Monday, 30 June 2008

Never Mind The Ballacks

It's all over - after just over three weeks of too much drinking, too much new food, too much spending, too much travelling around London, and too much outwardly supporting a team while secretly wanting their opponents to win.

The Euro2008InLondong blog crew watched the final with the Spanish fans in Bodega De Tapas in Camden. We arrived just after 4pm and were the first people there. We were so early, in fact, that they sent us away for a while so they could rearrange the bar in preparation.

However, our early arrival was a waste of effort as the venue became gradually more and more rammed and increasing numbers of people started standing between us and the screens.

As kick off drew near it became apparent that we would have to give up our table and our seats and peer over the shoulders and between the heads of the abnormally tall people standing a metre from the screen. We improvised bravely, sitting on tables, standing on the rungs of stools, standing near the stairs so we could see the screen upstairs...

As expected, the fans were vociferous and excitable and after a worrying bout of nerves for the first quarter of an hour Spain's attractive play encouraged the crowd further. It seems to be universally accepted that Spain deserved to win the match and most people seem to agree they were worthy winners of the tournament. I took particular delight in Spain's insistence that they needed to score the perfect goal, even after 92 minutes, when most teams would have been shielding the ball in the corner or passing it back to their keeper.

It's been exhausting and an organisational nightmare, and I've never been so sick of people standing in my line of sight, but I think it's been worth it...

Friday, 27 June 2008

Top Guiza / Arse-havin

So in the end Russia turned out to be nothing more than a team who had one exceptional game. They were brilliant against The Netherlands in the quarters but in retrospect they were poor against Spain both times, not great against a weak Greece side, and quite good against a dull Sweden.

Throughout this semi-final they looked like a determined but ultimately doomed middle-tier side against a top-tier side. They were plucky in the first half but didn't grasp their chance and were then overrun in the second half.

Anyway. That's enough about my opinions. The Euro2008InLondon blog-crew watched the game in La Perla on Charlotte St. It's a Mexican bar but that was the best we could do. Nueva Costa Dorado - our venue for the first Spain v Russia game - wasn't showing the game in the restaurant this time for some reason, and the bar was full an hour and a half before kick-off. We tried a couple of other places in the Spanish District on Hanway St and were chased out of one for "breaking in", so we decided to look further afield.

We settled on La Perla because they had a Spanish flavour and they were very accomodating, and because we were able to while away the time before kick-off making faces out of the crockery:

Spain were strongly supported and their goals and missed chances were met appropriately by cheers and groans. The Spanish victory was well deserved and well received.

So, back to my opinions. We were all taken in by the hype about Arshavin, but in retrospect it's becoming clear how he's got to the age of 27, playing for the UEFA Cup Champions, without being noticed: he's just another Karel Poborsky. Or worse, the next Tomas Brolin. Barcelona look set to splash the cash to take him to The Nou Camp but I suspect he's just timed the best two performances of his career well and that he'll disappear without much of a trace.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Turkey Laid Low

And no, the headline does not refer to the German coach's naughty habits in the barnyard but to another lucky German win.

How do they do it? I really can't believe it, they only had about four decent attacks in the whole game. Maybe if Turkey had thought about defending at all - as their backline was awful for all three German goals.

Still, at least we got lucky with the venue - after a weekend on not managing to get in anywhere we actually planned ahead and booked for the Istanbul Meze Bar.

It was amazing - some of the lovely cold meze starters can be seen on the left and the staff were very friendly and welcoming, plying us with beer, bread, meze and tender charcoal-grilled meat.

This man attempted to set the world record for the most number of kebabs on the grill simulatneously:

Unfortunately Norris McWhirter had opted to attend the Bavarian Beerhouse so the record did not stand.

The crowd were passionate but knowledgeable. You could tell who the real Turks were by three signs:

  1. They all ordered melon and took it easy instead of wolfing down meze then half a kilo of meat.
  2. They all smoked - the place was deserted at half time.
  3. They were all drinking Raki by the bucketload rather than the 23 bottles of Efes lager that we got through
When their second goal went in the place erupted:

and we all sensed there might be "something on", especially given the undoubted quality of the goal.

