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 Nordsj√¶lland 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...

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