Monday, June 27, 2016

Afram Island!

One thing about those EURO bandwagons is that you should not jump on too late. My early decision to go for Iceland has been vindicated last night now, with Aron Gunnarsson's blue army beating England to a place in the quarterfinals. In typical nordic understatement, nobody from within that camp in Annecy would have predicted this, but then again, nobody would have said that it was impossible. Now they are off to Saint-Denis again, up against hosts France, with arguably nothing to lose. Their no-nonsense style of play has even impressed my grandma, and I am still not convinced whether she watches football or just footballers' hairdos. At least she knows that there is a difference between football and woodpecking - some TV commentators apparently don't!

Of course I kept supporting my own team, Switzerland, until they were out of the tournament, but once again we seemed to choose a pretty innocuous way of getting out, losing a 50-50 arm wrestle against Poland on a day of football most people would have forgotten already. Unless they are from Poland, Wales or Portugal that is. They say Granit Xhakas ball that he sent wide in the shootout has not been found yet. Wait for it to collide with the missile one Lionel Messi sent out of the Met Life in East Rutherford at the end of the Copa America final against Chile, a testosterone-laden battle that made a few of the EURO games look like womens' games.

Much has been said about Spain and Italy colliding early in the EURO tournament, an occasion that would have made quite a few people chuckle. Though, let's be frank, Spain should have done better than to slip against a Croatian outfit that did not survive against a perennially mediocre Portuguese side and Italy for once were just too good early on to have their R16 destiny in their own hands. Finally, Belgium have finally arrived at the tournament, beating Hungary by plenty and making it look ludicrously easy in the process.

As we look set for another couple of days without our daily dose of the green screen, let's bask in the joy of Icelandic folk. They say, big men don't cry (or similar). Last night I could not help it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thor's Army

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in St-Etienne is usually known as a hell's entrance disguised as a football ground. When the local team of AS St-Etienne plays there, it is also known as the "green cauldron" or as our german friends would probably call it - the green hell. After events last night, we should ask ourselves whether the blue fairies of Iceland changed this.

Icelands's travelling support turned up in vast numbers, making people wonder whether anyone has stayed at home. Quite unusual for a football team's tournament support, families and children were out in style. It seemed as if an entire huge village community went on holiday together, all proudly wearing their blue shirts. And then they all celebrated their anthem, which unlike the Portuguese counterpart is a never-ending chant just about the beauty of a country and not a blood-filled rousing war cry.

The storyline continued on the green pitch of Geoffroy-Guichard, where the men in blue were initially outplayed, conceded a goal to one of those Portuguese Hollywood actors and to add insult to injury, they were discarded by some TV reporters as a bunch of woodpeckers. Fair enough, their tackling style may be agricultural at times, but then again, some of the much hyped sides from South America tend to play the beautiful game just as beautiful.

Portugal being their usual mercurial self, they went off the boil in the second half and Iceland did not take not to capitalize. Birkir Bjarnason, a born hero (he plays for Basel, that's why!), latched onto a cross and put it past the Portuguese keeper for the equalizing goal. And as hard as Portugal, helped by their Turkish friend in the referee's jersey, tried, they did not manage another goal. It may have been a draw, but it felt as if Thor's cast had just beaten Hollywood to the Oscar.