Euro's Information and News

Euro's Diary: Part Two

OT-HOZ.jpg

Getty

Wednesday 20th July

After a nightmare journey home from Chesterfield the day before (took me 10 hours due to train/track issues due to the heat), I was hoping for an easier journey to Brighton for the first quarter-final between England and Spain. Everything was okay until I got to London Bridge station! There all the trains to Brighton had been cancelled/delayed due to cattle on the lines and I was told to go to Victoria station. It was the same there but there were some trains running to Lewes so I got on that and made my way south. I got to Brighton eventually after changing at Haywards Heath for a train that was delayed due to the driver not turning up!


I was staying in the centre of Brighton this time and had a view (from a distance) of the sea from my hotel room. I went and had a drink at the Free Lionesses fan embassy on the sea front at the Tempest Inn, and then went to the fan park in Victoria Gardens which was busy. It seemed a bit more organised at the station this time as to where to queue. I got a train and got to the stadium fairly quickly though the conductor kept saying the UEFA Women’s final when advising people to get off at Falmer for the football. Before going in, I waited near the players entrance and saw the Lionesses coach arrive.


I was sat in the top tier of the west stand again so had to climb up a lot of steps to get there! My seat was more in the centre this time near the media positions, and even though it was high up it does allow a very good view of the pitch.


There were no goals in the first half and I thought Spain were the better side, though both defended well. There was a new half time competition for the knock-out stages and also a singalong song with the words on the big screen. Spain did take the lead after the break when Esther Gonzalez scored. Mary Earps made a great save to keep the score at 1-0. Just after Millie Bright (my player of the match) had moved into attack for the last 10 minutes, England did equalise when Ella Toone finished from close range. With the scores level the match went to extra-time and during the first half of this Georgia Stanway scored a stunner to put England ahead. I was nervous for the rest of extra-time with Spain looking for an equaliser but that did not come as England won 2-1 and reached the semi-finals. A great atmosphere again with the Mexican wave attempts not lasting long! The attendance of 28,994 was the biggest ever for a Women’s Euros quarter-final.


There were long queues for the trains after the match but it seemed better organised than after the Norway match with a few more signs and barriers in place. I didn’t have to wait that long for a train and was back in Brighton by midnight. Having a look on Twitter when I got back to my hotel, it was nice to see so many things trending to do with this match including 4 of the top 6.



Thursday 21st July

The train back to London was slightly delayed at Brighton, but I thought I had got away with any major travel issues until the train got near to Finsbury Park station when it stopped and the driver announced that the police were chasing someone around the station. It was delayed about 20 minutes but I got home for a few hours before going to the second quarter-final between Germany and Austria at Brentford. On my way across London on the tube, I saw a copy of the Evening Standard with a picture of the Lionesses on the front page and also 3 pages with coverage inside. I love seeing things like this!


Being a bit later than planned, I went straight into the stadium. I was sat behind one of the goals this time but quite a way up in the stand, not that far from the TV presentation area! It was nice going to this match as a neutral after the night before! It was also nice seeing the Georgia Stanway goal on the big screen before that match when they showed highlights from the previous night’s game.


Austria had already hit the post before Lina Magull opened the scoring for Germany in the 25th minute. In the second half, Germany hit the post then Austria hit the crossbar and a bit later the post again. Germany then hit the top of the crossbar meaning the woodwork had been hit five times during the match. Germany should have scored a second but put a chance wide from in front of goal. Alexandra Popp did make it 2-0 in the 90th minute to send Germany, and their flag waving fans, into the semi-finals. There were 16,025 fans there which was a record attendance for a quarter-final not involving a host nation.

It finished up being another long journey back from west London, as even though I walked to Acton Town this time, I had to wait five minutes for a train and then it was slow going through London. I got home again after midnight!


Friday 22nd July

A day off going to matches for me with the third quarter-final taking place in Leigh between Sweden and Belgium. Sweden were the better side. They had a goal ruled out after a VAR check and were denied by some fantastic saves by Nicky Evrard in goal for Belgium. Just as it looked like we were going to get the first 0-0 after 90 minutes in these Euro’s, Linda Sembrant scored for Sweden in the second minute of injury time to win it for them and set up a semi-final against England.



Saturday 23rd July

Another trip up north for the final quarter-final. France v Netherlands was being played in Rotherham so for me it meant another night in Chesterfield! I had a seat reserved on the train, but because there were only 5 carriages instead of 10 that it was meant to have, my seat and carriage didn’t exist! I found a seat anyway. I had lunch in Chesterfield before going to the hotel. Then I got the train to Rotherham via Sheffield. Thankfully it was a lot cooler than the last time I was there on Monday.


