SALVADOR, BRAZIL – The day had finally arrived. This was the whole point of booking a plane ticket less than a month ago and deciding to come down to Brazil at the last minute (besides, of course, the experience of traveling to a new place). This was the day I would finally be stepping foot inside the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador to watch a World Cup quarterfinal match – Costa Rica vs. the Netherlands.
It was certainly the surprise quarterfinal matchup and not one that anyone would have predicted before the tournament started. Regardless of the matchup, I was pumped and excited. 5:00pm local time couldn’t come soon enough. I was going to be inside the stadium and watching a World Cup match live!
As a neutral, I decided to throw my support behind Costa Rica as they were the clear underdog and the Cinderella story of this World Cup. My friends Joe and Diana did the same. Carla, on the other hand, was hoping for a Netherlands victory as they would be more likely to defeat Argentina in the semifinal – apparently, when you support Brazil, your first thought after “Go Brazil!” is “Down with Argentina!” All that said, I still expected Costa Rica to put up a fight, but go down rather handily in the end.
We spent the morning and afternoon walking through the Old Town Pelourinho section of Salvador and passed by a whole square that had been taken over by the Dutch contingent of fans. We also passed by a lot of other fans in orange jerseys or with Dutch flags. On the flip side, I only needed two hands to count the total number of Costa Rica supporters that I spotted while walking around town. I figured that we would be drastically outnumbered inside the stadium with the majority cheering on the Dutch. We walked 15 minutes from Pelourinho to the stadium, and my eyes lit up when I saw the Fonte Nova and the crowd of people around it. After making it through security, through gates, and up four flights of stairs, we finally made it to our seats in section 410, pretty much at the center of the pitch.
It was a terrific atmosphere inside the stadium and soon everyone around me started singing “Ole! Ole, ole, ole! Ticos, Ticos!” I don’t know if it was just our section, but it seemed like most of the stadium – at the least in terms of the neutrals, was rooting for Costa Rica. All the cheers and songs for Costa Rica were LOUD. There were a few Mexican fans seated next to us and they were of course cheering for the Ticos – or possibly against the country who knocked their team out in the previous round.
As the FIFA anthem played and the teams walked out, the crowd roared in anticipation. The players lined up and we all stood as the national anthems of the two nations played. Even though I didn’t know either anthem, there’s just something special about them and anticipating a competitive international match that will soon follow. Afterward, the captains gave a message against racism. Finally, it was time for kick-off.