Sunday, 30 June 2019

20/06/19 Review: Germany U21 vs Serbia U21

Germany U21 6-1 Serbia U21 (EURO 2019 U21 Finals, 
Group B)
Stadio Nereo Rocco

It only seems fitting that I am starting this write-up of the tournament's highest scoring game and joint biggest victory on the day of Germany's Final match against Spain, which will be held in Udine- the first of the four grounds I visited to see the Germans defeat the Danes. Since then, my travels had taken me as far and wide as North Eastern Italy's grounds could offer, with trips to Cesena for England's defeat being followed up by the hop over to Bologna to witness a shock defeat for the hosts, eventually brings you all up to date as I awoke in Ferrara for the final footballing venture over in the phenomenal port city of Trieste.

Before that, though, it was time to check out the local talent

With a near six hour journey ahead of me and the temperature being up in the late thirties again, it would be a long day of driving and there was only one thing to keep me motivated to reach the far east of Italy- stopping in at some local ramshackle grounds to ensure I got my fix of the lower leagues. I'm not one of these hipsters who remains content to have been to the country's finest. Show me some sheds, dilapidated stands and knackered old clubhouses for God's sake!

That's more like it, G.S. Beverare
My first stop was on the outskirts of Ferrara and it was to see the training centre of S.P.A.L., the Serie A phenomenon who have just managed to finish 13th in Italy's top flight. Not a bad achievement considering when I arrived at the ground the only English speaking chap kept saying "we are only a small club for now". Fair enough, compared to Juve or the Milan sides, maybe they are smaller- but considering some of the other clubs I'd stumble across on this day alone, they are still a pretty big deal!

Now G.S. Pettorazza, there's a small club
I visited further grounds at the dusty village of Beverare and the lovely little outfit at the Campo Sportivo di Pettorzza, before continuing the journey up past Venice and into the final stretch of my cruise. After two further stops to have a mooch around at local middle-of-nowhere clubs, I grabbed a quick Burger and before I knew it I was entering Trieste- the home of beauty.

Decent little stand at my final stop off
My room for the night this time around was at the home of a professional local artist and his hilltop home sat on the promenade overlooking the gorgeous sea. Knowing that I wasn't allowed to check-in until 6pm, I had a quick stroll down the seafront, which I kid you not was 99.9% filled with the toned and the tanned (with me being the 0.1%, if you wondered!) and then made my way into what I can only describe as the Italian equivalent of Clapton's Old Spotted Dog in London. A truly memorable ground around the corner from my digs, Benvenuti a Roianello, is a magnificent and well-hidden youth pitch and a groundhoppers dream to find just off the beaten track.

Classic outdoor bar
A backdrop of greenary at one side and the railway line on the other
Splendid dugout
And a perfectly battered stand to finish the tour... perfecto
As I eventually left for the game I'd come to see in downtown Trieste, I saw some people entering this ground and had to resist the urge not to ditch my plans. Obviously, having seen the great Germans already I knew that this would be a bold move and decided to carry on my search of Stadio Nereo Rocco- the stadium that is named after Triestina's most famous legendary manager. The now Serie C ground was now within my sights and after struggling to park up somewhere that wasn't on the world's narrowest bus route through the streets of the surrounds, I eventually managed to pull up right outside the Stadium on the side of a road that I was only about 30% sure would be a legal parking spot. With the many Serbians finding themselves in the same place, I decided to dump by jeep and follow the waves of red shirted fans over to the stand where all the fans were gathering. By the time the 10,000 or so of us had filtered through the two gates that they'd decided to open, it was kick-off time and we were underway for the forth and final time.

I've seen better entrance access management at Matlock Town!
From the photos I'd seen of Trieste's 21,000 seater ground whilst studying where best to visit, I hadn't expected to be as impressed as I was when I entered. The modern style and old-structure mega-mix made the place look quite spectacular and the shape of the main stand opposite where we sat is a thing of beauty in its own right. The red gridiron roof surrounding the stadium is coupled with a nice dark red seating arrangement within the centre of the stands, eventually blending into a scattering of white seats in the corners. On the pitch the game had got started and my pre-match prediction was for the German favourites to continue their dominance and secure a 2-0 win. Correct result, wrong scoreline.

