Four Belgian second division matches, a short trip to Kiev, then ending with three matches in Germany.
Vanderputte sinks Hoogstraten.
7th September 2013 Heist 2 Hoogstraten 1 1,100 (c. 100 away) Belgian Second Division
Eurostar to Brussels then a stop in Antwerp before getting the train to Heist-op-den-Berg.
Incidentally Antwerp is now some station with the impressively preserved old facade and four levels of retail outlets.
This was the first win of the new season for Heist who scored two great goals after the visitors had gone ahead with a training ground move from a corner.
Striker Criel, who had a decent match, volleyed in a headed pass then Jeroen Vanderputte drove in a thirty yarder for the winner.
That was all in the entertaining, pacy first period - the second was more cautious with Heist settling for containment.
The stadium itself was characteristic of lower level Belgian grounds with various elements of terrace and seating.
It seems the pitch has been moved as there is some older terrace/stand set back from the new position.
As is often the case the whole feels homelier than (say) a Dutch ground and the match more watchable than (say) the equivalent French level.
In mild dry weather I strolled back through the centre to eventually get my return train to Antwerp.
Een enough for Eendracht.
8th September ASV Geel 0 Eendracht Aalst 1 1,500 (150 away)
Another second division encounter, this time not as entertaining as the day before.
The match was won with another seemingly rehearsed move, a long corner and Semt was unmarked at the far post to head in.
That was on seven minutes.
And for most of the rest of the match Geel struggled to create many chances.
Aalst were happy to consolidate and wait for opportunities.
Two fell to substitute Greek striker Stavros Glouftsis but both were spurned.
But the single goal was enough and the visiting players celebrated at the end with the 150 or so away fans.
The ground in Geel, some fifteen minutes from the station, is a good size with covered terrace or seating on all four sides.
Having had a couple of spritzer sharpeners before the match in the main square, I was nourished by a burger before kick-off (no token needed)
I was back in Antwerp by 7pm for some wine and spring rolls.
The weather stayed warm and dry.
And then a diversion to Kiev, via Brussels.
England get a ‘result’.
10th September Ukraine 0 England 0 69,890 (2,000 away) Kiev.
Where England ‘got a result’ to stay top of World Cup qualification group H.
On a mild, dry night in the Ukrainian capital there were brief flurries of goalmouth action with England looking more dangerous in the first half and Ukraine applying more pressure in the second.
But never enough to achieve a breakthrough.
The most potent threat from the home side came from the left hand side but they lacked a Shevchenko to supply the finish.
The atmosphere was noisy at times but soon turned to Mexican waves.
As for England Lambert, a possible weakness and though isolated in the second period, showed some decent hold up and lay-off play.
But I sensed some midfield concerns, Wilshere’s likely to be solved by more play but for Gerrard and Lampard the end could be in sight.
Also despite only limited pressure goalie Joe Hart did seem somewhat shaky.
But all in all this supporter feels that our country will make it to Brazil, though it could be via the play-offs.
In a familiar city I indulged in some caviar pancakes, soup and washed it down with fine Belgian beer.
And talking of Belgium I had seen a number of their happy fans returning from Glasgow whilst in Brussels. They at least are almost certain of qualification.
11th September Excelsior Virton 1 SV Roeselare 1 Belgian 2nd division 1,252 (30 away)
And so from Kiev, via Brussels, to Virton in the very south of Belgium.
The train journey, changing at Libramont, was mostly through undulating wooded country.
Often it was raining.
Virton was once a medieval walled city and it has a central core of bars and restaurants, mostly quiet on this very wet Wednesday night.
The stadium is a short walk from the centre.
And a decent crowd turned out to see Virton miss loads of chances.
They started quickly and the visitors (who had travelled by bus from the north and would go back afterwards the same way) were soon under severe pressure.
But the home side failed to score and sure enough Roeselare did when a cross found Di Lallo who had space to control and convert.
After that it was a more even game before, on the hour, Yohan Dufour finally equalised with a similar goal.
So Virton would regret missing their opportunities and had to settle for a draw.
It could have been worse as sub. Sarrazyn missed a golden chance to win the game for Roeselare but blazed over in the final minute.
