RECIFE, Brazil – The sleeping bodies were laid out along the walls in perfect order. Finding sleeping bodies at airports during the World Cup is nothing new, but what was different on this Sunday night in Manaus was that the sleeping fans were Americans, wearing any number of combinations of red, white and blue with stars sprinkled in.
It was just hours after the U.S. team’s heart-breaking 2-2 tie against Portugal, a match U.S. players were coming to grips with rather well afterwards, but a result that had many American fans shaken by what went from a sure place in the Round of 16, to a scary final group match against Germany.
Some of those tired fans hopped on planes late on Sunday evening to head for Recife, the next stop on a crazy travel schedule for the U.S. team. I was along for the ride with them, and found it interesting to be boarding a plane in the Amazon with a cast of characters that included American fans, Mexican fans and some German fans.
After a long night of flying, I was greeted by the warm sun of the beach-side city of Recife, where palm trees and roaring blue waves were accompanied by ominous signs to beware of sharks. The weather was great that Monday morning, but the sun was quickly replaced by steady rain that left the thousands of Mexican fans who had descended on Manaus drenched.
Arriving early on Monday meant being able to take in Mexico’s important group finale against Croatia. The spectacle at Arena Pernambuco was stunning, as Mexico fans made it feel like Estadio Azteca of the south, greeting El Tri with thunderous cheers and impressive support that no group of fans at this World Cup had been able to match with the exception of the host Brazilians.
Mexico rewarded all that fan support with a stirring victory that secured a place in the Round of 16. Something the U.S. team will be hoping to duplicate when it takes the field in the same stadium against Germany.
The Germans will be an extremely tough opponent, but Jurgen Klinsmann expressed confidence in his team being able to get the result it needs on Thursday. The Americans are in good position, needing a win or draw to automatically reach the Round of 16, while also being able to qualify with a loss if Portugal beats Ghana by a narrow margin, or if those two sides end up with a draw.
Tuesday in Recife was a day of transition, as Mexican fans departed and American fans began to arrive. It was another day of morning sun and afternoon rain showers, which leads you to believe the U.S. and Germany will be treated to wet conditions when they meet on Thursday. Even if rain does become part of the match, the conditions are still unlikely to be as tough as they were in Manaus, where stifling humidity and a terrible playing surface had its own sort of impact on the U.S team’s tie with Portugal.
Recife’s weather is, for the most part, beautiful, and even when the rain is pouring down, the temperatures have been manageable. Whether the German attack will be manageable for the U.S. defense is another story altogether.
At the time of writing we are still two days away from finding out. In the meantime, the Americans and Germans arriving here will continue to enjoy those sunning mornings while staying dry during these rainy nights.