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Quarter-final match odds (as of July 6):
The wait is almost over.
In October, my friends and I applied for World Cup tickets in the city of St. Petersburg. Several months later received news that we were seeing Brazil versus Costa Rica. We knew little about Russia or even the city of the match we were watching.
We did our research to make sure everything would run smoothly, but it was still a mystery of what to expect, especially during the World Cup.
Fast forward to June of 2018 when we made it to St. Petersburg - an incredible city. You could walk hours on end down its busy streets and never run out of wondrous architecture - left, right, and centre. The city was alive and the event of this scale only added to the buzz.
On the streets was an explosion of colours from country jerseys weaving in and out of crowded streets. Languages from all over the world blurred into its own atmosphere with small phrases popping into one's ear. Pockets of supporters burst into spontaneous song and dance, spreading through crowds like a virus.
Nighttime, which came at about 10 p.m., illuminated every detail from lights that shot up on every frame to enormous street lamps lining streets like runways filled line to line with vehicles. The city never slept, as it was the season of "white nights" and the sun rose at 2:30 a.m.
World Cup Betting Breakdown:
Game day - Brazil vs. Costa Rica
It took three metro stops to reach Krestovsky Island. We pushed our way to the metro, which was free for ticket holders that day. We clumsily jumped from one station entrance to another trying to decipher the labyrinth of the Russian city metro.
Looking up from our phones, a pattern revealed itself as the jerseys of gold and blue swam the same directions into the tunnels of an underground walkway. "Follow the Brazil fans," we agreed. The way only became more apparent as the sea of people going through the escalator tunnels become a solid colour of gold jerseys with only sprinkles of the Costa Rican blue and red.
The festivities of drums and cheering echoed along the long corridors and continued with us into a packed train. Body to body we felt the heat, but abrupt stops did little to stop the cheering.
As we exited, we were greeted by a stiff wind at the foot of an enormous St. Petersburg Stadium. It would take 30 minutes to walk through a guided path to the main entrance and another 30 minutes through crowded lines and security checkpoints.
The beat of drums accompanied with the occasional horns, and the chorus of chants never left our side. It was a spectacle and circus like no other. A mascaraed of sorts. A festival of colours. A crowd from all parts of the world and yet a common theme which brought them all together.
The moment of disbelief
We stood at the foot of the stadium and ascended one of several staircases into the silver coliseum. With each step, our disbelief of the moment became more of a reality. There was a final line into the stadium with glimpses of the inside revealing itself the closer we got. Finally through the doors and ... the rest was a blur.
It was an overwhelming overload of senses and a rush of surreal emotion. I've seen it on TV. I've followed every game, but to be there was something entirely on its own.
Overall, it was an incredible experience. I will always speak fondly of my time there and the people I spent time with.
As cliché as it is, it's something I will never forget.
Some fun facts
- Tickets were $105 (incredible!) but we had to put ourselves in a draw, which didn't assure us getting these tickets.
- Yes, Russia has its own alphabet where letters can mean different things, such as 'P' is an 'R'. But it's phonetic, so once you get used to the characters it's easy to sound things out if you like sounding like a 4 year old.
- Do your research because most signs are only in Russian (I'd like to thank Roma and Sabrina for being our Russian speaking friends).
- Georgian food is everywhere and khachapuri (baked bread with cheese) and Shashlik (grilled meats) are amazing. Google it!
- Try Medovik - Russian Honey cake. Each place makes them different so try them every chance you get.