Would you believe it! Here we are, Goran Arsic and Borja Pantzov, your international correspondents, ready and willing to report on Spain's great success in Europe, and there is nobody here! We turned up at their hotel to support our team as they battle through to a historical victory, and nobody is saying anything. Eventually the bell-boy (whose name is Nuno Costa de Souza Oliveira da Silva - he says hi to all our readers) takes us aside and explains. Actually they've gone home! We can't believe it! Nuno tells us though that we are already out of the competition, beaten on goal average by Greece, and everybody has legged it without paying the bill (he asks us if we are part of the official party, we say no, but the manager is eyeing us strangely and pointing us out to a local policeman).
It's our fault we suppose, we have been working flat out washing dishes in a bar in Outer Mongolia to pay off Goran's bail money after he had a slight altercation with a local policeman on his way back from World Cup in South Korea two years ago (something to do with the policeman's wife, a hat-stand and a racoon with an Italian accent I understand - it took me 18 months to track him down, and the fine cleaned me out). But the only game they were showing on Mongolian television was Genghis Kahn Raiders against Persia United, and we had no idea what has been happening over here. And finally we get back home, planning to follow our side through the final stages, and there they are, gone!
Nuno suggests we leave pronto pronto, as squad cars are turning up in droves. We go on to a Spanish tapas bar, where we watch re-runs of the Spanish games. And what is going on, we struggle to win against Russia (thankfully Iñaki Sáez brought on Valerón) and then Sáez promises exciting changes against Greece, who already got the better of us in the qualifying rounds. But hey, the only change is the colour of the baseball cap (and we assume his underclothes), and although we take the lead, this time the introduction of Valerón goes against us and Greece get an equaliser.
And then it's host Portugal, winner goes through, loser goes out (Greece v Russia permitting) the scenario we didn't ever want to see, even in a painting (as we say over here). Sáez actually makes four changes this time, but two at least are forced upon him (Marchena suspended and Etxeberría injured), a side strangely close to the one which beat Scolari's side a couple of months ago. But Don Iñaki, lightning doesn't strike twice! This is Euro 2004, not a meaningless friendly, and a whole nation is against us. And Raúl is completely out of it after 60 or 70 games for his club, where is Valerón? Or why not a 4-3-1-2, does it always have to be 4-2-3-1, even though World War III has been declared? Was the coach really a chartered accountant in his earlier life?
For a few minutes, it seems that Russia will give us a helping hand as they go two up, but then Greece get one back and it's back to the grind. Sáez said before the match that Spain don't know how to draw, but it seems that they are having their best shot at doing just that, a dangerous tactic under the circumstances. And so it turns out, as Scolari's half time substitute Nuno Gomes crashes a shot past Casillas (would Cañizares have got there? We will never know).
Sáez is so predictable that the Portuguese news service change their clocks when he makes his first substitution (the time is 9:04, oh sorry, 9:05, we must have got that wrong, Spain have made their first substitution). But it's not Morientes, it's not Valerón, but Baraja who comes on for Albelda. Er sorry, but we are actually losing. But the next change only comes when Joaquín limps off, and then it's the left sided Luque who comes on down the right wing and makes a hash of things when Torres sets him away.
A draw is all we need, but not even that, and although Sáez breaks all the molds (in his own tiny mind at least) bringing on Morientes for Juanito, our defence is wide open and Portugal should have scored at least two more in the final minutes. So once again that's it, and the witty journalists make the best of it (well, we weren't knocked out in the quarter finals this time.....). Goran has found a bar to watch Croatia play England, having convinced the police that he is not Angel Villar, and we will stay on to see my father's side Bulgaria bow out against Italy. But our game plan has proved, well, a little bit too ambitious, and maybe we should have got here a week ago. To top it all, Sáez says he is staying on. No point booking tickets for the World Cup finals then?