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Live from the World Cup: A travel diary from Brazil

SB Nation's Ryan Rosenblatt is in Brazil for the World Cup, wandering around with a large group of US Men's National Team supporters. Follow along with him.

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Suárez and Balotelli in their opponents' eyes

Italy doesn’t have many nice things to say about Luis Suárez.

Uruguay doesn’t have many nice things to say about Mario Balotelli.

Let us consider the opinions:

An Italian on Suárez: "Fuck him."

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "Fuck him."

An Italian on Suárez: "Overrated."

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "Overrated."

An Italian on Suárez: "He’s ugly."

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "Keep his shirt on."

An Italian on Suárez: "The entire world hates him."

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "How could you love him?"

An Italian on Suárez: "Arrogant."

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "Arrogant."

An Italian on Suárez: "[redacted because absolutely zero of it is appropriate to repeat]"

A Uruguayan on Balotelli: "[redacted because absolutely zero of it is appropriate to repeat]"

Of note: The reason to hate Balotelli is he can be ridiculously immature. The reasons to hate Suárez is that he has been found guilty of racism by the FA and has bit two three players during matches.


Uruguay fans are heroes

The wave is awful. It is not something fans do in support of their team or their player. It is not in response to anything during the match. It has no purpose whatsoever and has nothing to do with soccer. Or any sport, really.

And Uruguay fans agree.

Brazilians love the wave and have been trying to get it going at every match in the tournament. When asked why, most had no reason for liking it. The closest anyone came to explaining it was a man who probably needs to have more fun in life and said, "it’s just fun."

On Monday, the wave was back at Arena das Dunas, but it died a quick death every time the Brazilians tried it. That’s because when it got to the Uruguayan section, they refused to do it. One large man yelled, "estupido" when it came by the rest hurled expletives at the Brazilian section next to them who started it. Even the few Uruguayans who tried it were yelled at.

The wave will never die a just death. It will continue in Brazil, the U.S., Mexico and pretty much everywhere else, but the Uruguayans are doing their part. They are the heroes sports need.


Everybody loves Pirlo

The Church of Andrea Pirlo was in session at the Arena das Dunas on Tuesday.

Everyone, be it Italians, Brazilians or even Uruguayans were in awe of the man. Everything he did was the subject of gawking and applause.

And this for a 36-year-old who can barely run anymore, has to have a team built around him and was the enemy to half of the stadium.

There weren’t many Italy fans at the match, but at least two-thirds of those that we found were in Pirlo jerseys. Sure, there was the occasional Mario Balotelli, Daniele De Rossi or even Fabio Cannavaro shirt, but Pirlo was the favorite.

When the Italy team warmed up, there were mainly boos. The stadium was overwhelmingly Uruguayan, but you could heat the occasional chant of "Pirlo" and when that started, the Uruguay fans clapped

The Uruguay fans were deafening for most of the match, chanting and cheering to keep the stadium abuzz. But every time Pirlo touched the ball, a hush came over the stadium. Whether it was a matter of awe or fear of the magician hitting a 60-yard ball on a dime, the Uruguayans’ were struck silent by the Italian.

Italy’s corner kicks served as an extended celebration for the man. He jogged over to the flag and gathered the ball, sparking a standing ovation from everyone in the area. Fans in Italy jerseys were joined by those in Uruguay jerseys. The Brazilians took pictures and everyone cheered.

With a spot in the knockout stages on the line, Pirlo was above it all. Church was in session.


Traveling around Brazil is harder than it sounds

Natal to Manaus to Natal was supposed to take 24 hours. It didn't.


We found the drunk French guy again!

On Friday night I encountered a France fan who decided to take a swim in the ocean. With all of his clothes on (glasses and all).

It take a certain level of celebration to get someone to that sort of state, and I hope it was worth it because I found him again on Saturday and he looked horrible.

Have you ever imagined a zombie on the verge of tears? Because that is what the France fan looked like.

His hair was a mess, he had giant bags under his bloodshot eyes and couldn't even walk -- he was just aimlessly shuffling about, twice almost bumping his neighbors. And since the Atlantic Ocean claimed his glasses for its own, he couldn't even read his watch properly: the only way he could tell the time was to bring his wrist to within an inch or three of his eye. He's kind of screwed on that one.

Happy Saturday, France fan!


