It’s always been an ambition of mine to attend one of the major summer tournaments. It always looks great on TV, the fans donning their colours from across the globe, in good voice, necking a few beers and, generally getting on, all in the good name of football. Was I going to let a small detail, such as my home nation failing to get there, stand in the way? Hell no. In truth we’d already booked the tickets for Austria on the eve of the final Croatia game. Croatia at home mate? Easy. Or not, as the case proved.
Not to worry, having got back, I have to say the atmosphere was fantastic and the Austrian people perfect hosts, genial and helpful at all times. At first, at least in Vienna, the locals didn’t seem too bothered about the whole, huge, tournament that was happening on their doorsteps. There seemed to be more fans of the other group nations, Croatia and Germany in particular, on the streets. After the first group game though they quickly got the football buzz and packed out the city for the remaining matches. It’s been a shame one of the hosts couldn’t have progressed further but it’s been a great tournament so far and in no small part thanks to them. The fan zones laid on in Salzburg and Vienna were superb, more a rock festival layout than a big screen with a bar. It was a welcome way to mingle and get into the atmosphere of the games without being able to afford the rocketing prices of a match ticket.
There was a good bit of interest in the finals from a Chelsea perspective, with a few of the nations not only being home to some of the players but only the next bleeding manager. The French didn’t fare well in this time, to say the least. Maka was surprisingly ineffectual at times and Twiddle-dee and Twiddle-dum, Monsieur Anelka and Malouda respectively, continued their frustrating Chelsea form. Anelka was unable to make any worthwhile impact and Malouda frequently wasted possession. Not a good tournament for the French boys but they’ll be back in there come South Africa. (Or not, in Maka’s case) Ballack’s wonder goal highlighted the good form he has shown for both club and country. As in the last World Cup he really pulls the strings for the Germany team and along with Lahm and Podolski has been one of the nations outstanding players. More of the same next season please Mike. Cech was looking, as ever, comfortably one the world’s great keepers until that blunder against Turkey put his team on the ropes. It’s a shame he’s had to suffer some tough blows over the season. Both him and Terry will need a boast and can hopefully start afresh, stronger and more determined, come August.
Then there was Portugal. Bosingwa looks to bomb forward nicely and we can look ahead to some of those rampages soon enough. Paulo looked ropey out of position on the left. Carvalho was classy and assured without being at his inspirational best. What can we say about the big man himself, Scolari? As an England fans we know too well that he is as tactically aware as they come. The two previous tournaments he outwitted Sven and England and he has done well again through much of this tournament. Portugal played with attacking flair and impressive fluidity. They were one of the best sides to watch without a doubt but came unstuck against a tough German side. The lack of height proved costly at set plays and with no quality forward Portugal were likely to struggle at some stage. Scolari did well with what he had but the jury is still going to be out until the season starts. That just leaves Ballack left in the competition. As the tournament has progressed he has been getting better and better and is proving why is one of the world’s best. It’s slightly weird supporting Germany but let’s go with it eh?
Finally, the other nations opinions of Chelsea was a bit divided. Nearly all I spoke to were sympathetic to Terry and the team with the Champs League shoot out. Most thought Chelsea played better and were very unlucky to lose on the spot kicks. As they said, typical English luck with the pens then. As for the club as whole most opinion was less favourable. Man U and Liverpool were the teams that most followed. They were considered to have history and Chelsea were considered to be trying to buy it. Any good player in Europe, Chelsea will buy them and sit them in the stands. A bit naïve, a bit jealous maybe, but the club might have a bit of work to do to reach their targets and get new fans across the continent on board. When I explained what it was like from our perspective, from a club having nothing to one suddenly having everything, it at least made them think. We know what any fan would gladly take given the same situation, we’ve just been lucky.
A quality tournament, some great football, upsets, last minute dramas and all in between. It makes you miss the season already. We can look forward to Big Phil bringing some exciting football to the Bridge come August.