Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Day 6 - Portugal Vs Iceland

Day 6 

Miles travelled - 92

French phrase of the day - Marcher (walk)

I thought today would be all about Ronaldo. It ended early up being all about Iceland. What a story.

After a very quiet morning (which featured a superb mid morning nap), we headed off to St Etienne, having managed to get tickets for the Portugal Vs Iceland. 

I got the sense of St Etienne  even more so than either of the other two cities we've visited, were totally embracing the opportunity to host matches in this tournament. Along with the official fan park, there was also a more informal party with a DJ in the town hall square. Fans from all nations were sat outside the numerous bars and restaurants, making a terrific atmosphere. 

After a something like a three mile walk around the town, all based around a decent restaurant, which was firmly closed when we arrived (French opening hours are as  maverick as their attitudes to strikes), we got a tram upto the stadium.

The Iceland story is a great one. With a 330,000 population, like Wales they are here at their first ever tournament. There was a huge presence from their fans throughout the town, with a high proportion of families bringing children of all ages. 

Security was high outside the stadium. I had the most efficient body pat down by a security guard I've ever had (including those in airports) on the way in, to the point I got extremely ticklish mid point, and had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing as some of my more sensitive areas were randomly grabbed by the security guard. Would it have been inappropriate to have laughed during a body search? Surely no more inappropriate than the behaviour of my father who began queuing in the female only queue, where you receive a body search from a female security guard. I think he must be missing my mother. 

I'll probably write something about all the hooliganism stuff at the end of this trip, but yet again all that I saw were fans having a brilliant time. When we got into the stadium, we had great seats, with English, Portuguese, Icelandic, Japanese, French and Russian supporters all sat within a couple of seats of us. Interestingly, the Russian lady sat next to us had each one of her fingernails individually patriotically painted. These includes Russian flags, Russian dolls, footballs, and an image of a Mixed Martial Arts fighter hammering a football supporter with an iron bar. Well, the last one was made up, but the rest were true. 

The games was high paced action throughout. The Icelandic fans were fantastic, and objectively I'd have to say this was the best atmosphere of the three games I've been to, with the 38,000 capacity stadium noisy throughout. 

Iceland had a great chance to score early but were denied by the keeper and Portugal took over, with a goal on the half hour. I thought I would be neutral watching this game, but just after half time when Iceland majestically swept in their equalised, I, along with the other neutrals around me, leapt to my feet to cheer. It was quite moment. 

They hung on, despite a couple more great Portuguese chances, and received a great ovation at the end. The Portugal fans looked shell shocked. 

Another great day. We're into the home straight of the trip now, with our last day in Lyon tomorrow before we start making the long trip home, with just the small matter of Wales v England to deal with. 

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