A France fan takes a drunken swim

Have you ever seen a France fan so drunk that he walked fully clothed into the Atlantic Ocean and flapped around in the surf for 10 minutes? If you haven't, you should have been at Ponta Negra beach late Friday night.

Said fan, presumably celebrating his team's annihilation of Switzerland, was so drunk he had severe difficulty with walking in a straight line. Choosing, then, to amble down the beach was only going to end badly. And so it proved: within minutes he was in the water.

Bizarrely, ending up in the ocean didn't faze the man at all. He didn’t bother to take his jersey, scarf or glasses off. He didn’t bother to take his phone or wallet out of his pants. He just kept on walking, deeper and deeper, slowly immersing himself into the sea.

The good news is the man couldn’t keep his balance long enough to make it much more than waist deep. He skipped around, got taken out by waves, then flapped about as though he was swimming, even though his knees were on the seabed and he wasn’t going anywhere. At one point, he turned to face the horizon just as a big wave came in and got hit square in the face. His glasses flew off and washed away.

Even in his absolutely hammered state, he took that as a sign to get out of the water.

So the France fan got up and started walking back to dry land. He fell twice along the way, but he made it, then walked off the beach and towards his hotel.

All in a day’s celebration. It will be fun when he wakes up wondering where his glasses are, why his phone is broken and why his bed is soaking wet.


Cristiano Ronaldo is Brazil's second-favorite team

NATAL, Brazil -- Brazil loves their Selacao, living and dying with their national team, but they also have a clear second favorite team: Portugal.

Portugal's match against Germany drew large crowds to bars, and after the match TV stations played the highlights ad nauseam. The coverage -- across every media outlet -- was only a step below that of Brazil. At least for Portugual games they at least acknowledged that there were other matches, showing the day's scores and then delving into hours and hours of Portugal analysis.

Part of Brazil's affection for Portugal is because they share a language and some cultures. According to three locals, the country has always had a soft spot for Portugal, but there is a bigger reason they love the team. Portugal's popularity in the country is at an all-time high, and it's Cristiano Ronaldo fault.

Ronaldo is insanely popular in most of the world, but that's especially true in Brazil. When favorite player polls are conducted, he trails only Neymar. He is of course, very good at soccer, very good looking and also plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Real Madrid. But, more than anything, he benefits from not being Lionel Messi.

Brazil and Argentina have a long-running rivalry, with the two teams having battled for the top spot in South America for decades. Be it the World Cup, Copa America or even a Copa Libertadores match between Brazilian and Argentinean clubs, Brazil hates Argentina. And, as you might imagine, Brazilians also hate Argentina's talisman.

"Messi is, how you say, evil," one Brazilian in a Ronaldo jersey said.

When Japan played Greece on Thursday night in Natal, a woman wearing a Messi was booed and whistled at in the stands and in the concourse. She was the least-liked person in the stadium, which is some doing when one considers that Greece were playing.

Meanwhile, Portugal jerseys are as common as any other, aside from Brazil. And almost every one says "Ronaldo" on the back. You even find Ronaldo Real Madrid jerseys, despite the fact that Brazil's Neymar plays for Barcelona.

"Ronaldo is perfect," said the man in the Ronaldo jersey. "He is European with the muscle, South American with skill."

"Cristiano is adopted by Brazil," another said.

As long as Ronaldo is pitted against Messi, he will always have a place in Brazil's heart, and a place in the spotlight.

Every day, the news starts with an update on Brazil. That's followed by an update on Ronaldo's health. After that, they move onto the matches of the day. Even when Messi scored for Argentina, he and the team didn't get any special mention. Brazil promotes Ronaldo and does its best to ignore his arch-rival, because Messi is Argentinian. Embracing his greatness is intolerable.

If it wasn't for adidas and Gatorade commercials, Messi wouldn't be on TV any more than, say, Clint Dempsey or Karim Benzema.

But Ronaldo is everywhere. Only Neymar is more beloved. Brazil is the favorite team here, Portugal is second and nobody cares who third is.


Johnny Manziel is worldwide


(Ryan Rosenblatt, SB Nation)

This is at the Greece-Japan game in Natal, Brazil. This could actually be Johnny Manziel, too. And yes, he is doing the money hand thing.


