With England fans massing in the old town and more unwanted rain, we opted to watch England-Wales in a relatively quiet bar just off the high street; it did however seem like there were more people watching the football/ sheltering from the rain than the owners had anticipated, which made the service a bit random.
It was clear from the start of the match that Wales were happy to sit deep and look to attack on the counter through Bale and Ramsey; it worked perfectly in the first half and they kept England at bay; although it has to be said that England were lacking any kind of spark in their attacking play for the second consecutive match. We had a decent shout for a penalty when Kane’s header clearly struck Davies on the arm; the German ref however opted to wave play on. Then three minutes before half-time, in oh so typically English fashion we conceded a free-kick more than 30 yards out, Bale (who else?) lined it up and produced a Ronaldo-esque strike over the wall which beat Hart low to his left, as good as the Man City keeper is, you have to question whether he could have done better, and after the debacle of Russia’s added time equalizer in the previous match, you have to wonder if Hodgson may even consider a change?
I spent half-time sipping my beer in resignation at yet another England disaster at a major tournament; I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t have any belief England but I fall for it each and every time.
At the start of the second half Hodgson, presumably realising that his job may well be on the line, was bold and replaced the ineffective Sterling and Kane with Vardy and Sturridge; while the changes didn’t automatically change the game, nine minutes into the second half Vardy drew England level with an albeit offside flick home from close range. I found a new level of guarded optimism that if we could just find one more goal we would be top of the group. The remainder of the half provided frustration after frustration until in added time the ball fell nicely for Sturridge in the area; he made no mistake and calmly slotted home to seal the victory. For once I didn’t even find his dancing annoying!
It was the most un-England like performance to be behind, for the manager to gamble and for it to pay off but it cheered me up, the only downside being that I might continue to believe in England again, and I know only too well how that is likely to turn out…
The second game of the day saw Northern Ireland overcome Ukraine, despite the game being suspended for a hailstorm (really?!?!). After spending some brilliant days in Nice with the Northern Ireland fans, I was over the moon for them and can only imagine how the celebrations in Lyon went; I only hope that the bars stocked up with plenty of beer!
The final game of the day saw Germany and Poland play out a goalless draw, certainly it was a good point for Poland and it also made us realise that Germany perhaps lack a cutting edge and may not be quite as strong favourites as we had originally thought.