So, first bit of the job done, and we are through to the quarter finals! The whole thing is taking it’s toll on the laundry bills though, and we have spent half the day looking for a self service laundrette here in Gdansk to wash our long suffering interior clothes. In the end we have to wash them ourselves by the side of the port with some soap powder (we hope it is that!) which we bought in the local supermarket, and as we are walking away we see two fishing boats sinking in the water. Goran says we should never have gone to that Curry House straight after a match like that!
Anyway, everyone (especially the Italians) were saying that we would fix the match with Croatia to be 2-2, so we would both go through, and Italy would be knocked out. But have you ever tried to fix a 2-2? OK, a 0-0 is fairly easy, you just don’t go in to your opponents half, but to get to 2-2 you have to score four goals. Bit of a risk if you ask me. But there was no question of that anyway, nobody scored at all until two minutes from the end, but more of that later.
Croatia is one of the 245 new countries which were formed from the split up of East Europe (as is Ukraine for that matter), and they have the smallest population of all the teams in the finals, with 4.5 million peoples in all (as you all know, the split was a plot to win the Eurovision song contest in perpetuityness, as a first step to taking over the World). But my half Croatian friend Goran will be the first to tell you that they are a bunch of fighters, and they give us a hard time in this one.
This time we at least started with a number nine, Torres again the man up front, but although we have most of the ball once again, we can’t get past the big wall that Croatia have built around their penalty area. So it’s long shots to try and test Pletikosa, first Iniesta, then Torres, Ramos, Piqué, but no way. It’s not all defence though from our opponents, and Saint Iker (probably by now on his way to becoming a god) has to keep out Pranjic and the Sevilla midfielder Rakitic, who should have scored.
Goran says don’t worry, if Spain lose he has contacts to make me an honorary Croatian, and we can follow them for the rest of the competition, but surely not? But there seem to be more of them than there are of us, and we ask the linesman in front of us to add up their numbers. Still, 0-0 will take us through, and Don Vicente decides to go back in to his shell, bringing on Navas and not Llorente or Negredo for Torres. Worrying times, and referee Ned Stark lets us off the “gancho” when he waves away a couple of penalty appeals. Long live Winterfell!
We can see Del Bosque’s tactics though, and after chasing after 800 or so passes even the Croatian powerhouses start to get tired. Time for the sucker-punch, and there it is, Cesc over the top, Iniesta controls, and Navas rolls it in to the net. A quick check of the linesman’s flag to make sure it is down, and that’s it! Top of the group, nobody can accuse us of conspiracy theories now, and we avoid Germany’s side of the group.
Whether we play England, Ukraine or even France will be decided this evening, but we know we have to move to Donetsk in Ukraine, hopefully for the next two matches (which means we will be in the semis if that happens). Time to work out how to get there tomorrow though, it’s time to relax, and Goran wants to have a last drink with his old chums tonight before they go home. Unfortunately last night was a bit of a wash out as it rained heavily after the match (good job it ended beforehand), but at least we were able to rest and enjoy that curry! A long way still to go yet (we hope!).