For the final time, let's get ready to rummmmble
Marco Richter, who had shown his quality in the first game I saw on the Monday, was looking in great form again within the opening minutes and after almost wriggling past on a couple of early occasions, it was third time lucky for the Augsburg forward as he beat the Serbian defence to a through-ball before chipping the opener into the net. Germany U21 1-0 Serbia U21. Richter was not content though and continued to run rampant as the halfway point of the first-half passed by. He went close again in the 23rd minute before having a hand in the second goal in the 30th as he assisted the equally as goal-hungry Luca Waldschmidt. Germany U21 2-0 Serbia U21. Temperatures began to soar again by this point and I decided this was as good a reason as any to pop to the sweltering and packed bar for some fuel. The only way that I could truly describe the heat is to say that it was so hot that even the Germans were drinking water! Not beer, but ice cold water. It really was too hot for a beer.

You can almost see the heat. Well, not quite
Whilst at the bar we overheard the roar from the crowd as we missed out on Waldschmidt getting his second and his team's third. Germany U21 3-0 Serbia U21. By the time we all got served and escaped the cauldron of the bar, it was almost time for the match to restart and despite being three goals down the pocket of Serbs to my left kept their party spirit up by singing along passionately as their team reentered. I mean don't get me wrong, I expected there to be plenty of fans watching, but the support for all of the teams I had seen so far had been loud and proud and for a youth tournament that's really nice to see. Additionally, there was a refreshing amount of mutual respect amongst the nations and to see all supporters mixing within the stadiums and the bars was a pleasure to behold.

One love- the footy
The respect seemed to be translating on to the pitch too and in a fairly feisty game the Ref kept in control of this one throughout. In terms of goals, we still had plenty to come and in the 70th minute Syria born Dortmund midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud made the game safe with a fourth goal. Germany U21 4-0 Serbia U21. One player I haven't mentioned until now is Real Madrid's new acquisition, Luka Jovic, and to be honest that's because there wasn't much to say about the forward. Although he plays currently in the German league and he bagged his first international goal for the senior side against them, the 21-year old didn't do too much for his nation tonight and was replaced with twenty minutes to go. Serbian fans would be forgiven for feeling down in the dumps by now, but they roared on despite Waldschmidt sealing his hat-trick with another lethal finish. Germany U21 5-0 Serbia U21. Although it sounds as though Germany had romped home to victory, their opposition were at least having a go and it wasn't all one way traffic. One of the fairly regular attempts to create their own reason to celebrate paid off in the 85th minute as Serbia won a penalty and it was up to Andrija Zivkovic to grab a consolation goal to add to his many achievements already in his career. Germany U21 5-1 Serbia U21. The Benfica man, who already has 17 caps at senior level since becoming their youngest ever player back in 2013, is one of the country's national treasures and I was pleased for him and of course the supporters. It wasn't over though and as a huge amount of the Serbians began to leave the ground in stoppage time, those of us who stayed would be treated to the best goal of the game from Hertha Berlin's Arne Maier. The winger had come off the bench with the game already won, so he thought he'd have a pop from range and his splendid strike paid off. Germany U21 6-1 Serbia U21.

FT, 6-1
For Pint of Football that would be the end of the line and as I headed back to a mysterious b'n'b for the last time in my beautiful Jeep, it was time to start getting sad about tomorrow's flight home. One more three hour drive to do in my new favourite country. Goodbye Italy, for now but not forever.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

19/06/19 Review: Italy U21 vs Poland U21

Italy U21 0-1 Poland U21 (EURO 2019 U21 Finals, Group A)
Stadio Renato Dall'Ara

Here we go again for day three and it was finally time to visit Bologna to see if the hosts could build on a good start to their campaign by beating Poland. For me, today was the day that I was looking most forward to as I knew that this would be the least travelling I had to do. Just a mere 170km to travel from Ravenna to Bologna and finally to my Airbnb in Ferrara. Additionally, I was heading inland to the most legendary stadio of the tour in the shape of the iconic Renato Dall'Ara, which also happens to be in one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, Bologna. With a day of sun, sea and walking along Marina di Ravenna under my belt, it was time to jump back in my jeep and make the couple of hour ride west to a scorching Bologna.