The fan park was spread around the town centre. The main stage was in All Saints Square with Rotherham Minster providing a nice backdrop to it! There was already a DJ playing when I got there just after 5pm, and it was full of mainly Netherlands fans in their orange shirts though there were a few France fans and neutrals about. There was an amazing atmosphere again and we even got a bit of “Sweet Caroline” Dutch style! The fan walk left for the stadium just under two hours before kick-off. Led by the orange bus and moving at a slow pace, it didn’t take long for the first play of “Links Rechts’ and the fans moving side to side across the road (we got a second rendition close to the stadium too). Another brilliant and unforgettable experience to be part of!


I was sat at the same end as last time at the New York Stadium but was a bit further back and towards the corner flag then before. I was sat below the TV presentation areas this time. They played “Links Rechts” in the stadium before the match!


France somehow weren’t ahead at half time after hitting the post, having a couple of efforts blocked on the line and Daphne van Domselaar making some really good saves (as she did throughout the whole match). The second half was a bit more even but neither side could find the net for the first time in 90 minutes during these Euro’s. In extra-time, France were awarded a penalty after a VAR check in the 102nd minute which Eve Perisset scored. The Netherlands didn’t really look like equalising during the rest of the match. France won 1-0 to go through to the semi-finals where they will play Germany.


The last bus from Sheffield to Chesterfield was at 11:20pm, so with the match finishing at nearly 10:30 it meant I had to leave as soon as the final whistle was blown and walk quickly to the station to get the train 15 minutes later. I successfully manged this and was back in Sheffield with some time to spare. The bus was packed but I was back in Chesterfield just before midnight. I think I am getting old as most of the places I walked past on the way back to the hotel seemed to be blasting music out way to loudly!


Tuesday 26th July

It was the Lionesses semi-final day in Sheffield! I got the train up and was there before midday (a bit early for an 8pm kick off I know)! There were England and Sweden flags hung up at the station. I went to the fan embassy at the Triple Point Brewery where I met my friend Chris. TalkSport were also doing their morning show there and I got asked if I would have a quick chat on air along with four other people. I got to say my name and where I am from to the nation but they didn’t have time to speak to me! There was a group photo when they had finished with Sam Matterface, Lucy Ward and the supporters who were there (I got to stand next to Lucy in that).


Again for a trip up north, I was staying in Chesterfield so I went back to there to check in to the hotel. Back in Sheffield, I went back to the Triple Point Brewery which was fairly busy by 4:30. It was in a good location between the station and stadium. By the time I left just before 6, the queue for the bar was all the way across the outside area which was also full. The stadium was about a ten minute walk away and I got there to see the team coaches arrive, Sweden first followed a bit later by England. It was raining by this point.


I was sat in the Kop again at Bramall Lane, this time near the back. The leg room was still minimal and there was a lot of standing up during the game when the fans in front of me did the same. Mary Earps made some good saves to deny Sweden before England took the lead when Beth Mead scored. 1-0 at half time but England scored a second just after the break when Lucy Bronze headed in. Another great save by Earps kept the score at 2-0. Russo scored England’s third with a back-heel nutmeg and Fran Kirby completed the scoring as the Lionesses won 4-0 and reached the final.


The atmosphere was amazing, the Sweden fans playing their part too singing and chanting all the way through the match. The attendance of 28,624 is a record for a Women’s Euro semi-final. It was one of those nights after the match had finished that I didn’t want to leave the stadium (the players didn’t want to leave the pitch either) and just soak up the atmosphere. I wasn’t the only one and there were still people in the stadium when I left 25 minutes after the match had finished.


Wednesday 27th July

There was a train strike and I had to get from Chesterfield to Milton Keynes. After checking, there were trains running from Chesterfield to London, and then London to Milton Keynes so I took my chances by going this way (I did have a lift sorted from Derby just in case). In the end there were no problems and I did the journey in about three hours! I even heard some people talking about Alessia Russo’s goal and the match on one of the trains!


My hotel was a bit out from the centre of MK so I got the bus to it. I walked back to the fan park though and that took about 40 minutes. There was a nice mix of fans in the park, obviously a lot of Germany (and their fan bus) and France fans, but I also saw some people wearing England and Sweden shirts. There were dark clouds looming but it stayed dry whilst I was there. The rain started as I was on the shuttle bus to the stadium and continued on the final ten minute walk.


Germany took the lead when Alexandra Popp scored but France equalised just before half time when the ball went in off Germany’s goalkeeper. France came close a number of times to taking the lead in the second half. Germany took the lead again when Popp scored her second. France were unable to equalise again and it was Germany who got through to the final to play England. The attendance of 27,445 was the biggest at a Women’s Euros semi-final not involving the hosts.


