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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Predictor winner visits Maracana
The Maracana Stadium
Leandro scored a hat-trick in the Carioca Cup match
If you were given the choice to attend any club football match, anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Last November, Falkirk fan Iain Sharp was one of two lucky winners in BBC Scotland's Predictor game, where users have to guess the scores in the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

Iain correctly predicted the scores in all six fixtures over a single weekend, and his prize was a trip to watch Fluminense host Vasco De Gama in the famous Maracana Stadium in Brazil.

Here, Iain describes the unforgettable experience of South American football:

I had a great time in Rio, arriving on the Friday morning at our hotel on Cococabana beach.

I strolled along the beach-front, soaking up the holiday atmosphere and friendliness of the people during carnival time.

The match I attended was between Fluminense and Vasco De Gama on Saturday night with a 6.30pm kick-off time.

Carnival lady
It was Carnival time in Rio when Iain arrived in Brazil

It was a Carioca Cup match (the Rio Championship), but already Fluminense had nothing to play for as they were bottom of the section and already out of the cup.

We entered the stadium at the area where the famous players have their footprints in the concrete, with photo galleries and souvenir shop.

Our tour guide walked us down the players' tunnel and we almost made it to the dressing rooms before being stopped by security.

There was only 40,000 fans in the 97,000-capacity stadium, but they still made plenty of noise.

Fluminense started the game the better side and took an early lead with a well-struck shot from just outside the 18-yard box, and should have increased their lead, but squandered three really good chances during the first-half.

Vasco never had a shot on target, but sneaked an equaliser as half-time approached from a corner which barely made it over the line.

Half-time ended all-square, with no fewer than four bookings for Fluminense. The Flu support were getting really upset about this and let the ref know.

The second-half started much the same as the first, only this time Fluminense took the chances.

With 20 minutes remaining, Vasco introduced the legendary Romario (I think he is in his 40s now) to try and rescue the game.

The first came from a corner, headed clear by the Vasco defence to the edge of the 18-yard box and sweetly struck on the volley by Soares to take the lead.

The next was a defensive error in Vasco's 18-yard box. They lost possession and the ball was whipped to the far post, then slotted home from six yards by Soares to make it 3-1.

Game over - or so you would have thought.

With 20 minutes remaining, Vasco introduced the legendary Romario (I think he is in his 40s now) to try and rescue the game.

Vasco replied almost immediately with Leandro bagging his second goal with a well-worked passing movement to make it 3-2.

Iain Sharp and his friend visit the Maracana
40,000 people attended the match in the Maracana

Minutes later, Fluminense struck again - with Alex Dias the scorer - and increased their lead to 4-2.

But Vasco pulled one back to make it 4-3 with a superbly-struck Diego free-kick from 25 yards out.

Then, with only minutes remaining, they were awarded a penalty for hand-ball, which Leandro coolly slotted home for his hat-trick and the game finished all-square at 4-4.

It was a thoroughly entertaining game, especially the second-half, with plenty of goals and a tough physical contest between the two sides.

Nine players were booked in all.

Vasco were eventually defeated in the semi final on penalties by Flemengo the following Sunday.

We finished of our evening with a meal at the famous Mario's restaurant, which was superb.

For the remaining days of our trip, we visited Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Y Floresta (the famous Christ Statue), Favella (the slums) and we had an eye-opening experience at some of Rio's superb beaches.

A special mention should go to our tour guide, Milton Filho, who was very informative, punctual and catered for all our individual needs during our stay in Rio.

Anyone going to Rio give him a call.

Special thanks should also go to to the BBC and the Bank of Scotland Premier League for making the trip possible.

Predictor punters strike it lucky
24 Nov 06 |  Scotland


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