It’s time for the trip to actually begin. Last Monday our visas came from the Brazillian Embassy. We made copies of the passports and visas and emailed them in color to Mauricio in Rio. On Tuesday Mauricio notified us that he was successful picking up our tickets to the three US games. On Wednesday we received two tickets to the second round game in Rio the day before we leave to come home.

We won’t know who will be playing in that game until the first round of games is almost over. Two teams in each of the 8 Groups go home after three games and two others move to the second round. Our game will be between the second place team in Group D. And the first place team in Group C. Italy, England, Uruguay and Costa Rica are in Group D, so we could see one of them play in the famous huge old stadium in Rio. These tickets came from friends. If US should happen to surprise everyone and make it to the second round, we will have four tickets to their second round game, but we will leave to fly home before the game happens.

This happened because we had to apply for tickets before we could tell when or where the game would be played. No telling if we will be able to sell the tickets back to FIFA or to other fans. In theory tickets can only change hands if we apply to transfer the name on the ticket. We have successfully changed one of our tickets from my wife’s name, who is not going now, to my son, but we tried to change one to our friend in Rio, Mauricio, but they disallowed the transfer because he is not a paid member of the US SoccerSupporters Club.

We have never had trouble selling extra tickets at face value at any of the other games, but FIFA seems to be trying harder this time to computerize the ticket ownership and use that to make even more money than the already expensive ticket price.

Some of you might wonder if we might have problems getting the tickets from Mauricio, but he is a friend of my son’s from his days selling carpet in Latin America and he has Reggie carrying a duffle bag full of items from Wallmart for him.

I am packed and ready to go. This is my first soccer trip using a backpack instead of a suitcase. My children made me do it because we are flying so much, not only going and coming, but between cities. They claim it is an easier way to carry all the luggage on the plane with no checked luggage. I am a little worried about carrying it all. It is true that with over twenty years as a scout leader, I have lived out of a backpack enough, but it just does not seem as convenient in a hotel as a suitcase.

A number of people seem to be worrying about all the negative things in the news about Brazil. It is a very big country and these cities we are going to that you have not heard of before are over a million people each. Chances of our being bothered by strikes on the subway in Sao Paulo, 1,600 miles away are pretty unlikely. The unfinished stadiums will probably not have any effect on us either, as long as they have a field on which to play.

As long as we do not take a wrong turn and end up in East Saint Louis, I expect we will be as safe as we would be in any other big city in the world. Most places we will be going with throngs of other soccer fans so we won’t be many places without lots of likeminded fans.

Speaking of fans, I loved the Wall Street Journal section on the Cup. It included one article by a British football fan who was complaing about the US fans. There are a large number of US fans who join together as either Sam’s Army or now American Outlaws that really kind of defy the image of who you might think would be a soccer fan. It is great to have so many gung ho fans, but as the Brit writer points out, they did not all have to adopt Arsenal as their favorite club team and they really did not have to adopt British English to talk about pitches, boots and other non-American words.

Our German-American coach will have our team technically and tactically ready, but I wonder if he has a team member who can add that distinctly American need for desire. My observation of US athletes in all sports is that we need more spirit to succeed than players from other countries. If two teams have the skill and ability to compete at this level, the one who wants to win the most will usually make the luck needed in the clutch to win the game.

Our very good German coach at UNC (Elmar Bolowich) for many years had many good teams, but they succeeded most when one of the players took over the role that the coach was incapable of playing, player/cheerleader. If our USA team does not have a cheerleader player or coach, maybe having more fans traveling to Brazil than any other team will inspire the team.

Have you picked your favorite to win it all. Are you aware of the Europe vs Latin America Challenge? Have you picked Spain or Germany to repeat or Brazil as home team or Ronaldo and Portugal or Messi and Argentina. Watch out for Belgium.

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