At one point the thermostat read 44 degrees. Ooooosh!
I arrived unusually early in the city as it had looked on Google Maps to be a bit of a bun fight for trying to get parked up. I was right! Even at 5pm, four hours prior to the match, the traffic was pretty hellish and after driving around the backstreets of the ground I eventually got parked up somewhere that appeared to be free after 6pm. I was too lazy to translate the signage, but thankfully I didn't have too much to worry about as the local police arrived and started cordoning off the roads. I had hoped that this was just for the football and not some overnight roadworks- otherwise that would have been a lonely night kipping in the jeep. After a bit of a mooch around the gorgeous architectural sights, I popped in to San Gennaro to try out some of the local cuisine. Of course, Spag Bol is a product of Bologna and so the decision on what to eat was a pretty easy and delicious one. It was now 7pm and I made a slow walk around to the entrance for the stand I was sitting in, after having a cheeky street beer with the locals. The area was packed now and there were all sorts of people knocking about, including some sort of Italian celeb! I don't know who she was, but some lass was getting a lot of attention from fans (mainly men!) and she was constantly being harassed for selfies. I did debate getting involved myself, but I felt awkward seems as I didn't know who she was.

Got a selfie with the tournament sign instead
The match itself promised to be a good en, with Italy being favourites to continue their surge after beating Spain on the opening night, and with that I made a prediction of 2-0 to Italia. How wrong could I be? With almost 27,000 people in attendance, a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem was sang by all (except me!) and before we knew it it was game time. Hotshot Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa and the gang got the ball rolling and we were underway. With the game starting in a fairly predictable fashion, with Italy in possession but not looking too threatening, I continued to find myself gazing around at the wonderful ground that I was sat inside. Lots of Italy and Poland flags were being waved, a well-maintained Mexican Wave was doing the rounds and as the sun set on the monumental Renato Dell'Ara I felt as much at home as I ever had at a game. As an England fan, I am aware that Bologna's stadium holds happy for memories for those who are old enough to remember the 1990 World Cup and David Platt's winner in the last 16 of the Belgium game. I have watched the footage of it and I could only dream of being alive and sitting where I sat in the ground for that historic moment.

Back to the game and with Italy going close through Chiesa and then missing a sitter in the form of Rolando Mandragora's scooping strike, the game still remained blank on the scoreline front. Into the last five minutes of the first-half and Poland had a rare chance to attack of their own- and unlike the wasteful Italians they showed a bit more grit to prod home the only goal of the game as Arsenal's Krystian Bielik nudged home after an initial free-kick was directed goalwards. The defensive midfielder, who has spent the past three seasons on loan at Charlton, Walsall and Birmingham respectively, wheeled away proudly knowing that he'd put his side ahead at the end of a half where the Polish had absorbed all of their opponent's attacks. Italy U21 0-1 Poland U21. The Italian fans were becoming pretty ravenous by this point and when an equaliser was ruled out just moments later you could feel the anger as the very unpopular referee blew his whistle for the break. Fifteen minutes to sit and watch the very vocal and passionate fan responses to that half... or to watch a live penalty shootout being played on FIFA on the big screen at the ground. At what point have we gone too far?

Fair play to Poland- one chance, one goal
Amongst the nonsense of the FIFA, the three mile queue for the one beer hatch and the beauty of a now moonlit setting for the second-half, it was announced that Moise Kean of Juventus would enter the field. Finally, some excitement! The youngster was one of the names that I was looking forward to seeing at the tournament and having scored two goals for the senior side from three caps, as well as boasting an impressive record for Juve, the direct forward came on to a round of applause. Almost immediately after the restart, Roma's Lorenzo Pellegrini ballooned an acrobatic volley over from about 8-yards and all of a sudden we were back to being sat in our seats wondering if Gli Azzurri could hit the target! One fan even shouted out "mama mia!" as he slapped his head repeatedly, which was a personal highlight.

"We can see you sneaking out"
The game drew to a close and as Pellegrini rattled the bar with one of Italy's thirty-one strikes- only five on target- the decision was made for four minutes of additional time to take place. The whole stadium booed and began to evacuate and although I agree that today's ref was not up to the standard of Bologna born Pierluigi Collina, I have to be honest and say that forty-four minutes wouldn't have been enough for this lot to score! More boos followed at the full-time whistle as Poland claimed a delightful victory- always nice to upset the hosts I suppose. For me, it was time to complete my day's journey, or so I thought, as I headed to Ferrara expecting to go straight to bed upon arriving. Surprisingly, this was not the case, and I was instead commandeered as an attendee of a student street party in the city. Thanks again to Samantha and the Università Degli Studi di Ferrara gang for an unexpectedly fun night- and for the record, Italian students are the ultimate featherweights of drinking. Thankfully, this would mean a lack of hangover for the six hour drive to follow the next day, when taking the scenic route over to Trieste.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

