JAMBEROO’S Ross Warren has returned from the FIFA Football World Cup in Brazil full of praise for the host country and its people and predicting a Brazil - Netherlands final.
Mr Warren, the older brother of former Socceroo captain Johnny Warren, was part of a tour group who spent two-and-a-half weeks in the country and couldn't speak highly enough of the people and how they were treated.
“Everywhere we went cars would toot their horns and sing out ‘Australia’ or ‘we love Australia’, which was pretty special. In fact everywhere we went we were welcomed with open arms.
“After playing at Cuiaba against Chile, the game against the Dutch was very exciting and probably as good as any Aussie effort for several years.
It was then on to Curitiba for the final group game against Mexico.
“I have never seen a market like the one there it must have been around three blocks by four blocks and we found a German beer hall where we watched two games on the big screens.”
“There was a large Italian influence in the city and we had an unbelievable feast there one night where they sliced up masses of meat with a large knife that looked like a sword.”
After the final game the touring party had a full day in Rio De Janiero, which he described as an amazing city where his late brother, former Socceroo John lived for a time, before flying home.
Mr Warren said much of the controversy about the Cup from Brazilian citizens was the amount of money that was spent on the stadiums.
“It was crazy as they probably only needed to build or renovate five stadiums, but instead built seven – one of them won’t be used for football again as that city don’t even have a football team.”
He said he never felt under threat, and apart from a minor hiccup with ATMs not liking his ANZ travel card, had a wonderful time.
Brazil was Mr Warren’s third World Cup, having previously been to Germany and South Africa, joined a touring party of 30 on the tour and said the only drawback was the more than 24 hours it took them to get to their destination.
“It took us around 15 hours to Dubai, had a two hour stop-over, then around 14 hours to Rio then another couple more to our first base at Cuiaba, where Australian played their first game against Chile,” Mr Warren said.
“While there was a lot of speculation in the lead up to the Cup about facilities not being ready in time, most of the stadiums looked a bit unfinished from the outside but were incredible inside.
“It was quite a task to get to the stadium at Cuiaba as security was extremely tight and we had to park kilometres from the ground and walk the rest of the way, but once we got to the ground it was great and the weather was about 25 degrees.”
From there the tourists went to Porto Alegre for the next match, where they had our own ‘box’ against The Netherlands and he said wearing Australian colours gave you almost superstar status.
But the 76 year-old said this will be his last World Cup as he will be ‘too old’ to go to the next one in Russia, but feels this young Socceroo side is one the right track for a bright future.
"At the moment I think Brazil, despite a bit of a slow start to the Cup, will gain enormous traction from the home crowd, while The Netherlands also look very polished and it wouldn't surprise me if they met Brazil in the final.
“It was an encouraging effort from the Socceroos, but they still have a little way as we need a to find another couple of guys who can score goals as Tim Cahill forever can’t play forever, but with Ange Postecoglou in charge, the future looks a bit brighter,” he added.
“It was also encouraging that all the other coaches praised the Aussies on their efforts.”