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Julia's Euro 2004 adventure
Julia Causton in Coimbra
Julia Causton outside the stadium in Coimbra
Last updated: 21 June 2004 1703 BST
lineWhile most of us were watching England take on the Swiss from the comfort of our sofas, lucky Julia Causton managed to win a trip to see the game live in Portugal...
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Julia outside Coimbra stadium

The trip to Coimbra
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England players

England vs Switzerland
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England fans boarding the plane to Portugal

A trip to Portugal may seem excessive on any normal day… but this was no normal day and nor was it a normal trip.

For those people that have been asleep for the past two weeks there is a certain football competition going on in Portugal at the moment - Euro 2004 has landed and I was lucky enough to win a ticket to the England Vs Switzerland game.

Ten new stadiums are just the tip of the iceberg for the months, no years, that the Portuguese hosts have put into this competition and I was definitely up for a bit of live action.

Photo Gallery
(Travelling to Coimbra in Portugal)

Football matters

Julia Causton

I would never profess to be a football expert - lets face it the offside rule has always been a little blurry. So this was going to be my first international match and why not make it a big one? A crucial Group B match that could have been the end of England's Euro 2004 and campaign - I was not alone in my apprehension as I began my trip.

When I say a day trip, I really do mean a whole day. It is just under 800 miles from Gloucester to Coimbra stadium - possibly the longest distance I have ever travelled for an event. Leaving my overnight stop in Crawley for Gatwick at 5 am it did cross my mind that seeing Beckham and his buddies was probably the only reason people would go to hot and sunny Portugal for just a day - lets face it you cannot see many sights when you're only in the country for 12 hours.

Fans

I was obviously not alone travelling to Portugal on Thursday, June 17. Our flight was delayed by two hours due to the sheer volume of fans flying to Porto that day - runway space was at a premium and two hours was apparently a short time to wait for a slot.

But for the Airbus A300 flight full of England fans I was travelling with, the anticipation of the day ahead only served to make the delay give everyone more time to predict the scores, scorers, man of the match and where they may be sitting (My guess was England 2 Switzerland 0).

The flight finally departed just after 9.30am and arrived in Porto, Portugal, at 11.45am.

The road to Coimbra

Julia in Coimbra

From there we were herded into coaches for the one hour 30 minute trip to the Cidade de Coimbra (Coimbra stadium) and the big match.

The university city of Coimbra is a picturesque location centred around the ancient university - the first and for some time only higher education establishment in the country. The first impression you get of the city is of a riverside area where trade, traffic and the railway play important roles. The downtown area is a hub of great energy, hustle and bustle, where Rua Sofia and Rua Ferreira Borges represent the very heart of the neighbourhood.

When I arrived I saw that the city had been flooded with red and white - with the Swiss also playing in red and white Coimbra looked like a veritable candy stick! I have never seen so many football fans. The stadium has a capacity of 30,000 and, with the city having 150,000 residents, the population had increased by a fifth. And with a predicted 20,000 England fans descending on Coimbra we were expecting to hear many renditions of Three Lions.

I could not wait to get into the stadium and, after stringent security checks including the removal of sunscreen, water bottles and flag poles, I entered the ground to be confronted with the imposing glass frontage of the stadium - the result of a refurbishment finished last October.

Security checks

Julia in the stadium

After yet more checks I was finally in. Block 21, Row D, Seat two - to my delight, my seat was four rows from the front. The match was not due to kick off until 5pm and, an-hour-and-a-half before that time, eager fans (me included) were already waiting in anticipation of the first glance of their heroes.

It was 30 degrees and getting hotter - this was going to be exhausting for both the players and the fans! And what an atmosphere in the stadium. England flags advertising affiliation with every England club you could imagine covering three-quarters of the barriers surrounding the expertly-groomed pitch.

The South West was well represented with Cheltenham, Bristol and Swindon clubs among the sea of flags.

Passion

The noise was quite incredible too. As the countdown to the game continued so the support for both teams grew with chairs the main instrument - sounding out the war cry for both teams.

And then it arrived - the moment everyone had been waiting for. Both teams appeared on the pitch for the singing of their country's national anthems ahead of kick-off.

With the first strike of the match ball so the nerves began to set-in. The opening 15 minutes were nail biting for the passionate England fans with much of the possession inside the England half. England fans were on the edge of their seats, willing Sol Campbell and fellow defenders to "get it away," "kick it," and then rather unexpectedly "shoot."

Photo Gallery
(Action from the England Vs Switzerland game)

Rooooooney!

On the 23rd minute, England's first proper attack saw an expertly placed cross from Michael Owen find Rooney or should I say 'ROOOOONEY!'. Elated England fans could hardly contain their excitement as the young striker headed the ball home and put England into a 1-0 lead.

The rest of the half was somewhat uneventful until three minutes before half-time when the England faithful held their breath as England conceded a free kick just metres away from the penalty box.

But in a change of fortunes for England, the Swiss failed to steal the lead and our lads went into half time ahead. The crowd continued its support for both sides and the break signalled a retreat to the bar for non-alcoholic refreshment.

Second half

England players celebrate Wayne Rooney's second goal

Things were again looking tense for England with some sloppy defending in the opening of the second half. But on the 60th minute Switzerland's strength was depleted as Swiss defender Bernt Haas was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in ten minutes.

From that moment the England fans picked up the tempo. A group of Swiss fans quickly removed a 'Go home - Try cricket' banner that had been placed to antagonise England fans earlier in the match.

Rooney continued his man-of-the-match worthy play when, in the 70th minute, his shot ended up in the net via the post and Swiss goalie Jorg Stiel's head.

Further elation came when, on 82 minutes, Stephen Gerrard wrapped up England's victory with a third goal.

Worthwhile trip

Julia outside the stadium

What a game. England were on top and the fans were ecstatic. As I began my long journey home the smile on my face and on thousands of England supporters still singing in support of their team made me realise why people do go to great lengths to see these games - and boy was it worth it!

Article by Julia Causton

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