18/06/19 Review: England U21 vs France U21

England U21 1-2 France U21 (EURO 2019 U21 Finals, 
Group C)
Stadio Dino Manuzzi

Day two of the trip would see me awake in the vineyard at Ponte Di Piave, ready to tackle a 200 kilometre trip down Italy's eastern coast all the way to Cesena for a big opening group match for the Young Lions. Having spent the most of the previous day travelling to Udine from Stafford for the Germany vs Denmark tie, I was very much looking forward to a day of relaxed travelling and at a leisurely pace that would allow me to sight-see. Yes, I'm talking beautiful beaches and knackered old non-league grounds! Two of the finest.

One simple rule on my travels- if you see this sign, follow it
Whenever I drive any more than two hours to a game in England I feel so fed up of that "on the road" feeling, but with some of the stunning views on display the four hour trek flew by and with visits to FC Mesola of the seventh tier and AS Vaccolino who play in the backyard of a farm, I eventually ended up in Casal Borsetti for a quick rest and to admire the astonishingly peaceful village.
Here we have the Main Stand of Campo Comunale in Mesola
And the very nifty bar at Vaccolino
Once I rested up and plodded on to the X Hotel in Ravenna, my digs for the night, there was just enough time for a four-hour beach patrol before slinging on my Macc Town top, jumping back in Gianfranco the Jeep and bombing it down the E55 in search of Stadio Dino Manuzzi and the match between two of the pre-tournament favourites. The 20,000 capacity stadium is currently being used by A.S.D. Romagna Centro Cesena who have just won Serie D Group F, a regional equivalent of the National League here in England. Of course, the main club that people will know in the city are the recently defunct A.C. Cesena who had previously been a top-flight side in Serie A and even featured in the 1976-77 edition of the UEFA Cup. In recent times, AC Milan legend Massimo Ambrosini and former Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta have worn the once famous Cesena strip and even Romanian wonder-striker turned badboy Adrian Mutu had a stint there in 2011-12. It all started to go wrong for I Cavallucci Marini, aka The Seahorses, when Italy lost out on their bid to host EURO 2016 and as a result major thirty million euros renovation works to the ground did not go ahead, leading to an eventual decline and bankruptcy of the club. A shame, but the newly formed phoenix side have started things up again from the fourth tier and as mentioned, they have made a good start by winning it first time around. They'll now rejoin the professional ranks and try to emulate what Parma Calcio have done by reaching Serie A again last season and managing a very respectable 14th place finish.

In the meantime, this one will have to go down as a cracking third-tier ground
In the build-up to the tournament, I had been following England's progress without having a realistic intention of visiting the finals, but after seeing their qualifier against Ukraine in Sheffield last year, I was impressed with the high-quality football, low cost match and of course rare chance to visit some big grounds without having to suffer the rigmarole of watching a Football League match. I had also seen the Young Lions plough Bosnia at Walsall back in 2016 whilst qualifying for the previous EURO tournament, so to actually be out here in Italy was something really special for me. The then 19-year old Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham, or Tammy Abraham as we all love and know him as, scored a brace when I last saw him at The Bescot, so to see him on the bench really did clarify how strong our starting team were at this competition. With Man City's Phil Foden and Bournemouth forward Dom Solanke leading the line, the wings looked just as strong for having Leicester City starlet Demarai Gray on one side and Ryan Sessegnon on the other. I could go on, but ultimately it would not be the big names on paper that would win the tournament but the players who played the best football- something that these Young Lions would find out the hard way.

For the record, I'd predicted a 3-2 win for the England boys
Due to the big crowd of fans and the fact that most of the 11,000 of us were arriving fairly late in the evening, it was touch and go for getting in on time and I think I eventually got myself tucked into my seat as the national anthems started. Of the four grounds visited this week, I'd say that the Dino Manuzzi is as close to a generic British ground as I'd seen. Four almost identical stands surrounded the pitch, with the classic corner standing floodlights poking their noses over. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice ground and for a third tier outfit it is in quality condition, but compared to the glory of the Stadio Friuli the night before and the two that would follow in Bologna and Trieste, it seemed a wee bit unspectacular. Not to worry though, the match would bring the stadium to life, right?

