Over the summer I had the chance to go to Brazil for the 2016 summer Olympics. This was one of the best soccer trips I have been on. When you can score tickets to the men's soccer semi-finals AND the men's soccer finals you clear the schedule to make sure you can attend. What's even better? This time the host nation of Brazil made it all the way to the finals and won it in dramatic fashion!
This was my first time to Brazil so I was excited to see a new country and experience some high quality soccer. Every great trip has a soccer component in some capacity, right? So I flew to Sao Paulo and met up with Lucas. Lucas is from Sao Paulo so I pretty much got a personally guided tour of the city. Two days later it was time to head to the Corinthians Arena for the semi-final between Germany and Nigeria.
What a fantastic setting to take in my first soccer match in Brazil. I had been to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 when I was a kid but this was such a different experience and in the best way possible. The soccer match was great and Germany ended up winning 2-0. Nigeria went on to win the bronze in this tournament. For Brazil this meant a match up with Germany in the finals.
The gold medal match was going to take place in Rio de Janeiro so we had a few days before we had to travel from Sao Paulo to Rio. Sao Paulo has so much to see soccer wise that we decided to tour the Football Museum and I'm glad we did! The museum is located inside of the Estadio do Pacaembu and is filled with all sorts of films, photos, and thoughts around Brazil's soccer highs and lows throughout the years. It really is a great tour and one of the highlights of the trip for me.
The day has come for us to fly to Rio for the men's final match but we also were there to see some other sports. When Usain Bolt is on the verge of making Olympic history you have to squeeze that in the schedule as well. So we toured the Olympic park and then watched Usain's last race which was the Men's relay. I'm sure you know by now that he won everything he competed in.
The next day we did some sight seeing. One doesn't go to Rio and not venture to the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the most famous monuments in entire world. Lucas was a good friend and laid on the ground to take the picture below. It is about a 45 minute drive to get to the statue that takes you on a long and twisty road to the top.
Now back to the soccer! If you have never been to an Olympic's event it is hard to describe the spirit of the crowds. So many people travel from all over the world to cheer for their respective nations. You almost feel like you can stick out your hand and touch the energy. Never was this more apparent than when we finally got to the world famous Maracanã Stadium. We were literally surrounded by 80,000 fans in yellow jerseys cheering for Brazil. As storied as Brazil's history is they had never won an Olympic gold medal for soccer. So to be in the finals and led by super star Neymar is a big deal and the crowd made sure they did everything they could to send all of that positive energy to their team.
The match was definitely the most intense i've experienced. Brazil scored first thanks to the Neymar free kick you see below. Germany tied the game up and we ultimately had to sit through a nerve racking extra time and a nail biting penalty kick shoot out. I've never jumped, screamed, shouted, chanted, and danced so much in my life. It was my favorite highlight from the trip!
The next day we went back to Sao Paulo and I flew back home to the USA. The trip was amazing and if you ever get the chance to experience Brazil you will not be disappointed. The people are great, the food is great, and the soccer scene is awe inspiring!
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