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.

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