Eur’only going to Wales v N.Ireland
After England crashed out in dismal fashion to the minnows of Iceland, I thought I’d recap on a happier EURO 2016 experience I had last weekend.
Wales v N.Ireland wasn’t the fixture I was hoping for when we bought the tickets last month, on a calculated assumption that England would cruise the group stages in first place and be at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. Okay, so it wasn’t England; but who cares, you couldn’t ask for more: a great city and a party atmosphere.
Given the huge amount of negative media attention regarding Brits abroad and overbearing French policing, we could have been forgiven for being overly cautious as we wandered the streets, but no need. The mood was jovial and good-natured, with the (intimidating-looking, I grant you) special police, decked out in body armour, balaclavas and automatic weapons, quite happily posing for photos.
The ground was filled with a sea of red and green, from Welsh dragons to green wig-wearing guys in matching shades. The Irish side showed that numbers amass to nothing when wit is on your side; their chants of “Will Griggs on fire, your defence is terrified” and “Oooooh Gareth McAuley” rang out throughout, rendering the Welsh almost silent.
The match didn’t have as much quality and enthusiasm as that in the stands, to be honest. Northern Ireland snubbed out most of Wales’ attacking threat, although superstar Gareth Bale shone with passes of brilliance and ultimately got the goal which was a whipped in cross turned into the Northern Ireland net by their one and only Gareth McAuley.
It was a bitter pill for the Northern Irish to swallow, and much as they tried to come back, the team were thwarted by a bit of tactical time-wasting by Wales at the end.
Having witnessed the horror show on Monday night between England and Iceland – remember, that shambolic display we all thought was a foregone conclusion? – I know which game I’d rather see: an English derby without the negative press attention, reports of hooliganism and embarrassing displays from the men in white.