Three nights in Lyon, one semi-final. It was supposed to be the fan park experience that trumped all others as the Welsh came to town to oversee one of the international underdog stories in recent times. However much like the game itself the atmosphere underwhelmed as Wales went out with a whimper rather than a roar.
Headlines will say that Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show as ‘CR7’ matched Michel Platini’s goal scoring record for European Championships but that is a headline born out of mediocrity. No stars were made in Lyon as Wales failed to perform half as well as they did against Belgium and Portugal continued on their anti-nice footballing mission of trying to win this summer’s showpiece by any means imaginable.
So much hope in such a tight huddle
One thing you couldn’t fault however was the travelling Wales support. In terms of numbers, it appeared the Welsh outnumbered the Portuguese fans 2 to 1 as Vieux Lyon was awash with ‘Please Don’t Take Me Home’. It seems now in retrospect that the Welsh were duly tempting fate, as I type this up (the morning after the game) disappointed Welsh fans are ferried up courtesy of EasyJet.
The Lyon fan zone was similar to Bordeaux. Set in apparently the third largest square in France, it was full of Welsh, French, Portuguese and just about anyone else who was in Lyon at the time.
With both anthems sung in gusto by the travelling support, the opening exchanges of the game were cagey at best and as the game progressed, a pattern emerged of nervous possession play. Joe Allen seemed like he would struggle to walk up the stairs at times, let alone pass a ball accurately over 5 yards. The loss of Aaron Ramsey clearly affected Wales ability to go forward as the workman like Andy Reid struggled to exert the same influence in the midfield.
When Ronaldo did manage to finally break the dead lock with a header born out of his clear ability of being able to jump salmon like in the air, it just felt that this was not Wales day.
As the game progressed, disinterest set in. What was remarkable was how some Portuguese fans had managed to get into the fan zone a fair few small smoke ‘balls’ (an assumption I have to admit, but looking at where these smoke ‘balls’ were being thrown from suggested such a thing).
Portugal fans celebrate Ronaldo’s Goal
What started as one or two as a cause for celebration had led by the 80th minute to Welsh and Portuguese fans hurling plastic cups at one another at the front of the park. These ‘balls’, used as weights in the cup, were thrown from one side to the other, initially Portugal to Wales, only for Welsh fans to return to sender.
Come the 88th minute, with more cups being thrown, the press at the front of the stage were ushered away and we thought it was time to take our leave.
Fan zones are strange things. Were they too big to generate any real atmosphere? Or are fans at latter stages of the competition just very good at buying touted tickets and making it to the actual games? Whatever the reason, every fan zone bar Nice has left something to be desired.
Coming soon will be a fun loving write up of Marseille and the spectacle of being at the Stade de Velodrome for France vs. Germany. I mean it’s worthy of the final, they are category 2 seats and it’s a bloody semi-final. EXCITING.
In the words of good ol’ Delia; “LETS BE ‘AVIN’ YA!”
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog