Euro 2012: You'll never beat the Irish (fans)!
Their footballers might have been knocked out of the tournament, but there's no doubt that the Republic of Ireland fans are the winners of Euro 2012!
The last match of Group C between Republic of Ireland and Italy lived up to the expectations of all the spectators. It was not only the battle for honour, for one side, but also the battle for everything, for the other.
It all started on Monday evening when, along with the Irish and Italians fans, we headed for the City Stadium in Poznan. Floating down a green river of the Irish fans, we could barely spot the blue-shirted supporters fiercely shouting "Forza Italia!".
What struck us from the start, was the unbelievable atmosphere built up by all the fans. They were all mixing and wishing each other "Good luck!".
There were also big groups of Polish fans who openly demonstrated their liking for both teams. However, it was the Irish supporters who really endeared themselves to the Polish people.
Despite the fact that Ireland had no chance to qualify for the quarter-finals, their supporters kept faith in the team. However, trying to be more realistic, one of the fans told us: "I don't think we will win, but I hope that we won't lose!"
This hope took a blow when Antonio Cassano scored the first goal for Italy in the 35th minute, after a corner kick.
The failure did not break the Irish spirit, with their fans constantly singing: "Come on you boys in green!"
The temperature of the game began to increase, affecting the behaviour of the players on both sides, who became more and more aggressive.
It was reflected in the number of yellow cards. The referee gave three of them to the Italians, and three to the Irish. What's more, Keith Andrews received a second yellow card in the 89th minute and was sent off.
One of the interesting facts about this match is that Giovanni Trapattoni, the coach of the Irish team, is an Italian too.
And, despite the fact that the Irish team was losing their last match in Euro 2012, their supporters showed him a lot of respect, singing "Hey, Trapattoni, you used to be Italian, but you're Irish now!"
That way the Irish also thanked their coach for getting them to the European Championship for the first time since 1988.
Nevertheless, Italy's superiority was confirmed by the second goal, scored by the famous Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in the 90th minute. This amazing volley opened the door to the next round for the Italian team.
The last minutes of the match were filled with loud chants of both Italian and Irish fans, trying to help their players struggle with exhaustion.
It was hard to resist this incredible atmosphere, so we sang loudly with them, believing that everything was possible, and "...the group will be upside down!"
Yet, with the final whistle of the referee it was clear for everybody that Italy would play in the next round. The tears of happiness and sorrow appeared on the faces of the fans of both teams.
Struggling our way home through the chanting crowd after the match, we talked to a number of fans who stressed that the Polish hospitality and friendliness had definitely gone beyond their expectations.
They also wished they could visit our country again.
And so did we!