A Socceroos fan recounts the incredible experience of travelling to Brazil for his first FIFA World Cup experience in 2014.
After the Socceroos’ valiant effort in Germany, I became obsessed with the FIFA World Cup.
Whilst South Africa was not nearly as successful for our national team, this obsession intensified due to the passion and spirit that was so clearly on display throughout the tournament.
It was at that point that I became determined to travel across the world and see the Socceroos perform on the greatest stage.
Having grown up idolising the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo, much of my childhood was defined by these legends and the Portuguese phrase Joga bonitio (play beautifully).
So, with Brazil already holding a special place in my heart, I could not think of a better location to attend my first FIFA World Cup.
Socceroos v Chile
Cuiabá was surreal.
I remember landing in the city at 5am to the deafening chants of the Chileans on the plane – “Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! Viva Chile!”.
On the morning of the match against Chile I had an unexpected visitor knock on my hotel room door.
Standing in the doorway was an extremely confused man claiming that I was occupying his room.
After a short discussion, the disgruntled man walked away to organise the correct room.
In absolute disbelief, I then suddenly realised that the man I had been speaking to was Manuel Pellegrini, the Manager who had just led Manchester City to a Premier League title.
I immediately ran down the corridor and politely asked Pellegrini for a photo.
Having had a special conversation with Frank Lowy (Chairman of the FFA at the time) moments later, I now understood that anything was possible at the World Cup.
The atmosphere during the match against Chile was nothing short of electric.
The Chileans chanted in Spanish from start to finish and while the Socceroos were slow getting started, my first World Cup match was living up to expectations.
When Tim Cahill pulled one back just before half time, there was a feeling of belief in the air.
Unfortunately, the Chileans would prove to be too strong that night, but there were certainly positives that came out of the performance.
Socceroos v Netherlands
On to the Netherlands.
After the Oranje dismantled the reigning champions Spain, 5-1 in their opening fixture, it is fair to say that I was far from optimistic.
When the crafty Dutch winger Arjen Robben slammed the ball past Mat Ryan on the 20th minute mark, I thought to myself “here we go again”.
But then a moment of magic happened that I will never forget until the day I die.
One minute after Robben scored, Tim Cahill followed the ball perfectly across his body and scored a volley that was completely out of this world.
The scenes in the stadium were like nothing I had ever experienced before; words simply cannot do it justice.
When Jedinak then buried a penalty to put us up 2-1, I embraced my friend and celebrated as if we had just won the Final.
The few minutes that followed were some of the best of my life and although it was short-lived, with Robin Van Persie scoring four minutes later, I will forever be grateful that I witnessed that madness in Porto Alegre.
Socceroos v Spain
Spain was bittersweet.
We mathematically could not advance to the knockout stages, but there was every chance we could steal three points from the nation that lifted the trophy four years earlier.
It was a gorgeous day in Curitiba, and I think all Australians were particularly excited to see our Socceroos line up against some of the greatest players in recent memory.
Players like Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Fernando Torres and David Villa.
We would lose 3-0 that day and I was certainly heartbroken by how things had panned out.
In saying that, I had never been prouder to call myself an Australian.
From partying on the Copacabana to eating delicious churrasco (Brazilian style BBQ), Brazil was seriously a dream and I cannot wait for 2022.