The English and French fans seemed to be fairly well equally represented from what I could hear, whilst the opening ten minutes of action provided a fairly good start for England. Sessegnon went close by hitting the post early on and Solanke missed a fairly well presented chance soon after, meaning that the fans in their Three Lions kits were starting to get a little overexcited. I think that at every single England game I've ever been to, I have seen a guy in the 2002 World Cup reversible red top- so to continue that tradition was a treat as I looked around and saw it to my left. France came into the game a bit more in the midway point of the half and they won a penalty for a dubious handball in the box. Lyon and former Celtic striker Moussa Dembélé stepped up and had it saved by Dean Henderson. The Sheffield United shot-stopper didn't have too much to do to make the save, but it still required a cool head and much like his fellow Northerner Jordan Pickford, he did his bit to keep the team level. Dembélé continued to look lively after this big miss, but was again thwarted just before the half-time whistle and the sides went in level-pegged at 0-0. A good game so far and either side looked capable of being able to grab the points.

Still very warm though- I had to give the beer a rest for once!
At the start of the second-half Dembélé curled another big chance wide of Henderson's left-hand post and this one was arguably a bigger let off than the penalty chance- and so a sigh of relief was released by the England fans as we survived another scare. At the other end we found ourselves with a chance of our own as Foden found himself with space and time to run at the French defence. He weaved his way into the box, wriggled his way past a big centre-back and then simply slotted the ball home to give the Young Lions the lead. England U21 1-0 France U21. Looking to capitalise, England grabbed a quickfire second goal just minutes later, but it was ruled out for offside. The neutrals in the stand began to sing out from certain pockets of the ground which gave us a welcome rest from the big man at the front who kept belting out the "I just don't wanna go to work" tune, but in amongst all of this the last half an hour descended and with that came the big turning point in the game.

He wants to stay here, and drink all the beer. Please don't take him home
Having already conceded one penalty, England shot themselves in the foot again as Leicester City's very own Afroman, Hamza Choudhury, went in with a rash tackle on Dembélé and gave away another spot kick. The Ref initially gave a yellow card, but after the VAR footage surfaced it was rescinded and turned red- meaning the last twenty five were going to be very tough, whether Houssem Aouar scored from 12 yards or not. Thankfully for England, the kick from the Lyon midfielder rattled the goal frame and managed to stay out. Incredible scenes as another massive chance went begging for Les Bleus, but the question would be whether England could dig deep and keep a hold of the three points. In a change of tactic and an attempt to keep things fresh, Aidy Boothroyd brought Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Abraham on to presumably give us a chance to grab an unlikely second goal should a chance present itself on the break. It did not, and with the last ten minutes approaching, France were knock knock knocking on England's door. Henderson made a first-class save at full-stretch from one effort, whilst a few others were blasted wayward of his goal, but in the 89th minute the pressure would tell as Lille lad Jonathan Ikoné finally forced home a very late equaliser. England U21 1-1 France U21. Most of us will recall the iconic Zidane stoppage-time double of EURO 2004 that broke England hearts and for the few thousand of us here in Cesena this would be a repeat as France pushed for a dramatic winner. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who is currently being linked with a move to Man United, was the unfortunate one to claim the winner in the form of a 96th minute own-goal as he tried to block the rolling ball going in. The French were hysterical, the English were gutted. England U21 1-2 France U21. At the time of writing England have now already been dumped out of the tournament and although this defeat was the start of a very bad competition for one of the world's most reputable Under 21 sides, I felt that the lads fought to the end in this game against another very good side and were it not for Choudhury losing his head for that one split moment, it may well have been a different story. Ahh well, I suppose we'll never know. Anyway, that was it for day two and as I drove back to Ravenna I knew that arguably the most exciting day was to come- a trip to the legendary Renato Dall'Ara Stadium in Bologna and with that a chance to see the hosts take on Poland!

Saturday, 22 June 2019

17/06/19 Review: Germany U21 vs Denmark U21

Germany U21 3-1 Denmark U21 (EURO 2019 U21 Finals, Group B)
Stadio Friuli

Ciao- and a belated welcome to my viewers for this, the first of my four evenings in Italy for the Euro Under 21 tournament. This quatro part venture is guaranteed to tread the line between a football write-up and a holiday blog, so sorry in advance if you have no interest in beautiful scenery, holidaying or a life outside of football.

