Over the next month, I'll be covering the World Cup for Tribalfootball. And along the way, I'd like to share with you some of my experiences and keep you up to date with all the action.
Vamos/Tchau South America
I've spoken many times about the atmosphere the South Americans have brought to Russia. I've marvelled at their passion, joy and positivity. Sadly the remaining two nations, Brazil and Uruguay, were eliminated yesterday.
Uruguayan tears flowed on the big screen inside Nizhny Novgorod Stadium after the final whistle. The French wouldn't have reacted the same had they been eliminated. That isn't trying to question France's passion, I would apply that same theory to any of the European nations. It's difficult to comprehend just how different football is for South Americans. It's more than just entertainment, for many it's life.
There was a weird atmosphere yesterday. Once Griezmann's goal went in, their wasn't the usual reaction you'd expect from the Uruguay players and crowd. It was as if the loss of Edinson Cavani struck a lethal blow to their belief. Yet with seconds left on the clock, and all hope of victory was lost, Uruguay won a free-kick and sure enough, all the fans behind the goal went berserk one last time.
I'd read about this 'mate' drink prior to the game thanks to Antoine Griezmann's obsession with Uruguayan culture. And so it happens, while walking around Nizhny before the game, I noticed three guys drinking from the signature mate mug.
According to them, mate is the most popular drink in Uruguay. Nobody drinks normal tea or coffee. It's herbal tea that contains no caffeine and is sourced from local plants. They kindly offered me to taste it and I was very impressed.
Is it really coming home?
It's getting so close now. After today we'll know the final four teams at the World Cup. Our first game is between England and Sweden in Samara. Conditions could impact both teams, with temperatures expected to reach 30°C. It won't be as easy some England fans expect. The Swedes are extremely well organised at the back, having only conceded twice in four games. That being said, Gareth Southgate's men will be confident after getting the penalty monkey off their back against Colombia.
Russia and Croatia finish off the night in Sochi. I can't imagine what the scenes will be like here in Moscow should the hosts win. And they have every chance to against a Croatia side who disappointed against Denmark in the last-16. The Vatreni have a tendency to become lackadaisical against less talented opponents, which will suit Stanislav Cherchesov's defensive tactics just fine.