TrueHoop: 2014 World Cup
Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum will be doing player interviews at the 2014 NBA Draft (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), but before he made his way to Brooklyn, his attention -- like that of many other Americans -- was focused a bit further south. Brazil, to be specific. McCollum took over the @ESPNNBA Twitter handle during the U.S. Men's National Team's group stage match against Germany, which aired earlier Thursday on ESPN. A recap of his tweets is below.
Germany playing a bit of keep away insert *British Accent* #CJTweets— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Great save by @TimHowardGK— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
I must admit I only watch soccer during the #worldcup but I am still a fan— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Germany being very aggressive offensively. #USA continues to rack up saves— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Solid half defensively for #TeamUSA! Win or draw to advance !— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Looking forward to the second half! Ghana giving the #USA some help— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Great defending by Gonzalez ! Solid header to knock it out of play— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Germany dominating time of possession. Tough shot after the great save— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Game is defiantly getting more physical and I see the flopping similarities between soccer and basketball— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Definitely* sorry --- corner kick coming finally !— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Tough collision there hope both players are ok— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Thought we finally had an organized attack there!— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Hope they don't add too much stoppage time— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Tough to score a goal if you don't have possession - 3 more minutes!— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
WIDE OPEN NET!!!— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2014
Follow McCollum on draft night on Twitter: @CJMcCollum
Special to ESPN.com
The best thing about Brazil was the coconut with just a straw stuck in it. The fresh fruit is amazing.
And even the plane ride was celebratory. I met some people on the plane who were going to every single U.S. game.
We rented an apartment so we took the first day to hit the beach and walk around Rio.
It’s not as crazy as people make it out to be. I felt safe, everyone was very friendly. There were thousands of fans there, firecrackers going off -– a very celebratory atmosphere. You see an incredible level of competitiveness in players and fans, but no hatred for each other. There is a love and respect and passion for the game among fans -– you even see it on the field when opponents help each other up or talk to each other.
People always ask, “Is it like what I hear with favelas?” It’s like North America. We have projects and the ghetto. They’re not as bad as favelas with crime and drugs and poverty. The favelas don’t have modern sewer systems in some cases, and instead of concrete, it’s dirt. But you still see kids running around happy, playing soccer. Reminds you not to take things for granted.
Soccer is the easiest sport to play in terms of equipment. You just need something round. You can draw goals on a wall with chalk or set up posts. It’s so easy. People are playing everywhere.
In Rio, every day Brazil plays all you see is green and yellow. When they first played we were walking around and all the shops and businesses closed in the afternoon. Literally, the whole country, except grocery stores, shuts down to watch the game.
The Super Bowl is the only thing that could kind of compare.
We watched some games with a bunch of fans in a lounge. We talked to Brazilians about Neymar, his progression and ability to lead the team, about the World Cup environment and how it changed the city with protests. Despite all that, they all still support their team.
I was walking downtown and I heard someone yell “Patrick Patterson! Patrick Patterson!!” It was two American guys from Sacramento. Small world!
On the beach, you see everyone carrying soccer balls, just kicking them around. They have a game called footvolley, which is basically volleyball that you play with your feet, head and chest. It’s a combo of soccer and volleyball. There are kids everywhere playing soccer in the streets. You cannot walk a block without seeing some sign of the game.
One day we were walking down the beach and there was a crowd of about 2,000 fans in a circle around a volleyball net. Cheering, yelling, taking pictures, I go over and look and it was actually a couple of players from the Netherlands playing footvolley on the beach. Here for the World Cup to rep their nation and they’re right here on the beach playing footvolley in front of thousands just for fun!
We didn’t have tickets to the U.S. vs. Ghana, so we watched at Fan Fest on the beach. Thousands of fans dressed up with painted faces.
When we scored it was out of control.
U.S. chants consist of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Or, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” or AC/DC.
The Belgian and German fans were cheering for Ghana.
There were some USA people in latex costumes. The Brazilian fans had some pretty amazing dresses and head pieces. I saw a few Spanish fans with men dressed as women and women as men.
We had tickets for two games, including Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina. Just getting into the Maracana stadium there were thousands of Argentine fans yelling, holding pictures and chanting. Right next to them were swarms of Bosnian fans, cheering equally as loud. All of a sudden there was a back and forth competition with whoever chanted loudest won.
Walking in to the arena was pretty cool, but the teams coming out of the tunnel and standing for their national anthems gave me goosebumps. You could feel the passion. It’s a different feeling when you are rooting for a country than for a club or local team.
I wore a Messi jersey.
There were about 100,000 fans in the stadium (officially attendance was 74,738). Even when nothing particular was happening in the game, there was so much energy and passion, everyone just jumping up and down. Even with fans from the two nations so close together, I saw no negativity or criticizing. Fans of opposite teams were friendly with each other. The energy reminded me of Game 7 of the playoffs in Toronto.
And when a goal was scored? It was mayhem, people throwing things in the air, singing the national anthem and then tons of cheers and chants. Incredible.
Anderson Varejao has been serving as something of a World Cup correspondent for the NBA in his native Brazil. In the following clip (transcribed below), he sits down with Kobe Bryant to discuss the Los Angeles Lakers guard's passion for soccer, his experience in Brazil and what he sees happening in the World Cup moving forward. To see what the NBA is doing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup follow #NBAINBRAZIL. To stay up to date with all the latest NBA news, follow @nbauk on twitter or visit facebook.com/nbauk.
Varejao: "Can you tell me a little bit about your passion for soccer? How did it grow [in Italy]?"
Bryant: “Well you know growing up in Italy from the age of 6 to 14, at the time Serie A - that was the best league in the world. All the best players were there; Maradona was there, Baggio was there, Van Basten was there. So when I was growing up that became a passion of mine so I was literally playing football every single day.”
Varejao: "So of course you want Italy to win the World Cup?"
Bryant: “Well, yeah. See, that's where I'm conflicted, because I root for the USA, right? But I'm always for Forza Azzurri, it's always there a little bit.”
Varejao: "What do you think about the Brazilian team?"
Bryant: “Passion, passion. Passion for their culture. Passion for their country and what their culture represents. And I think the world is missing out. The next 3-4 years are a great opportunity for the rest of the world to see what Brazil is all about and what their culture is all about, because I believe that passion can really inspire everybody else.”
Varejao: "Thanks about that. That's what I think about Brazil, too. So who do you think is going to win the World Cup?"
Bryant: “A couple of years ago I had Germany picked to win it, 'cause I felt like their young players were developing and everyone would be in their primes. Watching how Brazil has handled the pressure, particularly of the first match [a 3-1 win over Croatia], it's going to be hard to bet against them. I think we'll wind up seeing a Brazil vs. Argentina final and that's going to be an epic final.”