There was a bit of a queue and wait to get the shuttle bus back into Milton Keynes. I spent the time waiting on my phone after getting some signal back after having hardly any in the stadium. I had missed the last bus back towards my hotel so I got a taxi.



Sunday 31st July

The day of the final! England v Germany, so much football history between these two countries, and for me, the two best sides in the tournament! I had a mix of emotions. I was a bit emotional thinking about all those who are involved with women's football (some for a very long time) and got it to where we are today, proud of the team and what they had done during the tournament and excited about the final and what the future holds for the women's game!


I arrived at Wembley Stadium just after midday and there were lots of people already about, five hours before kick-off! I headed to the Blue Check bar and the Free Lionesses fan embassy, and it was standing room only in there! It got busier as the afternoon went on and was absolutely packed by the time I left just before 3! I queued to get a programme, a special one had been produced for the final. Looking back down Wembley Way, which was full of people, from outside the stadium was a great sight.


I was sat in the top tier but thankfully there were escalators up to it. The view though was amazing from up in the gods though (I wasn’t that far back, three rows from the front of the tier)! I went back into the concourse area for some food and a few nerve calming drinks! The teams were announced and Sarina Wiegman had picked the same starting 11 for England for the sixth game in a row at the Euro’s! I missed the pre-match show from Becky Hill, and got back to me seat just before the sides came out. It was another WOW moment walking back into the stadium and seeing Wembley full for the final! The national anthems were sung, Tiny Buzz brought the ball on and then it was time for the match to get underway!


Not many clear chances in the first half. Germany somehow didn’t score from a scramble in front of the England goal whilst the Lionesses best chance came when Ellen White shot over. 0-0 at half time and I headed back to the concourse during the break. Lina Magull shot wide for Germany before England took the lead in the 62nd minute when Keira Walsh’s wonderful through ball found Ella Toone who calmly chipped the goalkeeper to score. The majority of the crowd went wild! Magull hit the post as Germany came close to equalising. Germany did equalise in the 79th minute thanks to a nice finish from Magull and she run off to celebrate in front of their fans. There were no more goals and it finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. The crowd had been announced as 87.192 during the second half, a record for any women’s or men’s Euros finals game.


Extra time next then. No goals in the first half of it. The 110th minute and England have a corner. It is swung in by Lauren Hemp, Lucy Bronze gets a touch and it falls to Chloe Kelly who seems to swing her right foot and miss the ball, but the ball bounces off the goalie and back to her, she sticks he right foot out again and there is no mistake this time as she finishes from close range! The crowd erupts, the stadium felt like it was shacking! Kelly runs off, checking with the referee the goal had been allowed, taking her shirt off in celebration and swinging it around her head! Alessia Russo had an effort tipped over. The final five minutes were nervy, but England played some good game management, keeping the ball in the corner below where I was sitting. Germany didn’t have any chances to equalise again.


The final whistle went and the crowd went wild again. Three Lions was played then Sweet Caroline. The stage was set up for the presentation and the Duke of Cambridge brought the trophy out. Beth Mead got trophies for Player of the Tournament and top goalscorer whilst Germany’s Lena Oberdorf won best young player. The officials and Germany went along and got their medals.


Then it was England’s turn! The squad got their medals then Leah Williamson was presented and lifted the trophy! The first time the senior women’s side had won a major tournament and only the second time a senior England team had won one after the men in 1966. The players did a lap of the pitch and then didn’t seem to want to leave it again! They were out there for ages having photos taken. I was soaking it all up again and didn’t leave for a while!


I queued to get into BoxPark (to let the queues for the tube to die down) and eventually got in. It was so busy, the queues for the bars where slow moving, so I didn’t stay that long and made my way home. What an incredible day! Not bad for tickets I bought over a year ago for £15!



Monday 1st August

A victory celebration in Trafalgar Square in London had been announced after the win for Monday lunchtime. I got there just before 11am and it was already busy and I got a free flag as I went in. I stood near the back of the square, a bit higher up to get a good view. Three Lions was played a number of times before the squad came on and it was amazing to see all the flags being waved.


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan did a speech before Alex Scott came onto stage as the main host of the event. The squad came on to loud cheers and more flag waving. A few of the players did interviews, a lot sounding/looking like they had had a good time with the amount of sunglasses being worn. They were presented with the trophy on stage then the party really started with Sweet Caroline and what seemed like Lionesses karaoke for 15 minutes.


I bumped into Helen from The Women’s Football Magazine as I was just about to leave and had a chat with her (had meet for the first time at Wolverhampton before the first warm-up game against Belgium in June). Then it was over, the end of one of the best months of my life. It was amazing going to 16 matches, and I have so many memories from the games and the supporters of the different sides! In the end though, the Lionesses brought it home!