Unsurprisingly, the Spanish team put this weakest of Irish teams to the sword, without as much as breaking a sweat. Spain were absolutley class and if there is any small consolation for Ireland is that this Spanish team in that kind of mood will beat just about anyone. But we didn't help ourselves did we? Ireland have conceded a goal in less than 4 minutes in each half of football we have played at these championships. That is 4 goals down, without even having settled into the game. It is amazing that a team built on a rock solid defence has been so pourous, even against the calibre of team we have been playing against. It makes it virtually impossible to have any chance if you leak goals so quickly and easily. 4-0 may have looked harsh but it was completely deserved and could have been even more. I hope Spain can go on and win the Euros now and I can see them doing it, they look really up for it and I don't think 'hunger' or 'tiredness' will be issues for this team.
Stand up for the Boys in Green?
There has been a really positive reaction to how the Irish fans outsang their Spanish counterparts last Thursday. The atmosphere in Gdansk was, again, unbelievable. For the last few minutes of the match and beyond the final whistle all of the Irish fans were on their feet singing The Fields' of Athenry. Even though I didn't sing along, I thought it was amazing that the Irish fans were showing their support and devotion to the Irish team in this most trying of circumstances. There is however, a feeling amongst some that it was unneccesary and over-the-top and that it almost justified the performance and the loss. Nobody in Poland, fans as well as players, are happy just to 'be' here. We know our limitations but we still thought we could do ourselves proud and cause a few surprises and maybe scrape through to the quarter finals, a bit like what Greece have done (yet again!). The fact that the Irish fans were singing was to get behind the team, to say that we are with you through good times as well as bad.
Ireland go into tomorrow's match with nothing to play for except pride. Italy, on the other hand, need a win (and other results to go their way) to ensure their place in the last eight. For this reason alone, I don't think Ireland have any chance of getting anything out of the match. I can only see an Italian victory and, unfortunately, it could be 2 or 3 nil. The Italians will be up for it, they know what they have to do, they will have seen how Croatia and Spain have opened us up and they won't fear a thing. The Italians have looked surprisingly good and with Pirlo orchestrating everything for the Italians it could be another long 90 minutes for Irish fans. It would be great if Ireland could restore some pride but I have a feeling that that will have to wait until the World Cup Qualifiers in September.
Back to Poznan
We all arrived back in Poznan yesterday afternoon from Gdansk. There was a great atmosphere here last night for the Poland Czech Republic showdown. There were thousands of Polish people out on the streets of Poznan, despite the torrential downpours, and they were confident they could get the win they so badly needed. Many Irish fans were wearing Polish t-shirts and flags and wanted to get behind their second team. Unfortunately Poland didn't get the result they needed and the Czech Republic and Greece are the first teams into the quarter finals.
Throughout our time in Poznan there have been a number of incidents involving Polish and Irish fans. A few thugs from Poznan enjoy nothing more than attacking unsuspecting Irish and even Polish fans, during the day as well as at night in the city centre. We have met a few Irish and Polish people (including some people staying at our hostel) who have said they have been attacked by groups a guys from Poznan. The vast majority of Poles have been brilliant, really friendly, up for having the craic with the Irish, but it is a pity that this dangerous element exists here in Poznan. In Gdansk there wasn't a hint of trouble, but that town is far more tourist-minded whereas Poznan wouldn't as much of a tourist town. There are big groups of riot police in Poznan, watching on always, ready at a moment's notice to step in if something starts up. Let's hope they won't be needed.