Monday, June 16
Monday started bright and early as we departed for the world-renowned Statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro at 7:30 AM. We took vans up the winding roads and were able to enjoy the view of the mountains and surrounding villages below us. While many of us have seen pictures of the Statue, nothing quite prepared us for how incredible and breathtaking the Statue of Christ really was. Although it was unfortunately cloudy and difficult to see all of Rio de Janeiro from the top, it was an amazing experience for us to witness Brazil's most sacred structure.
Best quotes from atop the Statue:
"I feel like I'm in Heaven" -Alex Merrill
"Let me take a selfie" -Ryan Thompson
After visiting the Statue of Christ, we headed to a Brazilian steakhouse for lunch. Although many of us have been to "Brazilian" steakhouses in America, it was cool to actually eat in an authentic one in the country's capital. The waiters all walked around offering different cuts of meat and there was also a food bar with salad, vegetables, sushi, and shrimp. I can confidently say that no one left the restaurant hungry. Even better, we were able to stay and watch the Germany-Portugal game afterwards.
Side note: Jared Golestani ate more meat than the entire sophomore class.
Once the game ended, we headed to our first training session. Luckily enough, we were given the opportunity to train at the PSG Academy facility in Rio. At the top of the facility were 2 incredible futsol fields that overlooked the city. For many of us, we always heard about the historic Brazilian street soccer growing up, and how many of the top Brazilian players grew up playing futsol on the streets. It was quite humbling to be able to train on a field that many top players once competed on. We had a very intense and productive session in preparation for our match tomorrow morning.
Editor's note: Jake Butwin won MVP in training for his stellar goal-scoring performance. Hats off to you, Jake.
After our training session we got on the bus and headed towards the FIFA Fan Zone on Copacabana Beach for the USA-Ghana match. The Fan Zone was virtually just a massive tent on the beach with fun stations inside and a huge TV at the very end. There were tons and tons of USA soccer fans inside gathered to cheer on the team in their opening match. Dempsey's goal in the first minute definitely lit up the energy inside and provided an electric atmosphere for most of the game. After the disappointment of the Ghana goal to tie it at 1-1, the Fan Zone completely erupted after USA scored the winning goal in the 87th minute. We all had a great time celebrating the win with all of the USA fans in Brazil and it was the perfect way to cap off our first full day.
Editor's Addition: a group of us had a heated debate on the ride down from the Statue on which American states had the best youth soccer. Although no consensus was ever reached, the majority of us agreed that the top 5 states are California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and North Carolina. Help us settle the debate and let us know what you think!
Alex “Sau” Sauciuc