch at the start of a
training session at the Mineirao Stadium in
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, yesterday. AP PHOTO
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