As I tearfully said farewell on Monday to Vienna - my feelings towards the city being much fonder than those of Ultravox - I was particularly saddened by the thought of being sat on the sofa at home for the semi-finals, rather than watching on the big screen at the Vienna Fan Zone.
My friends and I had been surrounded by fanatical Turks last Friday for their quarter-final against Croatia, and were impressed by their unbridled enthusiasm and passion. We knew that they would be even more excitable for the clash with Germany, whose fans would also pack the Rathauspark, their numbers swelled by Viennese locals sticking by their central European neighbours in some sort of footballing Anschluss.
As it transpired, I can't have any regrets. I managed to stay dry and safe, and was not in any serious pain (other than from the big toe I injured in the course of journalistic endeavour last week, at an adidas 'footy tennis' mini-game). The 28,000 people who had gathered to watch the match at the heart of the Austrian capital, however, were thoroughly drenched and at risk of being struck by lightning, while some were hurt in an evacuation stampede. Watching the first hour of the match in Basel, the weather seemed relatively unremarkable, but the pictures were being relayed around the world via Vienna which was coming under a sustained climatic attack.
The temperatures had been red-hot in central Europe over recent days so it was no surprise a storm was brewing. But this was a full-on weather assault; TV pictures later showed howling winds, lashing rain and thunderbolt flashes so frequent and bright they should have been accompanied by a warning to epileptics. It looked as if the footballing gods themselves had been angered. Maybe they, like the majority of people watching, couldn't believe Germany were going to reach the final after being completely outplayed by the Turks.
For those viewers, it all became a little confusing due to the constant breaks and commentator changes. The picture returned just before Semih Senturk made the score 2-2, prompting celebrations on the Turkish bench which left 'The Emperor' Fatih Terim with a smack on the nose. We were also told a demonstrator had made his way onto the pitch wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Tibet is not China' emblazoned across it. The host director quickly cut away to shots of pretty German girls and other assorted fans, while the interloper was wrestled to the ground and carted off by security staff. There's no place for world politics at this tournament, unless it involves Angela Merkel.
And after Philipp Lahm had netted the winning goal, the director found another young lady in the crowd to focus on - she turned out to be Lahm's girlfriend Claudia. She looked almost as happy as German Chancellor Merkel, bouncing up and down with glee next to a sour-faced Michel Platini. The UEFA president was clutching a mobile phone, through which he had no doubt been berating some snivelling underling over the loss of the worldwide TV feed.
As the final whistle blew, the white-shirted managers Terim and Joachim Low embraced and the obligatory 'Seven Nation Army' boomed around the ground as Germany fans held aloft their 'Vienna Calling' banner. You had to feel sorry for Turkey - with a depleted side, they had outplayed the Germans and deserved at least to go to extra-time. Among those trudging across the pitch was injured centre-back Servet Cetin. We had grabbed a photo with the big defender last Saturday outside the Hilton Plaza Hotel in Vienna (see above - and by the way that's not Jens Lehmann on the right, it's actually my friend Steve). Serv, as we dubbed him, was sporting a classic footballer's casual T-shirt - garish to the max, and a true fashion statement.
I thought Miroslav Klose's 79th-minute goal might have been lost forever, but we finally got to see it in the closing analysis and it looked another nightmare moment for Rustu, following on from his mistake which led to the Croatia opener in the quarter-final. By this stage, the episodic nature of the night's entertainment had left me a bit bewildered. More storms are forecast for Thursday night however, so it could be a similarly sporadic broadcast when Spain take on Russia. How will the angry Platini react if the weather ruins another of his showpiece semi-finals? Depending on the seating plan, King Juan Carlos I or Dmitry Medvedev might want to change their tickets in advance.
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