World cup blog post 4

Last stop on our World Cup tour was Kaliningrad. On the way from the airport, our taxi driver told us that the city had drafted in 12,000 extra police from the rest of Russia for the tournament, and that additional OMON troops were coming in specially for the England game. In the end, perhaps because of all the security or perhaps of the general pleasant, fun mood of all the fans, I didn’t notice any signs of trouble. As one Russian told me in the bus back from the England-Blegium game, there was a lot of inaccurate scaremongering in the Western press.

My Soviet-era hotel definitely lacked the view I had in Nizhny Novgorod. The balcony from which I took this picture is not for the faint hearted, as it slopes dangerously downwards.

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As the game wasn’t until 8pm, we began the day with some tourism. Here I am on a Soviet submarine.

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After that, we visited the bunker where the German commanders sheltered during the final battle for Konigsberg in April 1945. I was struck by how quickly the Soviets took the city. Three entire armies took part in the assault, and captures Konigsberg in just three days. Hitler apparently sentenced the German commander, General Lasch, to death for his failure to resist longer, but his forces were quite clearly overwhelmed.

Next, we went to the old cathedral, in which there is a museum dedicated to the city’s most famous inhabitant, Immanuel Kant. For the philosophers among you, here’s a picture of his tomb, on the northeastern wall of the Cathedral.

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Finally, we went to the game. It was a bit of a disappointment, as both England and Belgium played their B teams, and all the best players were rested. It wasn’t desperately exciting, but had its moments and was a thriller compared with the dreadful Denmark v France. Sadly, England lost, but the pundits say that’s not a bad thing as it puts England on an easier path to the final than a victory would have done.

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England v Belgium, Kaliningrad

The Russian sitting next to me at the match kept telling me that Belgium would win the cup. One of my sons has also been telling me this sincebefore the tournament started. We shall see.

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3 thoughts on “World cup blog post 4”

  1. Kaliningrad is a fun town. I say town because it feels like a town, very cozy and comfortable as I remember. I recommend taking the drive through the ‘proliv’ nature reserve to Klaipeda – beautiful and a great informal border crossing. Anyways I’m born Belgian so obviously I agree with your son and many Russians. England’s path beyond Columbia is very unlikely to be relevant – unless they all of a sudden develop more playing options, they are likely to fall soon, and Columbia is a lot better than Tunisia, Panama or Belgium’s B-team. But good luck to them.

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  2. “Anyways I’m born Belgian so obviously I agree with your son and many Russians.”

    I think the chances are pretty high at this point. It seems that Brazil is Belgium’s stiffest competition, but they haven’t been looking super-impressive so far, and at this point, I think it’s unlikely they’ll substantially improve. That said, Uruguay’s been unexpectedly strong, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take the whole thing. That said, I expect Belgium to have a better chance than any other single team of winning the whole thing, I’m not happy about it. Not that I have anything against Belgium, but I was really disappointed that Japan couldn’t hold onto its lead yesterday. I generally cheer for African, Asian and North American teams to do as well as possible, in part because of the underdog appeal, but also because I think it’s good for the game in the long term if there are strong teams from all over the world. So to see the last 2 teams in the tournament that aren’t from Europe or South America (Japan and Mexico) go down on the same day was a let-down, especially since Japan seemed to have its game all but won.

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