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The Finals

Although France v England would have been a bigger match, it is hard to be negative about Croatia.  Except for the French, I will bet that 90% of the world would like to see them win.  Having seen both play in person, I think that they have a good chance.  To me it will come down to set pieces and control of the midfield.  But the reason they play the match is because you never know.

The question for me, like four years ago and for the last match is whether or not I will be on the pitch.  Since my credential was “not approved” I will have to go through the waiting list.  A long and painful process.  It would be great to shoot two World Cup finals in a row.  I never say never, but the likelihood that I will be in Qatar is very, very low.

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Starbucks–the Angry Canadian

Although I am not a big fan of “Charbucks” the availability of a Starbucks 3 minutes from my hotel has been great.  Today, while drinking my coffee and working on my iPad I met a couple, the man from Toronto and the women from Crimea.  Somehow, after telling me that you can succeed in Russia through bribes that the US needs to have an enemy and what followed was his diatribe on the military industrial complex etc.  Wow, girlfriend embarrassed, I guess they are everywhere. He plans to stay in Russia, the land of the free…oh well.

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Croatia v England

It is hard for people who haven’t been to a FIFA event to understand the process.  In the US when you are credentialed to shoot an event, you show up and you shoot it.  For FIFA you are credentialed for the event, meaning  the World Cup and then you have to apply for the specific game.  Once you are credentialed for the game you are put in a group which defines the order with which you can request a specific seat around the pitch.  The big agencies get the best seats before you even get to choose.  If your country is in the match then you are in group 1, there are also groups 2 and 3.  For this match I received “not approved” which is different from rejected.  Rejected means don’t show up.  Not approved means that you can be on the wanting list.  Unfortunately, there were only 4-5 open chairs for the waiting list which had over 50 names.  The good news was that they in part do it by country and I didn’t have US competition……made it on the pitch.

Within five minutes, England scores a goal off of a set piece, my spot for this was great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, while England had many good attempts and played aggressively, they were unsuccessful, eventually backed off on their aggressiveness and Croatia was energized, came charging back and won on extra time.  So a France v Croatia final.  Some other shots from the match including a header that a Croatia defender headed out of the goal that would have put England up 2-0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So back to where I was before the last match, ideal would be to get approved, we will see.  A few more days for the World Cup, today is Friday and the final is Sunday.

 

 

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You don’t always get what you want!!

Back in Moscow after the France game and things have been quiet.  Not a particularly exciting city unless you want to shop at overpriced souvenir stores or shops that are also in the US.  Today the England v Croatia game.  Well, as I said, you don’t always get what you want (aaah the Rolling Stones were right).  My credential request was rejected.  That means getting to the stadium 5 hours before the match, getting on a waiting list and hoping that things work out.  One of the contrasts with Brazil is that there were twice the number of photographer seats as there are here.  I had hoped with all European teams that it would be easier, but I guess not….wish me luck!

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St Petersburg

Well, the plan was to head back to Moscow today, St Petersburg in the AM shoot the semifinal match on the 10th and return on a 7 AM flight to shoot the next semi-final in Moscow.  My trip to Nizhny Novgorod has demonstrated to me what a folly this is.  Four hour train ride, 9 PM match, back to the hotel at 2 or 3 AM having to leave for the airport at 5:30 AM.  It would be stupid.  So as much as I would like to visit St Pete, it will have to be for another time.

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Uruguay vs France

The first surprise in Nizhny Novgorod was that there were not any media shuttles.  In spite of the literature to the contrary, I am not in a media hotel…great.  No worries, you can take public transportation, long walks with equipment, but actually not a bad trip to the stadium.  One of the interesting things that you see in the background is typical Russian architecture.

 

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia- July 6, 2018: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Uruguay vs France, quarter-finals, 2018 World Cup. Final score Uruguay 0, France 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The match started out with Uruguay being very aggressive, actually looked like they had a chance to defeat France, that was until:

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia- July 6, 2018: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Uruguay vs France, quarter-finals, 2018 World Cup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although Uruguay challenged a bit after this, a keeper miscue gave France a second goal and it was really match done at that point.  There were still some interesting moments like the one after Mbappe claimed horrible injury and the Uruguay players took exception:

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia- July 6, 2018: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Uruguay vs France, quarter-finals, 2018 World Cup. Final score Uruguay 0, France 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think that this was about where they would have dinner after the match!

 

 

 

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Nizhny Novgorod

Travel isn’t always predictable.  The train ride from Moscow was almost four hours.  The most interesting part was what happened after I arrived.  Went to the information desk with the “English speaking” help (haha).  She told me that I shouldn’t taker a taxi at the train station because they would charge me too much.  So she called a taxi, three stops later, all the wrong place, I finally got out.  I tried to show him on my phone, but he would have none of that.  Found another taxi who first took me to the Gorky Hostel, second stop was finally the Gorky Hotel.  Nizhny Novgorod was more interesting than Moscow, wandered the streets the day before the match.  Nothing special, had a dinner of “typical” Russian fare, wasn’t bad and got ready for the match the next day.  More to come on that.

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Colombia v England

I guess the best way to start is wow, eight yellow cards, a penalty kick, overtime and then the game decided by penalty kicks.  Two games in a row decided by penalty kicks….crazy!  A lot has been said about the match and the referee, but at the end of the day, both teams came to play and that made for great action, chippy action, significant physical contact, but still great to watch.  I have described the process of getting a seat before, I was in group 1 and number 41 within that group which should have guaranteed a great spot.  No such luck, Getty, AP, AFP, they all get preference before this draw so that virtually all of the end line spots were taken before I selected.  Such is life although position does matter.