Meet the Brazil double hot dog

NATAL, Brazil -- If you want to get something to eat at the World Cup, you have four options:

1) Cheeseburger

2) Double cheeseburger

3) Cold sandwich

4) Double hot dog.

Yes, a double hot dog, which is two hot dogs inside of a sub sandwich bun.


That's how Brazil and the World Cup do American food.


How to make the World Cup love you in 8 steps

Japan fans were much more popular than Greece fans in Natal on Thursday. It's not difficult to figure out why.


Japanese fans are the best

NATAL, Brazil -- You would think that the blue trash bags that the Japan fans bring to the stadium are for a tifo, or to keep them dry in the rain, but you would be wrong. The trash bags are so they can clean up after themselves when the match is over.



(Photo by Ryan Rosenblatt, SB Nation)

Japan's fans walked into the match with big trash bags, watched their team slump to a disappointing draw against 10-man Greece, and then cleaned up their own trash. Beer cups, Coke cups, chip bags and anything else ended up in the trash bags they waved around all match before being dropped in the trash cans after the match.

The stadium was nearly empty by the time the Japanese were done cleaning up. There were old men and women, young people, people dressed as Pikachu, people with face paint and everyone in between making sure their sections were as pristine after the match as they were when they walked in.

At least Japan will win the Nicest Fans award.


World Cup tiebreakers are confusing

Is it better for Japan if Colombia win or the Ivory Coast win? The Japanese don't seem to have clue.

One thing everyone agrees upon is that Greece is not getting out of Group C. That means it's down to Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan for two spots, and the Samurai Blue are on the outside looking in after an opening-match loss. That put the Japanese fans in an awkward spot: The Cafeteros and Elephants square off on Matchday 2, and those watching are spending their time fighting among themselves about who they should be hoping to win.

When Colombia got a chance, a handful of Japanese fans started to cheer. That drew the ire of another handful.

They started yelling at each other -- being an unworldly American, I do not know Japanese and have no idea what they were saying -- and engaging in combative cheering. At some point they were counting points, and doing so on their fingers, pointing at them animatedly.

It is now the 30th minute and they're still arguing. Half are cheering for Colombia and half are cheering for the Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, I don't know the Japanese word for draw and am thus unable to defuse the tension.

National unity!


It won't stop raining in Natal

NATAL, Brazil -- Like most tropical places, Brazil sees its fair share of rain. In Natal, it can rain for an hour a day in the summer and in the winter, a day or two of rain every couple weeks is the norm. But days and days of rain is unheard of, and the city can't handle it.

Natal got hammered by rain at the start of the World Cup, getting a month's worth of rain in three days. Homes were destroyed, a highway was washed away and significant parts of the city were hit by flooding.

The rain hasn't gone away either. After a couple days with just a short sprinkling, the rain returned in full force on Wednesday night. It looked like a monsoon and, at times, was deafening. It came down in sheets and the only time it didn't was when the wind blew it sideways. Palm trees bent and pools overflowed.

Come Thursday morning, the rain was still coming down hard. Nothing had changed, except the Atlantic was now at high tide. Whereas everyone along Ponta Negra beach spent Thursday afternoon on the beach or walking around the city in the sun, nobody was out anymore.

Japan and Greece are set to square off at Arena das Dunas on Thursday night and when they do, the pitch is going to be a wreck. The forecast calls for rain all day, which may or may not (ok, probably not) cut down on the pre-game festivities outside the bar. The locals said the Mexico and Cameroon fans partied in the streets despite the rain last week so maybe the Japanese and Greeks can match it.

If they try, the beer will runneth over ... with rain.


My bartender smoked weed at the World Cup

NATAL, Brazil -- We were sitting at the swim-up bar, drinking caipirinhas* when our bartender starting sniffing. He was trying to tell us he smelled something. Seeing as none of us speak Portuguese, we had no idea what he was saying, but we did understand one word. "Cannabis."

*Brazil's national cocktail; primarily cachaça with sugar cane and a dash of lime. That it isn't more popular in the United States is a tragedy.

Moments later, the bartender was gone. He had taken off to chase down the weed. We could have hopped behind the bar and served ourselves for the next hour, because he didn't return anytime soon. By the time he did come back, almost 90 minutes had passed.

But there he was, sauntering up the beach with bloodshot eyes. He hopped back behind the bar and got back to serving us caipirinhas.

They were better -- and stronger -- after.


