I was in La Thuile in Italy , a small ski resort a few kms from the French border when Ireland played France at Euro 2016.. A weeks earlier, I had traveled to Belgium and watched in disbelief as Ireland were beat 3-0 by Belgium. My plan was to go to Italy to watch the Ireland Italy game but as I didn’t want to jinx Ireland again, decided to watch that game in Switzerland. My cunning plan worked as Ireland won 1-0 but their reward for qualifying for the knock-out stages was a game against the hosts France. This meant I could not go to France to see the game in case I jinxed Ireland. The match was taking place in Lyon and had Ireland been playing any other team, I could have cycled there in time to see it. But because they were playing France, I didn’t want to cross the border and instead set up camp in La Thuile, which is located only 10 kms from the French border. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pick up a TV signal probably because the campsite was on the outskirts of La Thuile and surrounded by trees. The TV reception even in the centre of La Thuile would have been weak as the town is at about 1,500m in altitude which is higher than anywhere in Ireland. But my 3G stick was working fine and I was able to open a tab on the Irish Times, 42.ie and BBC Sport websites, all of whom were live blogging the game.
Probably the best penalty in the world ever. The match was only after kicking off when Ireland were awarded a penalty. Cool as you like, Robbie Brady sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way and Ireland, incredibly were in front. For the next 42 mins of the first half, it was all France as they launched wave after wave of attacks trying to breach the Irish goal. But their efforts came to nothing and Ireland went into the half-time break still leading 1-0.
Griezmann was on fire during the second half. Shortly afterwards, the French winger could have had a third goal only for Shane Duffy’s tackle for which the Derry man received a red card. Down to 10 men for the last half hour, there was no way back for Martin O’Neill’s side and France could have ended up with 5 or 6 goals such was their domination.
Even Dmitri Payet was in awe at Griezmann’s performance. At half time, my cunning plan not to jinx Ireland by staying in Italy seemed to be working fine. But that all changed in the second half and then I remembered that I had already traveled through France on the Eurostar on my way to Belgium. If only I had flew to Belgium, Ireland may have held on to their 1 goal lead and qualified for the quarter-final against Iceland.
France vs Iceland in Euro 2016. France’s reward for defeating Ireland was a quarter final against Iceland at the Stade de France in Paris. France scored 4 times in the first half without reply and although Iceland hit back in the second half with 2 goals, it was too little too late as the game finished 5-2 to France. France were then drawn against Germany in the semi-final. The last time France had played Germany in the semi-final of a major tournament was at the World Cup in Spain in 1982 which was one of the most controversial games of all time.
Griezmann scores twice as France defeat Germany 2 -0. There was no way tonight’s game in Marseille would match the drama at the Pizjuan stadium in Seville in 1982 and so it proved. Unlike 34 years earlier, Germany dominated the game but couldn’t take their chances. Instead, Griezmann scored twice to put Germany to the sword just like he had done against Ireland.
Final score France 2 – Germany 0. The final whistle was greeted with hundreds of fireworks in the town centre of Provins, about 2 km from the campsite. That was then followed by cars beeping their horns. It was like Bastille Day, only 10 times as noisy. The cacophony would go on for another 3 hours before I finally managed to drift off to sleep.
The other semi-final was between Portugal and Wales. The night before Portugal had also won 2-0 against Wales to qulify for the Euro 2016 final in Paris. I had already spent about 4 weeks cycling around Europe and the flag I had spotted the most on my travels was the Portuguese flag. I had spotted the red and green colors of the Portuguese flag in Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and France and it was by far the most common flag I came across. There are obviously a lot of Portuguese immigrants scattered around Europe but they are not shy when it comes to showing their support for their national team.
French and Portuguese flags at house in Sousy-Bois. In the small village of Sousy-Bois, not far from Provins there were 3 houses with both French and Portuguese flags. There were also 3 other houses in the village with French flags. There were maybe a total of only 20 houses in the village so almost half the house had flags on display. This town easily wins the award for having the most flags on display during Euro 2016. In France, towns often have a sign signifying they are a Ville Fleurie (Town of Flowers), similar to the Tidy Towns signs we have in Ireland. I don’t know if Sousy-Bois is a Ville Fleurie but seeing as the French for well done is chapeau and for a flag is drapeau, I hereby say “Chapeau” to the town of Sousy-Bois for winning the “Euro 2016 Ville Drapeau” on this year’s Tour de Travoy.
Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal. The Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal was very defensive with neither side creating many chances. Portugal were underdogs and then lost their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, early in the first half, so understandably were reticent to attack during normal time.
Eder scores for Portugal. Both teams played poorly during normal time and Portugal were content to sit back and absorb the French pressure.. But as soon as extra time started, Portugal seemed to push up more and more and their tactics paid off when Eder scored with about 10 minutes of extra time remaining.
The game finished 1-0 to Portugal. France had won the Euro’s in 1984 and the World Cup in 1998 when they were the hosts so it was a big shock for their team to lose at home to Portugal in the final. Of course, many in Portugal would have sympathized with the French because in 2004 the exact same thing happened to them when their team was beaten 1-0 by Greece in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final.
Shopfront in Bresles with a huge French flag. I had watched the France – Ireland game in La Thuile in Italy and then cycled about 300 km to Louhans in time for the France – Iceland game. By the time France played Germany, I had cycled another 400 km to Provins. The Euro 2016 final I watched in Bresles not far from Beauvais airport and about 200 km from Provins. The next day after France’s defeat to Portugal, I passed by this flag in Bresles town center. The flag says “World Champions 1998, European Champions 1984, 2000”. Sadly, though there is lots of space to add 2016 to the flag, it simply wasn’t meant to be or as they say in France, “Que Sera Sera”.