Being our last day we had to get to the Mercado near the Pelourinho. Connor and I wanted to do a bit of shopping for Lisa and Sloan. He and I both needed to make sure that we got some trinkets from Salvador to share with them when we got home. The bus trip landed us at the famous elevator over the market. The Mercado is housed in a building that offers two large floors of crafts from local vendors. The place is bustling with tourists and I'm told is overrun with pick pockets. Thankfully we didn't have any experience to confirm this. We bought a number of items for friends and family. As we left samba dancers were performing at the Mercado gates. They were having a great time and the crowd was too. We bought a number of items for friends and family and headed to watch Argentina - Belgium.
After watching Argentina beat Belgium on TV in a fairly lackluster performance we hit the streets to walk to Arena Fonte Nova for the real thing. Dave and Ian were our seat mates for this game. I think we all had mostly recovered from the US's heartbreaking loss to the Belgians, and were ready to get in some more soccer therapy. We were all looking forward to watching Holland play. They are know for a quality side and some of the more boisterous and supportive fans in futbol. They all dress in orange and follow their team with relish and pride. The costumes are outrageous and they bring numbers everywhere they go. There are times I believe Holland has the home field advantage in away stadiums. For those non soccer fans reading, there are a number of top line players starting for the Netherlands. Arjenn Robben is one of them. He is a world class winger who breaks down defenses almost single handedly with his play on the right side of the field. His quickness is hard to describe, and though we had seats in the second row on the eighteen his feet were so fast that you couldn't tell what he was going to do even from such a close distance. The electricity generated when he has the ball is astonishing. More often than not when he is in possession he is going to be make a fool out of someone. Also for Holland are the likes of Robin Van Persie of Manchester United, Dirk Koyt, and Wesley Schneider in center mid along with world class keeping that would rue the day for Costa Rica. On the other side of the ball there were a lot of unfamiliar Costa Rican names that were not going to let the Dutch run them over, which was made clear from the first whistle.
Frankly, the first twenty minutes of the game were boring. The Dutch worked the ball around in their midfield without making many forays into the Costa Rican defense. After the first thirty minutes though, things began to open up and Robben started to assert himself. At one point he split two defenders so quickly all they could do was foul him on the edge of their box. In the process of fouling him they actually hurt each other a bit. One play, three players on the ground. The Dutch put the pressure on the Ticos with precision and speed. There is a grace about their game, with accurate crisp passing and blinding speed. For the remainder of the second half they tortured the Ticos but did not score. Costa Rica managed to put in a couple of good efforts but produced no results. The second half began as the first ended, with the Dutch demolishing the opposition. Robben was on our side of the field now and we witnessed first hand what a devil he is to guard. He manufactured opportunity after opportunity for them. Still no goals. In the waning moments of the second half the Ticos came up with a chance to put the game away but the ball sailed wide and we were looking at extra time.
By now the players were exhausted after ninety minutes of play. Things began to open up more for the South Americans. They may not have been as good a team technically but they played with huge hearts to the overwhelming support of their fans. They came up with a few chances and the surprised Dutch beat them back. The supporters for Costa Rica came alive more now than ever and their chanting overcame the Dutch by a long shot. We were all on the edge of our seats thinking that one team would go up, but they didn't. I will go on the record saying that the Netherlands had a better game. The combination of Koyt and Robben on the right side make them hard to handle and their defense is solid. They move off the ball beautifully and created chance after chance. Consequently the Costa Rican goaly had an amazing game. Penalties were next. Connor wanted me to video the whole thing on my phone so I obliged.
The Dutch were mechanical in their approach without a lot of flair, however, when the ball hits the back of the net I think they lose touch for a moment. Though they are focused and concentrated most of the time they do not lack for emotion. The Dutch keeper saved the first and fourth attempt. Final result, game tied 0 - 0 in regulation with a 4 - 3 result in penalties. A game I will never forget. One that I hope to tell my grand kids about someday. Robben, who hand been the picture of focus and concentration during the game, came to our corner of the field and roared like a lion toward the Dutch supporters in the stands. As you can imagine they were all too happy to salute their hero in return.
After the game we walked for about a mile and caught a private bus full of drunken Brazil fans heading to FIFA Fan Fest. I was surprised to hear two of them speaking English to me. Clearly. As American's we have been finding some new found celebrity and the welcoming embrace of people from all over the world while we have been visiting. They were charming in their own way and didn't break anything. Thankfully. We roled into the Pousada at about 9:30 for dinner with some supportive Australian fans, and upstairs to our room at 11:00 to pack for early departure in the morning. The day was an example of the world coming together in Brazil in support of the individual teams, realizing the whole time that we having more in common than in difference. I was awestruck. Happy. Exhausted.
Signing off, for the last time, from Salvador hoping you find the magic in your life. It is there if you look for it. Know that you will never have less than you need and always have more than you want.