There's gonna be a load of this...
...mixed with a sprinkle of this!
Yes, after years of safety within the British Isles visiting the likes of Bristol, Birmingham and Bridlington, it was time to fly away and take on my first foreign campaign. Although trips to Mallorca and Barcelona mean that this is not my first experience in the continent, it will be my first experience since starting the Blog, so prepare yourself for the first instalment as I made my way from Stafford to Udine, via Stoke, Derby, Castle Donnington, Treviso and Ponte Di Piave.

At this point, I should probably introduce you to my travel partner
My day started bright and early and when I left my humble homestead at 7:30am I was looking forward to the journey and I knew that if I left myself over five hours to make it to East Midlands airport I would be delightfully early and maybe even in time for a highly overpriced Heineken at the Airport Spoons! That was until our Great British public transport failures got involved. As I arrived into Stoke I was met by an announcement to say that my connection to Derby was running late. Don’t panic, only by half an hour- still hours to spare! When I eventually made it to Derby by 10am I was straight on it and headed to the useful Skyline Shuttle Bus ready for the 10:04 to get me there by 10:42. Nope. The bus turned up at 10:21 and due to the endless traffic caused by Download Festival, I eventually departed the bus at 12:01. With the gate closing at 12:15 for my flight, I made it through the security and check-in zones in what must be a world record time of SEVEN MINUTES! Finally, time to get excited again.

Buon pomeriggio, Venice!
Upon arrival to Venice-Treviso I was met with some good news that my car hire had been upgraded to a brand new Jeep, which they presumably wanted to test out on young British male drivers for the joy of it. As soon as I saw the black beauty I named it Gianfranco and jumped in to try and work out how to make my Satnav get me to my hotel without having to pay any tolls. Disclaimer- my cheapskate Yorkshire traits will be a regular feature in this entry. I made the fairly short journey over to the Vineyard in the middle of nowhere that I would be crashing in, before shooting off to my first game in the beautiful Udinese ground, Stadio Friuli. Instant reaction as I pulled into the car-park was that the stadium looked pretty awesome from the outside. After parking up and spending a few moments to digest the fact that there was free parking in the stadium (unlike the time I paid £10 to park 1 mile away from Old Trafford!), I phoned my Nan up to tell her that I wasn’t in the 0.000000001% of plane journeys that crash and I then made my way over to the nearest food stall to grab a hot dog and a beer. I was wearing my FC Copenhagen top on this occasion, which was nice at first as I had a lot of Italian and German guys using it as a conversation starter. I sat and ate with a trio of Italian guys, one of whom was in his Germany strip, and we then departed separately for the innards of Stadio Friuli.
Fitting in with the locals.... almost
The 25,000 seater is indeed something to behold when you first enter and with the sound of German fans welcoming my ears in, my eyes were equally as impressed to see the stadium that architect Lorenzo Giacomuzzi Moore had cobbled together. In a world of generic, samey looking grounds (mainly England!) it was great to see some class and style to reward my journey and having visited more than a dozen of my nation's top grounds, I have to say that the stadiums in Italy have the sex appeal that I feel we lack. Of course it is Udinese Calcio who have the honour of showing up here in the regular season and the Serie A side, who finished mid-table this time around, have had some great players don the shirt over the years- with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Antonio di Natale standing out of just two of the many, whilst even Roy Hodgson has had a stint there. Best not to talk about that though, apparently he only lasted six months, called the club strange and even said "I could have chosen a better club to come back to" as he made his way back to Italy in 2001. Considering the role came up between spells at FC Copenhagen and the United Arab Emirates national team, I wouldn't have been too disheartened!

