Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Euro 2016 France Part #3

I travelled out on the Eurostar then picked up a car in Lille before going on to my hotel in the famous cycling location of Roubaix.

From there is not too far to Villeneuve-d’Ascq.

Hail Hal.

1st July 2016  Belgium 1 Wales 3  Villeneuve-d’Ascq, Lille   45,936

This was an amazing, historic win for the Welsh who thus reached their first major semi-final.
Their fans were considerably outnumbered by the Belgians who could easily drive across the border to the Grande Stade.
But it was a night to remember for all those from the Principality who were able to get tickets.

Though it did not begin too well after a tracer bullet from Nainggollan wizzed past Hennessey after 13 minutes.
Belgium looked ready to strut their stuff but they suffered a setback when a corner was headed in by unmarked Welsh captain Ashley Williams on the half hour.

That definitely knocked the Belgians confidence and Wales ended up with more first half possession.

Into the second and Belgium brought on Fellaini.
And we saw Eden Hazard produce a run and shot that went close while Lukaku should have done better with a header.
The Everton striker was fortunate to stay on so long, being belatedly replaced by Batshuayi.

But the key moment came on 55 when the unheralded Hal Robson-Kanu collected a cross from Ramsey, swivelled, leaving three defenders floundering before shooting home left footed past Courtois for 2-1.
It was a goal that will live long in the memory of Welsh fans.

Belgium pressed for a leveller but Bale and co. all worked consistently hard to stop them.
And in the end another breakaway brought a third after sub. Sam Vokes neatly headed home a cross from the right.


Presumably the end for Belgian coach Marc Wilmots who failed to deliver the required performance from their ‘golden generation’.

I eventually dried out on the way back to Roubaix reflecting on a famous night in Welsh football history.

The following day I drove south to Senlis, a town of considerable history with its ancient centre, Roman remains and cobbled streets.
Back at the hotel I watched Germany edge Italy on penalties.

The next morning I spent in Chantilly.

The footballers had gone, no doubt concentrating on catching up with their shopping.
But the town itself has a timeless quality epitomised by the historic stables, racecourse and the outstanding chateau.

Inside the equestrian museum as well as real horses are reminders of its place in history.
Similarly the chateau itself has a vast array of portraits of French nobility plus some stunning decor.

Perhaps our chastened England team will have noted the chandeliers and put them on their list of future household accoutrements.
But they will struggle to gain the nobility and class of those pictured on the walls.

Its a short drive back to Senlis then onward to the north of Paris for the final quarter final.

Iceland frozen out.

3rd July  France 5 Iceland 2  Stade de France  76,833

More rain here and more ‘thunder’ from the Iceland fans who even had the locals joining in.

I saw my 12th Opening Ceremony - every game should one !
Before France set about destroying the Vikings with four first half goals.

Giroud was set free for the opener before Pogba showed another of his skills when he rose high to head in number two.
Payet shot through a number of legs then Griezmann added to his total with a superb chip.

Finally the Iceland defence had crumbled.

They had just one first period chance from a set play.

But at least their excellent fans had more to cheer (or clap) in the second half with two goals, the first from an excellent Gylfi Sigurdsson cross, the second a Bjarnason header.
Lloris also made a point blank save from another chance.

But France had their moment as well when Giroud outjumped the opposition goalie for their fifth.

It had been a entertaining win for the hosts who looked very threatening going forward though somewhat less solid at the other end.

Next up for them would be a semi against the Germans.

For Iceland it will no doubt be a memorable homecoming in Reykjavik.

No comments: