This Euro 2008 also took me on a combined road-boat-trip with some friends like during the 2006 World Cup. Destination: Faroe Islands and Iceland.
In fact, the trip started on the day that Turkey was playing Croatia, when the four of us going on the trip met up in the Danish town of Viborg, from where we would drive to Hanstholm on the following day to take the ferry that would take us to the North Atlantic islands.
Viborg has a football team called Viborg FF. Until last year they played in the best Danish league, with decent results. However, Viborg is more of a handball town, and after being relegated, I think it’ll be a while before we see them in the “Superliga”.
Perhaps it was the lack of a local team, but there were not many people in the local sports pub where we went to watch Turkey-Croatia over many good Classic Fadøl.
It was perhaps understandable, since the match was not overly exciting, but all the drama happened in those last minutes of the extra time: Croatia scored to 1-0 with one minute left but the never-give-up Turks equalized in the last second. We were not many in the pub, but you could feel the drama when the disappointed Croats without confidence lost the penalty kicks.
After seeing the Cathedral of Viborg we continued to Hanstholm on the next day to get on our Smyril Line Ferry, M/S Nörrona, where we would spend the next two days on our way to the Faroe Islands.
The boat was full of all Scandinavian nationalities and a lot of Germans. So although the lounge bar of the ferry was full for the evening’s match, there seemed to be no major support for either the Netherlands or Russia. Over beers on the rocking ship we saw a surprising turn of events in the tournament: the Dutch had until then seemed invincible in their first-round matches. But a Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, heading the Russians, apparently knew how to handle his countrymen. Although it took them into extra time to win 3-1, the Russian victory was very well-deserved and they were ready for the semi-final.
No flying-Dutchman on the North Atlantic.
Although the Faroe Islands were not participating in the European Championship, the game the following day would see one of the teams play that had defeated the Faroe Islands in the qualifiers. In fact, the Faroe Islands scored half of all their goals in the qualifiers against the Italians, who barely defeated the Faroese with 1-2 and 1-3.
Italy had disappointed in the tournament so far, but everyone knows that Italy starts playing well in the latter round, while Spain is completely opposite: the Spaniards start well, and end up losing.
So it was with only cautious optimism, not to say outright pessimism, that we got comfortable to watch Spain-Italy in the lounge-bar after passing the Shetland Islands.
But Spain won! After penalty-kicks all right, but a deserved and unexpected victory in a long 0-0 match between the two Southern European giants.
Spain was now ready to their first semi-final since 1984, and we had a couple of days break from the damn boat and from football on the lovely Faroe Islands, where besides amazing landscapes we saw a football pitch situated beautifully between the cliffs at Eidi.
One more day on the boat until we were on Iceland, but not before we watched the first of the semi-finals between Germany and Turkey on the lounge of the ship.
There was, now, no doubt who most people were supporting: there were many Germans on the boat and not a single Turk.
The Turks were also like that on the pitch in Basel, where there were many injured players. Still, Turkey gave another memorable fight against the mighty and annoyingly efficient Germans. Often the Germans were having trouble against never-ending Turkish attacks, and it was incredible when the Turks equalized to 2-2 with only two minutes left of the match; were the Turks about to do it again…?
But if anyone can do late victories, it is Germany: Phillipe Lahm scored a winner for the Germans with only a few seconds to go, and there was just a petty celebration from the Germans on the ship, and no party. I think one Turk on the ship would have partied better than the hundred of Germans that were already there.
In the qualifiers for this Euro 2008, Iceland was in the same group as Spain (1-1 in Reykyavik and Spain won 1-0 in Mallorca). So it may have been proper that we arrived at the port of Seydisfjördur in Eastern Iceland, on the day when Spain was facing Russia in the semi-final.
We drove for a couple of hours, passing the mighty waterfalls of Dettifoss, before making it to Myvatn, with its other-worldly landscapes. There, we were to stay at a cabin at the charming Dimmuborgir Guesthouse.
We arrived in a hurry, as the match was already starting. There was no TV in the cabin, so we sat down at the kitchen table of the owners, in front of a small TV, to watch the match.
One of us broke his glasses and thought he was provided with some condoms to repair them… (no further comments necessary…).
Spain had defeated Russia 4-1 in the first round, but after Russia’s match against the Netherlands and the return of Arshavin, expectation were rightfully higher on the Russians. Nevertheless, the Russians were hugely disappointing: they hardly threatened the Spanish goal and although Spain scored late, they won 3-0 in a victory that seemed much too easy.
Spain-Germany in the final!
Iceland is amazing, and we thoroughly enjoyed the following days, almost forgetting there was a major football tournament going on as we went hiking among lava, whale-watching, smelling sulphur and playing yatzy in the most obscure places we could find.
On the day of the match we went white-water rafting on the Jokulsa river near Varmahlid. It was a great and challenging raft on an absolutely gorgeous glacial river along narrow cliffs. There were three rafts, ours a combined Danish-Canadian crew, and one with only Germans. Of course, the Germans started shouting “Deutchland!” as they ventured out on the rapids, and we immediately replied “Viva España!”
Perhaps it was a premonition of things to come for the Germans that same evening: on a 4-level rapid our raft slid through almost perfectly, while the German raft tipped over into the cold water in a spectacular fall.
A cold shower for the Germans, and it would not be the last on that day.
We stopped on the way to Reykyavik in Borgarness to watch the match. We found a small cozy restaurant with a large TV, where we also had a well-deserved hamburger after our days’ adventure.
And although the place was full of German tourists/fans, we had no doubt that we won (well, Spain as well…): we had plenty of beers and openly celebrated Torres’ goal. So much that one German annoyed said at the end of the match: “You must be happy Germany lost…”
We were indeed, but even happier that Spain had (finally) won!
“Viva España” became the motto of the last few days in Iceland, where we went discovering around the “Golden Circle” (Pinghvellir, Godafoss and Geysirs) and the beautiful city of Reykyavik.
Go to Iceland! Even to watch football!