Friday, June 22
By Nick Ames in Warsaw
“They must be shaving their beards off”. That was the wry suggestion from one journalist as the Czech Republic took their time to walk through the mixed zone last night, no longer bound to their pledge not to remove any facial hair until Euro 2012’s conclusion.
It wasn’t true. Some time after their Portuguese counterparts had breezed through with easy smiles, sporting beach-style shorts and polo shirts, the Czechs made their way out in smart black suits. Most were impassive, spent after a fine team effort that nullified the Portuguese for the majority of the first half before proving impossible to sustain.
Tomas Rosicky, however, stopped for a word. It was the first time we’d crossed paths during this tournament and his surprise at seeing me was amusing. He came out with some interesting thoughts - and the revelation that he’ll think long and hard before deciding whether to continue captaining his country.
Nobody who speaks to Tomas regularly will doubt what the captaincy means to him but, as he pointed out and as shown by the fact he missed last night’s game through injury, he’s not getting any younger and might be tempted to call it a day.
It would be a sad end for a player who, with 87 caps and 20 goals, has made a major contribution to his country across 12 years of senior international football - and whose presence might just have made an impact last night against a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal.
This diversion into Warsaw has, thus far, been a pleasure. The city is highly conducive to walking around, but the main thrill has been watching last night’s game inside the new National Stadium. It’s an awesome arena, one of the very best I’ve been privileged to visit, and the gradient from the top of the press box to the bottom of the stand is astonishingly steep. If a return there next week for its semi-final proves logistically beyond me, I hope for the chance to visit again soon.
Logistics are the name of the game today. I’ll be working at England v Italy on Sunday, striving to bring you the best angles from Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and this necessitates a swift return to Kiev. If I don’t fancy the 18-hour train journey again, then the most affordable options are flights via Minsk and Riga. This tournament may yet prove to be even more European than I could have imagined, and I’ll definitely be counting the miles I’ve racked up when I return home.
This evening in Gdansk, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker prepare to face a Greece side that surprised many by reaching the last eight. Germany should secure fairly safe passage to that semi-final tie here, against the winners of the England v Italy match, and you wouldn’t bet against Lukas grabbing another goal just a week before his Arsenal move becomes official.
The Czechs may have fallen by the wayside, but here’s hoping that in a few hours’ time we’re looking forward to some Arsenal involvement at the business end of things.
EURO 2012 BLOG ARCHIVE:
- Czeching in to Warsaw
- And then there were six
- D-day for England and France
- Per proved right on Podolski
- Czechs keep their composure
- Electric Walcott makes his mark
- Kiev gets ready for England
- Dejected Dutch on the brink
- A decisive day for the Dutch
- Beaming Ox makes his mark
- Sun, streams and slagheaps
- Diligent Danes reap reward
- The Dutch and the Danes
- Running the rule over Robin
- From Gatwick to Kharkiv