Thursday was our 3rd day in a row of 2 games a day (at least it was supposed to be – a side note, the way tickets are handled here has been atrocious – it’s a long boring story so I won’t write about it in detail, but 8we were not able to attend the Brazil-Serbia match tonight, and missed out on the goal of the tournament in person)
Here were the games we have seen live and in person, with small recap:
Tunisia vs Denmark: boring match, save for the very loud and energetic fans who made up it seemed like 90% of the crowd
France vs Australia: Australia jumped out to a surprise lead, but France is clearly World class with M’bappe and Dembele on the wings, and Griesman running things at the 10, and Giroud up top. Kylian M’bappe is extremely impressive in person – so explosive.
Japan vs Germany – The best game of the tournament so far, saw Germany dominate the first half, but not able to find the knockout blow, allowing for Japan to comeback with a strong second half to pull off the 2-1 upset
Canada vs Croatia – another great game with Canada dominating the first half but unable to score, and Belgium snuck one in on a long ball with almost no time left in the half. A PK save by Courtois was the turning point of the match. Had Davies converted the PK, Canadian fans would have blown the roof off the place
South Korea – Uruguay – a 0-0 draw with limited opportunities for each team
Brazil – Serbia*see above
We have settled into somewhat of a rhythm at this point in the trip. Games are at 1, 4, 7, and 10pm, and as luck would have it, our games have all been at 4pm and/or 10pm, so plenty of time to make the matches. Basically a day so far looks like this:
9:45am – wake up
10am – breakfast and coffee (might sleep in longer but breakfast buffet closes at 10:30), read, write, relax
11:30am – workout in the hotel gym or go on a run
1pm – watch 1pm game on tv
2pm – head out to 4pm game
4pm – Game
6pm – find some dinner and watch 7pm game on tv
8:30pm – head to the 10pm game
10pm – Game
2am – home from game, sleep
So the ticketing system has been kind of a mess, and the travel is sometimes a mess as well. As I mentioned in Part 1, there are 8 stadiums, all within about an hour of the center of Doha. The options for travel are the Metro, and Uber. Our hotel is a 15 minute walk from the Metro station, and Uber will pick us up right outside. EIther method is about 20-30 minute ride to the stadium. Once you get to the stadium it’s typically a 20 minute walk, then 15-20 more minutes to get through security. So far we have been fortunate enough to get to each game early.
While getting to the games thus far has been very easy, it’s the getting home part that’s difficult. Most games have been between 40-45,000 fans, and they all need to get home. There are hundreds of ushers pointing the way to the Metro station and Uber/taxi pick up points. After the first match (USA-Wales) we figured out that if you don’t leave right away (or even a little before the end of the game), it can add an hour or more of standing in line. After the USA – Wales match, we didn’t get home til after 2:30am, but after that it’s been before 2.
So now, every team has played one match, and the front-runners are clear: France, England, Spain, Brazil.
I rate Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Ecuador just below them, winning but not quite as impressively.
Saudi Arabia with their surprise victory over tournament favorite Argentina could make some waves in the second round.
Of course, Argentina despite their early upset could be a contender.
Out of contention are host Qatar, Iran, and Costa Rica
Besides the world-class soccer, my favorite thing about the World Cup is the people. My friend and I were talking about the political aspect of things. Of course, there has been a lot of corruption by FIFA, Qatar, and other countries, worker’s rights and gay rights and more. There are geopolitical and religious tensions between countries and ethnicities. But here, at the World Cup, it is more about people that politics. Everyone here is happy. Everywhere you go, people greet you with a smile.
We see Asian people in Germany jerseys, Europeans cheering for Ghana, Middle Eastern folks crying that Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia. It’s very cool to see and experience.
Qatar is a unique country. It is in the old world, but modern. It is very rich, but also with poor people. It is under Muslim law, but there are all religions here. Everyone speaks multiple languages (mostly Arabic and English). You can find schwarmra and other middle eastern street food, but you can also eat at McDonald’s. Almost everyone we have met in the service industry is an immigrant from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, or any number of African countries (similar to the US where those jobs are often filled with Mexican and Central American countries).
That there is no language barrier is huge. To be on the Metro and able to communicate with almost anyone is so enriching to the whole experience.
Okay, that’s the first round of the group stage. Tonight, just one game live – USA vs England – can’t wait!