What happens when drunk Chile fans use fireworks?

NATAL, Brazil -- You know when's the best time to light fireworks? After you've been sitting in a bar drinking all day. Nothing says "good idea" like a ton of alcohol, fire and explosives.

Chile knew they had a good team -- one that certainly could have gotten out of their group -- but they expected to have a tough time, especially with Spain involved. Even after the Netherlands smashed the defending World Cup champions, the Chileans thought they would have difficult match against the Spaniards.

Which would explain why the Chileans in Natal started drinking early. That, or they had the day off so why not. And when Eduardo Vargas scored, that drinking only escalated. Which is to say they added celebratory shots to their repertoire of beers.

When Charles Araguiz made it 2-0 Chile, they lost their minds. Instead of a round of shots, it was two, then three rounds of shots. A man in an elephant hat started yelling "CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE." The second half was a stationary, inebriated pre-victory parade.

When the final whistle went with Chile as winners, the entire bar erupted in cheers. The Americans, Australians, Ghanians and Brazilians had taken to the Chileans in the bar, who had entertained them for the last two hours. But before the rest of the bar was done cheering, the Chileans had vanished.

They had sprinted out, removed the fireworks that they'd been keeping in their pocket for just such a moment, and proceeded to light them in the middle of the street. They were too drunk to walk in a straight line, but that only made playing with fire and explosives seem like an even better idea.

The first firework went up without issue. So did the next two.

The bangs echoed up and down the streets, the lights made us all blink, and everyone was entertained. But then the fourth went off with a yelp and it was clear something had gone wrong. A man, obviously the culprit was jumping up and down in the middle of the road, shaking his hand in agony.

He burnt his hand. The Chilean made noises, clearly in pain, and grabbed it, looking at the damage. It was bright red.

His inspired solution: go right back to the bar and get a medicinal beer.

By the time he had finished his beer, he was dancing and singing with his friends again. When asked how he was, his answer was to scream "VIVA CHILE!"

See? Fireworks and alcohol are a good mix.


Australia already won the World Cup of Partying

NATAL, Brazil --  The Australians could have partied in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. They could have gone to Brasilia and been in the capital or checked out the areas around Salvador and Recife, which have some of the country's best beaches. But they were in Natal.

Beer is cheap in Natal.

Despite Australia playing nowhere near Natal, Australians have packed the city. Normally, they get almost zero international travelers in this city, a million strong but inconveniently situated on Brazil's eastern extremity. They weren't expecting Australians, since during the World Cup, only fans of teams who have matches in the city were expected to show up. And yet there they were.

When we asked why there were so many Australians here, the answer was simple: "cheap drinks."

"The World Cup is a party. This is how Australians party," one fan slurred.

And when the Socceroos played the Netherlands, they filled several of the city's bars. They wore their yellow and green jerseys, drank beer and whenever there was a lull in play, ordered shots. Men and women explained how Tim Cahill "can get it" and when asked if they were the best looking team in the tournament, answered "it depends how drunk you are."

The men dressed as kangaroos were plenty drunk enough. They kept tugging on their own ears and hopping around, yelling "AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!" and waiting for an "OI, OI, OI" whenever they needed a break. Amazingly, they did all of this without spilling a drop of beer.

Unfortunately, Australia lost and their World Cup is basically over. They can't advance into the knockout rounds so their last match is just a party. Which, of course is perfectly fine with the traveling Aussies.

"We didn't come to win the World Cup," a man said mid-beer. "We came to win the World Cup of Partying."

Seeing as they picked a city to travel to based on who sold the cheapest drinks, they're certainly in prime position to do just that.

Now FIFA just needs to give Australia a World Cup. The tournament, not the trophy. Let them host and throw the party, instead of making their own abroad. Humankind needs a lesson in drinking from these amazing World Cup wonders, who are a more advanced, wonderful and happy people than we could ever hope to be.


The story behind American Outlaws' Amazing Race

The American Outlaws had chartered flights to Natal, but 14 members couldn't get on the planes. Instead, they took a strange three-leg journey and argued with customs. This is their story.


Watch Brooks' winner from the stands in Natal

The reaction from the USMNT fans in attendance was as crazy as you'd guess.


F--k it, it's the World Cup

A group of 540 members of American Outlaws traveled to Brazil together, with some of them risking their jobs.

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