Paraguay 0 v 1 England (10.06.2006, World Cup)
After growing up as a kid with fond memories of Spain 82’; Mexico ’86 and Italia 90’, it had been a long time ambition of mine to actually go to a world cup finals in person. On 9th June 2006 we were flying from Heathrow to Frankfurt for our first World Cup Finals experience. There was an air of excitement and anticipation on the flight as we (and nearly all the other passengers who were England fans) enjoyed the free British Airways hospitality! The in flight conversation was dominated by England’s chances of winning the world cup…it was our time with the “golden generation”.
We flew in the day before England’s world cup opener against Paraguay, arriving in Frankfurt at about 7pm after transferring to the Westbahnhof area on the city’s U-Bahn system. After a rapid check in at the hotel, we headed straight down to the FIFA Fan Park which was situated on the banks of the River Main. Two huge floating screens enabled thousands of fans to watch from both river banks, and tonight’s offering was Poland v Equador. After the match, and having enjoyed a few early riverside beers, we moved up along the river to the tented bar and food area where we upped the ante and started on the 2-pint steins. This was the life – a hot summer evening, drinking by the river, and enjoying the carnival of colour that was fans from all over the world united by their love of the beautiful game.
After a few steins too many, and with bloated stomachs, we left the fan park area at about 1.30am in search of more German refreshments and moved onto a ‘recommended’ area known as ‘Sachenhausen’. It was in a bar here that Morgo managed to pick up a ticket for the England game later that day. The guy selling the tickets ‘apparently’ worked for FIFA, and was sat there with a number of tickets tucked into his belt under his shirt. After some persistence from Morgo, 250 euro’s was enough to secure his ticket for England’s opener. That would turn out to be a bargain as tickets were being offered at 500 euro’s a piece outside the stadium on the day. Well into the groove by now we frequented a few more bars and stumbled back to the hotel 4am. Not a bad ‘loosener’.
Saturday 10th June – England v Paraguay
After the excesses of the night before, we were up and about reasonably early. We caught the S-Bahn straight to the ‘Commerzbank Arena’ (home to German club side Eintracht Frankfurt) arriving at midday – three hours before kickoff. We met up with an England fan I had met on previous trips and took advantage of the FIFA beer tents outside the stadium. It was drinking here that Morgo got his 2nd bargain in less than 12 hours – an England v Trinidad & Tobago ticket for 100 Euros. A fan we got chatting too was unable to get to the 2nd group game and wanted to offload his ticket to an England fan. Talk about right place right time.
As was the case in Euro 2004, England fans looked to have taken over the whole stadium, flags were draped right around the ground, and red and white shirts dominated the stands. Paraguay had a small section by the corner flag – it seemed everywhere else was England.
England went ahead in the 3rd minute via an own goal following an in swinging Beckham set piece. That early goal settled things down nicely and England dominated the first half. It’s worth mentioning that it was a blazing hot day – 33 degrees outside the stadium – great for the fan enjoying cold beers and having a chat – but maybe not as a player. At pitch side it was said to be even hotter, and these conditions saw the pace of the game deteriorate in the 2nd half as both teams fatigued. England held on, and got their campaign off to a winning start. It was a case of job done over an enthralling performance.
Once the crowds had dispersed we caught the S-Bahn into Frankfurt old town. Passing through the main square was quite a sight – absolutely packed with hammered and sun burnt England fans – the traditional English culture of taking over foreign city town squares, marking your territory by hanging St George’s Cross flags everywhere, and singing “10 German bombers” was in full swing!
Moving on from the square we headed to the riverside fan park in time for the evening game – Argentina v Ivory Coast – and then continued partying to the fan park disco late into the night with a group of Brazilians and then later on with a group of Paraguayans. Not your regular evening out!