So have the Poles recovered from the disappointment of Saturday night, when the Polish national team failed to make it to the quarter finals? It’s been a difficult process, a simple opening of Saturday’s papers which are still lying around, tells us a story of hope, excitement and belief, all of these are a distant and painful memory but the tournament goes on. How have Poles dealt with the exit of their team?
Firstly there is still a lot of airtime and press space which has been allocated to the Euros, so this needs to be taken up. Yesterday Polish radio three had a phone in asking listeners who they were going to support with Poland out. Many went for Spain, for some the essence of wonderful football, and for others (including me) the tippy, tappy antichrist. One caller who rang in recommended people to support the Spanish and the Germans if they wanted to back a winner. He also told people that the Spanish were the best team to watch if you want to take a toilet break, as you know they’ll still have the ball when you return!
There’s also been talk of maintaining the ever-so-popular fan zone in Warsaw after the finals have finished. Approximately 230,000 people watched the three Poland games there, so the demand is definitely there. The issue is the cost of keeping it, apparently the zone costs 10 million Euros to service, and UEFA has provided a good amount of the funding. Still, with Poland gone, the fanzone has lost some of its attraction. For Spain-Croatia last night there were apparently only 1,500 fans celebrating within its boundaries.
In other news, last night unfortunately saw the end of the Irish and the Croat presence at the Euros. I say unfortunately for different reasons. The Irish team have been a great disappointment, with one of the worst records of any of the teams who have qualified to the Euro finals, only Bulgaria in 2004 have been as bad. The team has limited talent in terms of players but the Greeks, with a similar level of quality, reached the quarters on Saturday night.
No the Irish will be missed because of their fans. Poznan, where approximately 25,000 Irish have been staying, has fallen in love with fans from the Emerald Isle. A poll on the Greater Poland Voice newspaper website (Glos Wielkopolski) asked why Poznaniaks have liked the Irish so much. The overwhelming answer was the ability of the Irish fans to have fun, whatever the result, something which Poles are unable to do. I experienced such frolics last Thursday in the fanzone in the city, Ireland were getting trounced 4-0, but that didn’t stop them from celebrating. A friend of mine from Poznan, told me she wasn’t a fan of football, but she was a fan of Irish football fans! A player from my own team Reading, Noel Hunt, seemed to be having a cracking time in the city the other night, if his twitter feed was anything to go by!
Photo: Irish fans enjoying themselves on Poznan’s main square.
Croatia will instead be missed for their qualities on the pitch. They’ve shown flair mixed with strength, hammered Ireland, played well against Italy and held their own against the Spanish for most of the game last night. As a friend pointed out quite rightly, the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams in four years time will have one bonus, in future teams such as Croatia will go through as one of the ‘best third placed teams’. But that doesn’t help the Croats in the here and now. So bye bye Modric, Jelavic et al, it’s been fun watching you.
Tonight it may well be the turn of the other co-hosts Ukraine to experience the despair of leaving the tournament. They’ve got a tough game to come against England. Like the Poles on Saturday they need to win to go through. So it’s very likely that, for the second Euros running, the two host nations will go out at the first hurdle. It’ll be sad for the tournament, but I’m still expecting a lot more exciting football over the next 12 days. Be there with me.