The barbecue was over, we had enjoyed our repast and were ready to watch the great match. What we expected was a balance between the technical skill of the Dutch and the artistry of the Spaniards. It was bound to be a tense affair because of what was at stake but we reasoned that nerves would quickly settle and we would be treated to a night of great football.
What we got was downright ugly. Newspapers variously described it as toxic or at best, very rough. By the time the final whistle had blown the referee had awarded so many yellow cards I did wonder if there was enough space on the card for all the names. Spain might have won the match but the Dutch had scored more fouls (28 resulting in 9 yellow cards and 1 red).
In the first few minutes I had Spain ahead, they even looked as though they were going to score. Then came the yellow cards - 5 within 28 minutes. That did nothing for the rhythm of the game but what choice did the referee have? For sure, Nigel de Jong should have had a red card for planting his foot in the chest of Xabi Alonso. That might have settled the game down.
The second half was no better than the first, the few touches of brilliance were spoiled by the continuing ugliness that the game had descended to. And so it came to extra time and desperation crept in. Finally the Spaniards scored and deservedly won the trophy – Queen Sofia was delighted as was Prince Filipe and Letizia The Dutch, on the other hand, looked poor losers. We saw their manager remove his runners up medal shortly after it had been placed around his neck. That simple act spoke volumes about the Dutch attitude to the game.
So what of the celebrations here in Bigastro? Well my neighbour lived up to form with some superbly loud fireworks but only a few. Then, as we stood on the roof terrace, we could see rockets taking to the sky across the whole of the Vega Baja. The collective sound of thousands of Spaniards shouting “campeones” filled the air. Finally the party settled down but only briefly because, this is a win which will be celebrated for days if not weeks. Dave, BC and I will celebrate this with a Cruzcampo in August and again in September.