My 200-400 was evaluated at the beginning of the match, it is toast and they don’t have the equipment to tell me what is wrong with it.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that CPS has guaranteed me a loaner for the rest of the tournament.  As if that is not enough, a body that I sent to Canon twice and that was declared OK, still has the problem, I learned this at the beginning of the match, really bad luck.

Shooting this match was fun and a contrast to the Spain-Russia game.  Action makes for great shots, much more action.  Colombia ties the match 3 minutes into extra time.  Scoreless overtime and then penalty kicks.  Here is the critical save by Jordan Pickford to get England the win.

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wouldn’t be complete without the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!

 

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

Moscow, Russia- July 3, 2018: Spartak Stadium, Colombia vs England, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score 1-1, England wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

So great match, one of the interesting decisions was during the penalty shots.  All of the photographers go to the end of the field where the shots are taking place.  That means that they do not get a good shot of the keeper.  See my shot from the last match from the side.  Staying where I was, I got a much better shot of the keeper although I would have had a better shot of the celebration if I had been at that end.

For a game that starts at 9 PM, Left the stadium at 1:20 AM, bed at 3 AM poor sleep (a couple of hours) and up at 7 AM.  Head to the train station to Nizhny Novgorod.  Four hour train ride, finished captions and did editing in the hotel after I arrived.  I don’t think I have slept for 12 hours in years!  Bed at 9 PM, up at 9 AM.  Today explored the city, kind of interesting although I must say that I am underwhelmed with Russia.  More on that later.  Tomorrow, France v Uruguay!!

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First Match!

Whether it is a college football game or the World Cup, every setting has a certain protocol for how you have to negotiate the process.  The World Cup is no different.  The shuttles from the hotel are infrequent and marginal.  The media center opens at 10 AM for a 5 PM game.  It wouldn’t matter except that your choice of seats at the match depend on when you arrive.  I left on a 9:30 AM shuttle to be their at 10 (it’s a 10 minute drive).  The driver couldn’t figure out how to get there and we arrived at 10:10, still not bad.  The media centers are great, plenty of space, fast internet.  I got in trouble for not having registered my pocket wizards, remember Russia is a police state.  Anything that transmits except for a cell phone must be registered.

The field which is also where they will have the semifinals and finals is pristine (Luzhniki Stadium).  Apparently, in Brazil and Russia, women come to the stadium to get there picture taken in order to get a modeling contract.  The women below probably had more pictures taken of her than any two players.

Moscow, Russia- July 1, 2018: Russia vs Spain, round of 16, 2018 World Cup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always interesting, some think the scenes of the World Cup are better than the matches!

The game was frankly awful.  75% possession for Spain who still rarely attacked.  They scored early and seemed content to pass laterally without attacking.  That was until the hand ball, penalty kick and tied score.  90 minutes of game time, two 15 minutes of overtime and still 1-1.  Penalty shootout.  Finally something exciting.  I was lucky to be on the right end of the field so that I didn’t have to move.  The Russian goal keeper Igor Akinfeev really stepped up[ and stopped two shots for a Russia victory, the lowest ranked team in the World Cup.

Moscow, Russia- July 1, 2018: Russia vs Spain, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score Spain 1, Russia 1, Russia wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Moscow, Russia- July 1, 2018: Russia vs Spain, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score Spain 1, Russia 1, Russia wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say this was profoundly exciting and aroused the types of responses that make for great pictures.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Moscow, Russia- July 1, 2018: Russia vs Spain, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score Spain 1, Russia 1, Russia wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Moscow, Russia- July 1, 2018: Russia vs Spain, round of 16, 2018 World Cup. Final score Spain 1, Russia 1, Russia wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So great match, had to edit quickly and than realized that there was a shuttle at 9:20, raced to the shuttle spot, missed it by five minutes and the next shuttle was in 3 hours.  Found a taxi, all is well that ends well.

The bad news is that my long lens is having a focus problem.  All of my images at 400 mm are soft, hopefully Canon Professional Services will be able to help.  Spent 1.5 hours today trying to figure it out, micro adjustment and the interventions didn’t work, we will see.  If it doesn’t work, hopefully I will get a loaner.

All for today, England v Columbia in the AM.

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The Complexities of the World Cup

I arrived on Friday and was dead tired.  Missed my connection on Helsinki and the drive from the airport was over an hour so not much left to do in the day except situate.  Time change is always difficult, particularly after limited sleep on the airplane.  The next day it was off to the stadium to get my game credential and bib.  Long distance, hot weather and difficulty with getting back to the hotel (took 45 minutes to get a taxi).  Two matches yesterday, France beat Argentina, probably Messi’s last international match.  Uruguay beat Portugal, also probably the last international match for Ronaldo.

When I came to the stadium yesterday, they told me that I should arrive at 10 AM to get a good place in line.  In spite of falling asleep late, got up and headed to the stadium (a 10 min ride) ion the shuttle bus.  It took the driver 40 minutes to figure out how to get to the stadium.  Still made it early enough that I am eighth in line for my group which is unfortunately group 3.  That means all group 1 and 2 photographers for first.

The next problem;em was finding out that my pocket wizards needed to be registered.  A long process to resolve this and I have registration in process.  The biggest issue with remotes is the rain today which may mitigate against using remotes, we will see.

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