When we were through with the Soweto and Johannesburg tour, the tour company dropped us off at the hotel. We went straight for lunch at Lorenzo’s. Lorenzo’s is the restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning. It was just across the courtyard from our hotel, in another one of the buildings on the college’s campus.
After lunch, it was most definitely time for a nap.
Then it was time to pull on our Argentina gear and get ready to go to Soccer City for our very last World Cup game. We watched the Germany/England game while we were getting ready, completely shocked at how Germany was dominating the match. Yes, England was robbed on a goal. But that game was all Germany. They would’ve won anyway.
While I never would have guessed that the atmosphere at Soccer City could have been any better than it was during the first three matches was saw there, the Round of 16 seemed to bring the atmosphere to greater heights. There was urgency, anxiety and expectation in the air that the games in the group stages didn’t have. Not to that extent, anyway.
Fans seemed just a touch more intense. Vendors sold with greater pressure. Even the security guards seemed tenser. It only makes sense. It was a knockout game, after all.
Both teams were well represented in the stands. Mexico fans came dressed to impress, wearing gorgeous sombreros and other traditional garments that I can’t even imagine dragging halfway around the world. That’s true passion, folks: loving your country so much that you’ll haul an intricately feathered headdress past airport security, across an ocean and through the endless dirt parking lots of Soccer City.
Inside the stadium well before the start of the match, we took some time to walk the concourse. We bopped around to Shakira’s World Cup song (like we had every time we’d heard it in the previous two weeks). I bought a coffee. We feasted on meat pies (chicken for me, beef for Lauren), a nice change from the cheese dogs that we’d had at nearly every other match.
While both teams had a strong base of supporters, Mexico was outnumbered. Argentina had more fans at Soccer City. Over and over, they threw rolls of streamers onto the field. Over and over, we watched the security guards (and the referees, and a player or two) gather up the mess and properly dispose of it.
The match, much like the atmosphere in the stadium, was more intense than the group round matches had been. It was quite clear that the World Cup dreams of one of the teams were going to end that night. And, it wasn’t long into the match that it was abundantly clear that that team would not be Argentina.
It isn’t that it wasn’t a good match. It isn’t that Mexico didn’t play well. Argentina was simply the superior team. And they played like it.
When the final whistle sounded, the score was 3-1 in favor of Argentina.
It was sad that we wouldn’t be in the stands for any more World Cup matches. But, if our South African World Cup adventure absolutely had to end (and, unfortunately, it did) Argentina/Mexico was a great game to end with.