Our second of the four games in four days was the Switzerland v Romania clash at the Parc de Princes. The train to Paris was scheduled to depart Gare St Jean in Bordeaux at around 8.30am, which meant we were back outside the station not too long after we’d left it in the earlier hours of that morning.
Perhaps in hindsight, a hotel by the station rather than the airport, might have been a more sensible option.
With a little time to spare we had the opportunity for a second breakfast and whilst a freshly baked pain de raison is probably as good as it gets, it’s always more fun to feed it to a bird when you can get it to take the pastry directly from your hand.
We had upstairs seats on a double-decker train and so got decent views of the countryside on the journey to the capital. A group of Swiss blokes were in our carriage, dressed in those leather shorts with the braces. It was a national look that could only have been bettered if they’d each been scoffing an airport-sized Toblerone.
Our hotel in Paris was more conveniently located than my Bordeaux choice had been and after a spot of lunch we strolled, as you have to do when in Paris, towards the ground. It was only about forty minutes walk away and we passed a few notable sights.
We paused at a bar just before reaching the Parc de Princes where Paul and I sat outside and kept an eye on the three o’clock game through their window. I recall people complaining about the expansion of this tournament to twenty-four teams but I reckon the three games a day routine in the early stages is ideal, particularly when your tickets are for the middle game of the trio.
After the efficient organisation at Bordeaux the previous day, the stewarding in Paris left a lot to be desired. We arrived in plenty of time but could easily have been caught up in a crush as the searches took far too long.
There were more than enough stewards and Police on duty but most of them seemed to want to observe proceedings rather than carry out the searches. Eventually we made it in, with about ten minutes to spare.
Our seats were terrible, despite being Category One. We had a concrete wall in front of us that gave us about half the leg room that you’d get on a Ryanair flight. It would have been fine for standing, but it wasn’t possible to sit in the space available.
Fortunately the match hadn’t sold out and we were able to move back a row and restore some circulation to our lower limbs.
The game was end-to end, with both teams creating chances and a world apart from what I’ve come to expect in the group stages of tournaments. Romania took the lead through a first half penalty before Switzerland salvaged a point with an impressive volley from Mehmedi.
The point wasn’t quite enough to enable Switzerland to clinch qualification for the last sixteen, but it was sufficient to keep Romania’s hopes of making the knockout stage alive.
With the game over we took a short cut out of the ground that avoided the crowds but probably added a little distance to our route. It still left plenty of time for us to find a bar showing the host nation making hard work of their clash with Albania. Two games down, two to go.