The ground itself is in the typical Belgian style (a recurrent theme) with a mix of terraces and stands and a four tier advertising space behind one goal.
Despite the inclement weather you could still appreciate the attractiveness of this part of Belgium (more so if you have enough time to explore)
‘Let the players have the ball’
12th September Tubize 0 Antwerp 2 Belgian 2nd Division 850 (300 away)
Back to the Belgian capital and a hotel in the multi-cultural area near Place Anneessens.
Complete with a plethora of eateries.
Tubize also has plenty of restaurants - maybe more than required.
Which you could also say about the large seated stand behind the goal at the Stade Leburton.
It was unoccupied with the home fans, such as they were, sat in the ‘main stand’.
Opposite was a section of terrace for the 300 or so visiting fans.
The supporters from Antwerp kept up a decent level of noise including various English chants
(‘Let the players have the ball’ I think was one example)
After a period of stalemate Antwerp went ahead when, following a series of blocks, Calabro scored.
The clincher came from a penalty in the second half when sub. Guvenc got up to convert.
Tubize struggled to make chances and always seemed second best.
Thankfully dry the weather stayed reasonably mild.
I took the convenient 22.50 train back to Brussels.
Born to win.
13th September Paderborn 1 Karlsruhe 0 2. Bundesliga 6,890 (300 away)
And on to Westphalia.
Where Paderborn, in their newish stadium, needed this victory to move up the table.
A single goal was enough after Elias Kachunga beat the offside trap, rounded the goalie and shot into an empty net.
Before that we had long periods of mostly uneventful football.
The second half had more incident including a decent free kick from Alibaz and some dangerous crosses by the right back Klingmann.
But Paderborn restricted the visitors with some containing passes towards the end.
The compact ground comprises the usual mix of (raised) terrace and seating.
It does have some slightly unusual thin metal supports.
Having walked from near the centre I took the free bus back to my hotel and opted for the healthy soup option and the (maybe less healthy ?) beer option.
From Paderborn, via Kassel and, eventually Nuremberg to the old Bavarian city of Augsburg.
14th September Augsburg 2 Freiburg 1 28,453 (c. 1,000 away)
The new SGL- Arena is on the edge of the city and readily reachable by tram and a walk.
Inside you will find an atmospheric, mid-sized, single tier stadium (with thicker metal supports)
The local ultras, including the Legio Augusta, provided solid vocal support.
The atmosphere was no doubt enhanced by the relative success of the home side who gained what could be a very valuable win with a last minute left footed strike by sub. Tobias Werner.
Before that Freiburg had taken the lead catching the home side a little flat footed straight after the interval when Admir Mehmedi was put through to beat Manninger.
But eventually FCA fought back, despite missing some chances and finding it difficult to deliver the final pass.
Striker Halil Altintop levelled from a Ostrzolek cross and after that it seemed we were heading for a draw, until Werner intervened to send the fans home happy.
I took the tram back to the centre and negotiated the roadworks (removing the tram tracks) to find my hotel.
Chinese buffet was the post-game meal choice.
Party like its 1899.
15th September Hoffenheim 2 Borussia Moenchengladbach 1 29,447 (c. 3,500 away)
The train was cancelled, I was having a bad time with Deutsche Bahn (unlike Jason Bourne I couldn’t check the timetable and expect the train to be there on time), but in the end there was enough time to check into my hotel in Heidelberg and still make the convenient train to the Sinsheim arena.
Hoffenheim certainly try to encourage support from the around the region and this includes free travel from Heidelberg.
And inside the Rhein-Neckar there is plenty of pre-game build-up.
Lots of visiting fans made the trip and they were positioned in the left hand corner.
The main home ultras were in the right terrace.
Borussia mostly played at a slow tempo with the emphasis on counter attacking.
It did not work.
Hoffenheim scored at a strategic time just before half time when the talented Elyounoussi crossed for Modeste to head in off a defender.
They added a second later when Volland cut back from the by-line to shoot in right footed, he had also gone close in the first period.
That left Borussia with plenty to do and although sub. Hrgota scored a fine goal on 75 minutes they were unable to get level.
Rafael threatened as did Kruse with crosses but Gladbach came up short and Hoffenheim had their second win of the season.
I returned home using BA from Frankfurt airport to London City.
More pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/2086788888