Three days; four matches; seven goals; one tear.
Actually there were no tears of either joy or sorrow unless you are a Chomutov fan (which is unlikely).
Great city. This being my fifth or six trip to the capital of the Czech Republic, I (and my two companions for the weekend) skipped the tourist sites and went to pub. An arrival to beer time of five minutes may be setting some new records. An arrival to second beer time of ten minutes was just out of reach. Given the lack of sightseeing, there is not much more I can say that has not been written by hundreds of travel writers and thousands of want-to-be travel writers. If you have recently broken your ankle (this is my sob story), then watch out for the cobbles. Also Czech service staff do not smile. (Not sure how I indicate that that . was supposed to said as ‘full stop’.)
Czech Republic U21 vs England U21
Leave your tools at home boys and girls.
Five beers (over five hours or so to those concerned about my consumption levels) and a raw vegetarian meal later, we arrived at the Sparta Prague stadium aka Letni Stadion just in time to give a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen. Colin went off to get the requisite beer as we settled in. A few familiar names in both teams (surrounded by a few more unfamiliar ones). Tom Carroll and Alex Pritchard made up part of England’s midfield (so I would watch with some interest).
Love an anthem.
The game itself was not a cracker, but in hindsight it was hard to anticipate anything else. We also seemed to be the oldest members of the crowd as the U21 principle seemed to extend to the spectators as well. (No, I am not younger than 21 despite my boyish good looks.) High-pitched cries inspired the Czech team/broke nearby windows as the young Czech fans created a noise reminiscent to an ill wasp. Still Hungary could learn a thing or two about encouraging youngsters into stadiums (just over 5,000 watched the game).
Colin returned with beer and news. Bad news. Although the drinks, he was carrying appeared at first glance, they were actually non-alcoholic replacements. The friendly fell under UEFA rules; therefore, no beer because people at a friendly between two youth teams cannot be trusted not to get rowdy and pick a fight with 11 year old Pavel and the rest of his youth team from Boleslav. This news was greeted by a drop in the temperature that actually frosted over the non-alcoholic beer.
Having watched the three games after writing this, I struggle to recall details other than the goal. The ball was worked out well to Callum Chambers who delivered a cross of genuine pace and quality, the Czech defence struggled to more than half clear and Carrol slotted home. Danny Ings came on in the second half and was a dubious offside decision or two away from being clear through. England did enough to win, but did not look like a team of future world beaters. They were fairly neat and tidy and I have a suspicion that this was not England’s strongest line-up (even ignoring the guys playing at senior level).
Bizarrely eggshaped head.
We left a few minutes early due to a combination of cold, boredom and thirst. Plastic fans. We did avoid the McDonalds inside the stadium.
Loko Vltavin vs FC Chomutov
We were up (relatively) bright and early to make the short trip over the river to the Stadion na Plynárně (the Gasworks Stadium) in time to catch the 10.15 kick-off in the Bohemian League (aka Division 3 West). Expectations were low, but these were to be surpassed. Not only was there a ticket office (selling scarves), but also a free programme with the EUR 2 entry fee. Once inside the ground, our mood improved even more as there was not one two refreshment options; an outdoor hole in the wall job and full-on restaurant inside the club house. Delightful. Beer at 10.30 became oh so more acceptable when we saw the rest of the spectators were heartily enjoying their beer.
Lovely ticket office/turnstile
The delightful location/ambience resulted me switching my allegiances from FC Chomutov (pronounced Homo-tov) to Lokada. After leaving the stadium early the night before to switching teams on this Saturday, I seem to be becoming a parody of everything I dislike in a football fan. Still…where is that beer?
Lokada kicked off with gusto ably supported by Martin Achille Abena. Chomutov (bedecked in pink) were terrible. Their number 8 (playing left back) supporting a man bun/shaved sides combination was one of the worst players I have ever seen playing semi-professional/amateur football; not helped by being up against a sprightly looking right winger. (Apologies for the lack of names – this information is difficulty to come by).
Loko stormed into a three goal lead the second of which was celebrated with a somersault that I enjoyed. To be frank, it could have been more including a fantastically sliced volley from a Chomutov defender which shaved his own crossbar at pace.
Halftime saw us retreat to the club house and take in some local specialties (three beers) and marvel at the eclectic collection of football memorabilia on display. There was even a Doctor Who pinball machine.