Anywhere that allows you to pick your own colour of seat is okay with me
Anyway, let’s move on to the main reason I was there- the match between Germany and Denmark. Germany were the favourites for this game, and for some the whole tournament, with six-cap senior international defender Jonathan Tah captaining the team. Shalke 04 keeper Alex Nubel and Luca Waldschmidt, of SC Freiburg were two of the other big names to look out for in a pretty robust German team. Denmark looked pretty decent themselves too and with the newly crowned Danish league's record scorer for a season, Robert Skov, leading the line anything was possible. With 29 goals in his most recent campaign with FC Copenhagen (who seem to be featuring a lot in this entry!), you'd be foolish to rule out the Scandinavians, who also have Victor Nelsson of FC Nordsjælland and Sampdoria centre-back Joachim Andersen at their disposal. My pre-match prediction for this evening’s encounter was one of those rare ones where I predicted it correctly! Yup, I totally called it! 3-1 to the Germans. Although the Danes had the first chance within the first five minutes, the game was fairly even for the first half an hour and both sides looked up for the game. Where I sat I was treated to some Germany chants that in my mind I couldn’t help but translate into English. As much as I’d love to think the Deutschland faithful were screaming out “stand up, if you love the Macc!”, I don’t quite think it was true. There would eventually be one thing that I understood though, and it was the blissful joy of the celebrations that followed as Marco Richter, of FC Augsburg, rifled home a 28th minute opener after some intricate build-up in the Danish box. Germany U21 1-0 Denmark U21. As the side celebrated in the far corner to where I was stood, I noticed a tiny little corner stand wedged in- which I can only assume is a family stand?
Germany on top, but not completely dominant
Denmark continued to press and prove that they weren’t just here to make up the numbers and with their captain having three first-half chances, all which were lifted over the bar, it seemed clear that this was still anybody’s game as half-time approached. With things winding down the crowd were still in fine form and the still apparently relevant Mexican Wave came out for all to enjoy. I suppose in hindsight, the main reason I enjoy this timeless crowd tradition of lifting one's arms and standing up momentarily is because it is something that my usual ground visits don’t partake in. I honestly couldn’t imagine popping down to Evans Park and firing up a wave with Ron, Betty and three guys named Ian. Aside from these antics, both sets of supporters continued to enjoy the steady continuous flow of beer throughout the half anyway, but as the Ref blew for the break a German and Danish uprising saw the seven thousand or so crowd to the bars in search of more! I decided to grab one too, just to keep up with the trend- of course.

If only we English could be trusted with pitch-side beers in the FL
During the break I was approached by a group of lads in red who began to chant out what sounded like the opening theme tune to ‘Vikings’ whilst crowding around me and slapping me on the head, so I had to be quick off the mark and warn them that despite my FC Copenhagen shirt and my moderately Scandanavian look, that I was indeed one of those strange English people who rocks up at your country’s matches in a foreign country, just for fun. One of the lads humoured me for a little while and he asked about who I support in England- he is a Chelsea follower, due to his mate Andreas Christensen being a player with the Blues and that made for some good chat. I was reluctant to do the whole “do you know Sol Campbell?” “Yeah? He manages my team” thing so I just said Macc Town of the fourth division of England, which he smiled at before we parted to head back in for the second 45.

Ready for the second-half
By the time we’d all got back into our seats for the second-half it was time for goal number two and it came as a bit of a surprise from a poor defensive error in the Danish defence. Richter it was again who would pounce on the chance and he looked delighted to have taken a tenuous one goal lead and doubled it. Germany U21 2-0 Denmark U21. I always like that about the best times, when they are one up and playing well, that they try to start the second-half with an early goal and it has been proven time and time again that if you can get that then you stack the odds in your favour. It sounds obvious, but it is where so many teams get it very wrong. Another great trait to have is scoring on the break and that is exactly where Germany would get their third. The Danes could not resist a counter attack in the 66th minute and Waldschmidt proved his class with a chip over the keeper and into the back of the net. Game over. Germany U21 3-0 Denmark U21.

No chance of a comeback, right?
However, one does not simply say "game over" to a nation deriving from Viking warlocks and it would eventually prove to be the same grit and persistence that defeated every nation going back in the day that gave the Danes a lifeline on this night of football. Skov, who had actually played well all game in fairness, was the man to grab the goal and it came from a penalty won off of a German handball. Germany U21 3-1 Denmark U21. The final fifteen minutes would prove to be fairly controlled from Germany, who had obviously been frustrated yet not unnerved from not keeping a clean sheet. The game ended with no more goals to follow and the result that I predicted would come to fruition. I made a swift departure at the end of play knowing that I had the 90 kilometre drive to undertake, however it was a happy ride home as I knew that the next three nights would bring more thrills, spills and hills on my travels around Italy. Roll on the England game the following day in Cesena...