Sadly it wasn't to be and when the keystone cops resurfaced in the Turkish defence the Germans took full advantage.

Who can stop them? Probably no-one but I'd fancy a well-organised Russian team over the temperamental and dubious defending Spanish.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Turkey knock stuffing out of Croatia

Friday saw the Turks take on Croatia in a dull game only livened up only by some superb late action.

Our preferred venue was The Istanbul Meze Bar but they were full so we tried Tas Ev again but they did not have the sound on. What a shame after the great time we had there last week it was a bit puzzling that they didn't seem to have much enthusiasm for their countrymen on Friday. Football without sound is a no-no for us so we watched the game in a local pub instead.

In order to get the authentic Turkish experience we concluded the night at the Capital Kebab House on the Cut near Waterloo, just what was needed after a few pints of lager:

Simple, unpretentious but delicious and with friendly staff we heartily recommend it - the kebabs there are capital!

We've booked in to the Istanbul Meze bar for the semi-final against Germany this Wednesday and the staff there seemed excited already, here's hoping they can roast the Germans.

Friday, 20 June 2008


(We excused the por spelling on their crockery)

Oh dear,

bang go my hopes in the prediction leagues. My Poor-tuguese lions are out.

Yesterday we went to Cafe Poor-tugal, service was poor and the food was authentically Poor-tuguese (including the defrosted birds-eye vegetable "stew").

The inevitable and dreary German juggernaut draws nearer it's destination and only the courageous Dutch or the resolute Italians can seemingly stop them.

Tonight we'll be going to the Istanbul Meze Bar to watch the mighty Turks.

I'll end with a word of advice to the Poor-tuguese - don't try and play pretty football when you're one down to Germany and about to go out of the tournament, hoof it in the box.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Austrian for "Austria" sounds a bit like "Ostrich"

Prior to the match Germany were on the Frings of elimination and looking a bit like Lahms to the slaughter. Their defeat against Croatia had left them Klose to an early exit, which would have been a kick in the Ballacks for the World Cup semi-finalists.

It wasn't a classic match. Even to the Lehmann, the finishing at both ends was poor. The strikers on both teams played like uncoordinated Fuchs; Ivanshitz could have finished better than this.

The Austrians were Keinast mustard to beat their rivals but despite all the Macho talk in the Austrian press beforehand they were ulitmately unable to Standfest in defence or to Harnik the attacking power at their disposal.

Their opponents managed to Stranzl the life out of the Austrians and so the Hiden delights that were on Hoffer had they qualified will have to wait for next time. A lot of these players will have to go back to their day-jobs making Korkmaz, while the victorious Germans will be sampling Neuville cuisine Fritz for a king.


Last night's venue for the Germany v Austria game was "Zeitgeist @ The Jolly Gardener" in the Vauxhall area. We arrived about 45 minutes before kick-off to find the place absolutely rammed with Germans already. There were two fairly large bar areas, with a screen each, and both were heaving. This led to a great atmosphere but poor visiblity!..

The two German bars we've visited, The Jolly Gardener and Octoberfest, have been two of the best venues for me, with exuberant and friendly fans.

Once again the chant that sounded suspiciously like a reference to Hitler came up. As before, we asked a friendly nearby German for the translation and were told it meant "one more fits" - ie "we want one more goal". This agrees with what the last friendly German we asked told us so we'll let it drop now...

When Germany finally scored, through a Ballack free-kick, the crowd went suitably mad:

The bar is referred to in some places as an Austrian/German bar and there were indeed a small number of brave Austrians in there. One girl stood in the middle of the German crowd shouting "Os-ter-reich!" repeatedly and yet somehow survived. Another group waved an Austrian flag, again avoiding repercussions.

The German team was disappointing. With some more clinical finishing they would have won by more, although Austria might have grabbed a goal too. On this form Germany shouldn't win the tournament, but of course you can never write them off...