Match poster – excessive use of MS Wordart
Second half saw continued domination by Lokada and a few back heels from Martin Achille Abena. The man has no weakness (actually he does, but then the stretched pun really fails). We changed vantage point and were able to note the high-level of topiary skills on display behind a security hedge. Indeed, a security hedge is actually a good barrier. It is sturdy enough to prevent all but the most determined pitch invaders, but is unlikely to cause the damage to fragile human bodies in the event of a more serious incident. Perhaps the 1980s would have been much more enjoyable if hedges and not fences had been used in British stadiums. Plus everyone likes a hedge.
Just to make sure you understand what a hedge next to a pitch looks like.
The sun came out. Loko scored a fourth with a surprisingly composed finish from somersault man (he did it again). We marveled at the hedge. The referee blew his whistle and we looked at our watches. Noon. Saturday morning football – what an excellent idea?!
One of my more sedate, yet enjoyable football experiences. I would recommend anyone in Prague without a hellish Saturday morning hangover to pop along and check it out.
Martin slightly obscured by Two Beer Colin
Did you know that Vltavin is Czech for moldavite? What is moldavite? Indeed, it is a green naturally occurring glass like substance found primarily in the Czech Republic. The name is derived from the town of Moldauthein (Tyn nad Vltavou) where it was first discovered and there is believed to be only 275 tons of the stuff on the planet. Wow.
Czech Republic vs Latvia
A few hours break enabled me to stock up on cheese (as a vegetarian in Prague, cheese becomes a common sight on your plate) before we headed out to Eden Park to watch a full international and in all likelihood a step-up in quality from that morning’s entertainment.
Boys on tour. If I knew how to crop on WordPress those guy’s legs in top left would not be there so please ignore.
The stadium is at the bottom of a big hill. I always forget that Prague is very hilly, but living in Pest everything is very hilly. The walk down enabled us to grab a couple of cans and get ourselves into the mood (the same mood that students have at 11pm on a Wednesday night). The stadium is your standard modern stadium (bloody miss those Soviet concrete bowls) including a McDonalds and easy access to the a mega big Tesco. There was a surprisingly disappointing display of tat available for sale although CZK 20 enabled me to buy a Czech flag plaster to go on my face. My rejection of the two team scarf warmed my soul and made me realise that I am not a bad person.
Czech me out!!
We had a nice position overlooking a corner flag although we were asked on more than one occasion why Martin needed three accompaniers. He just does alright. Disappointingly, the stadium was just over half full with some 13,000 on show: I would have expected more given the Czechs 100% start to the season and the pleasant Saturday evening kick-off time. Any Football Association who is not getting a full house is not doing its job in my book.
Czech out that flag!!
Latvia made it clear from the start that they were not going to play an expansive brand of football sitting deep and looking to make the most of any opportunities coming their way. The Czechs played everything through captain Thomas Rosicky (second named Arsenal player in my blog – bluh) who looked two levels above anyone else. Touch, vision and composure. In the first half, anything that happened for the Czechs went through him.
The Latvians took the first opportunity that did come their way as the Czechs somehow managed to set a Latvian player clean through after three or four touches from an attacking freekick on the edge of the visitor’s box. Aleksejs Višņakovs finished well to send the fifteen travelling Latvians into raptures on the half hour mark.
In the second half, the game settled into a fairly established pattern with the Czech’s dominating possession, but struggling to create a whole lot with Latvia breaking whenever (they rarely had the opportunity). The Latvians went a whisker away from doubling their lead late in the game with Cech stranded a lob trickled past the post with the goal gaping. That miss would be a source of even deeper regret as on 90 minutes the Czechs managed to finally stab the ball home and sneak an equaliser. The goal was not a classic, but it was enough. Had the game got another five or ten minutes left, then the Czechs would probably have gone on and got the winner as it was Latvia held on and took a point back to Riga with them (clearly a point is not tangible so the point does not got anywhere).
Photo of teams lining up for anthems…Czech!!
We had a fairly heated discussion afterwards about whether the draw was fair. Martin (the biased Czech fan) suggested the Czechs deserved the win, but I think the draw was fair. The Latvians had a simple game plan and the Czechs fell into it by gifting them a gilt edge chance. The Czechs only woke up in the second half, but only as the game ticked down to the final quarter did they start creating any decent chances.
Czech mate for the Latvians who probably now exit the competition
A bit of a shock result, but the Czechs should still qualify along with the Dutch. Latvia to rebuild and go again next time.
Three games inside twenty four hours. My ‘epic’ weekend would now be completed back in Budapest…