Who Said International Friendlies Are a Waste of Time?!

Argie Flags a

Argentina 2 v 3 England (12.11.2005)

Remember what I said about international friendlies? Well this one was the exception to the rule!

This ‘friendly’ – against the old enemy Argentina – was to be held on neutral territory at the Stade de Geneve in Geneva, home of Swiss club side Servette.

My flight schedule for this trip meant that I had ‘limited’ time in Geneva, flying in on the afternoon of the game and flying back first thing the next morning. As such, I had booked myself into a ‘Geneva Airport Hotel’. Obviously the selling point being the fact it was ‘close’ to the airport.

Technically the hotel was close to the airport – but what I hadn’t realised at the time of booking was that it was located in a different country, across the border in France! Ok it doesn’t seem like a massive deal – it just wasn’t as convenient as I’d first hoped. It also meant that I would now have to get taxis across the border four times in 24 hours and that would come at an inflated price! As a lone traveller I could have done without it.

After clearing passport control I jumped in a cab across the border to my boutique hotel in France, dropped off my bag, and then got a cab straight back to Geneva airport. From there I knew I could get a bus that would take me direct to Stade de Geneve. No time for Swiss culture today so I had to knock the sightseeing on the head!

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8,000 England fans travelled to this match – which is one of the largest away followings I’ve seen for any England game with the exception of tournaments. It was fitting that such an away following was rewarded with a pulsating game, and that in turn led to a brilliant atmosphere – the best I’d experienced for an international friendly by a million miles.

Argentina fielded a strong side which included Ayala, Zanetti, Demichelis, Samuel, Cambiasso, Tevez, Crespo and the mercurial no.10 Riquelme; and as expected they had plenty of the ball in the early stages of this match.

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Crespo opened the scoring on 34’, only for Rooney to equalise quickly for England on 39’. The second half would provide the kind of dramatic finish that fans can only usually dream of. Walter Samuel had headed Argentina into the lead on 53’, and it felt as if the game would finish that way as the match entered the last 10 minutes.

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Sven Goran Eriksson made a late substitution bringing Peter Crouch on up front alongside Owen and Rooney. What followed was certainly not in the script. In the 87’ minute, Owen headed home from a Gerrard cross and sent the travelling support into wild celebrations – we had got a draw against Argentina (in a game that didn’t really matter). The next few minutes were a bit of a blur as we we’re still enjoying the equaliser when Owen popped up again to head home a Joe Cole cross in the 90’ minute to turn the game on its head and seal a remarkable 3-2 victory against Argentina!

Cue absolute mental scenes in the away end! Football can bring out many different emotions in grown men, but nothing beats a last minute winner – especially when you were 2-1 down three minutes before that and it comes against an old rival!

After the game I headed into central Geneva to celebrate the dramatic late win with a few overpriced Swiss lagers and the company of a few fellow England fans that I’d met out in the USA. Although in the comfort of a boozer enjoying the post match euphoria of a friendly win against Argentina, I had one eye on the tricky journey back into France to get back to my hotel!

The lads I was sharing a drink with hadn’t bothered booking a hotel and were planning on sleeping at Geneva airport. Apparently there was a latest time you had to get back to the airport before the main entrance doors were locked – so before it got to the early hours we caught the bus back to the airport. To be honest I expected a bit more life at the airport than that that greeted me – it resembled a ghost town. No sign of any cabs or cars for that matter, and I was starting to wonder how I would get back across the border into France.

After about half an hour of waiting around for nothing, there was a glimmer of light at the end of my tunnel!…a taxi pulled up to drop off someone, and luckily then agreed to take me across the border into France to my hotel. Happy days – I would be able to spend the night in the bed I’d paid for and not in the door way of an airport on a cold November night!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=830klQBbHGc

Goals:

Argentina: Crespo 34’, Samuel 53’

England: Rooney 39’, Owen 87’, 90’.

Att: 29,000

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