Monday, 9 July 2018

Volgograd Arena

Iceland 0-2 Nigeria
(2018 World Cup Group D)

22nd June 2018 

For all their much vaunted resilience and team ethic, Iceland were dismantled this evening by nothing more sophisticated than good old-fashioned pace.  

During the opening half-hour I actually felt they were the better side, looking both solid in defence, and the more likely lot to break the deadlock.  Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho did well to palm away a Gylfi Sigurdsson shot, before another free-kick by the Everton man skimmed across the front of the Nigeria goal, begging for a taker.  But as the half wore on the Icelanders appeared to flag in the heat.

We only had to wait a few minutes into the second half to see the opening goal.  Victor Moses sprinted down the Nigeria right flank, before picking out Ahmed MUSA; the latter taking two touches, one to neatly control the ball, the second to score on the volley.

Moments after smacking the crossbar with a effort, MUSA scored his second with 15 minutes remaining, his blistering pace leaving poor Kári Arnason (one of the few Scotland based players at Russia2018) in his wake, before coolly taking the ball around Hannes Halldórsson to net.  

Not even an 83rd minute VAR-induced penalty award could rescue the Icelanders cause; Sigurdsson casually stroking the spot-kick way over the crossbar and into the crowd.

Welcome it sez.

The Volgograd Arena

The Motherland Calls keeps an eye on proceedings

Slightly reminiscent of that "Bird's Nest" stadium in China 

Is that a saltire I see over my shoulder?
Perhaps not.

Iceland v Nigeria - 2018 World Cup.

Panorama of Volgograd Arena

Nigeria's teenage goalkeeper Francis Uzoho palms away Gylfi Sigurdsson's first-half free-kick.

Quite how Iceland's No 11 Alfred Finnbogason failed to connect here to score baffles me yet.

There was LOT of hardware hanging down from/holding up the roof.

When I took up my seat in the Volgograd Arena, it became clear some enterprising individual at Fifa Ticketing had decided because my surname ends in a “Son”, and the fact Scotland and Iceland are (from a Russian geography perspective at least) pretty much next door to each other, that I must be Icelandic.  For I found myself seated in amongst the blue-clad Viking hordes.

Just the place, I felt, to experience the “Viking Thunderclap” first hand, having seen it performed, but from a distance, at Saint-Étienne two years previously.  

But was all just a bit understated here in Volgograd.  Partly, I am sure, due to the fact the (smaller this time) Icelandic support was split into a couple of pockets around the ground.  There were but two episodes of the business, and nothing (perhaps understandably) at the end of the match.

Not that the Russian chap next to me minded - he had clearly come come along to give it a go.  However, he never quite got into the rhythm and each of his claps and accompanying “Hoo” arrived just that moment too late.  Not that he seemed to be remotely embarrassed by the fact.

What did disappoint me was the sight of the Icelanders making complete arses of themselves with the Mexican Wave.  They had remained resolutely aloof from that nonsense in France.

Panorama of The Volgograd Arena.

Former Fulham defender Ragnar Sigurdsson received a smack to the head and had to be patched up.

Nigerians party following Ahmed Musa's second.
Leicester City fans must have watched thinking "Where did that pace come from?  We saw none of that" 

And Sigurdsson must score.....!"

Birkir Bjarnason

My stitching software has somehow created a headless Iceland fan wearing shirt sporting the name "Sisson"!

The Volgograd Arena 

The atmosphere at the Fan Zones almost equalled that at the actual matches at time.

Volgograd Fan Zone

This was (I think) folks enjoying the Germany v Sweden match.....

... although this lad was less than enthralled.

My Russian trip had involved whistle-stop visits to both Sochi and Rostov-on Don, but I had factored in a couple of days sightseeing in Volgograd.  For I had long wished a date with the large lady on the Mumyev Kurgan.  She did not disappoint. 

The Mamayev Kurgan is the hill which overlooks much of Volgograd,
and was bitterly fought over during the Battle of Stalingrad. in 1942/43. 
The Battle of Stalingrad Memorial complex was created on the site.  

The centrepiece of the Memorial Complex is the 85 metres
(excluding plinth) tall statue The Motherland Calls.

The structure was completed in just five months in 1967.

She is such a well-photographed lady, it is almost impossible to obtain
anything resembling a unique shot.  But Windows Photo Gallery helps. 

The Motherland Calls.

I think if she called, I would heed.

Those nipples!  Wow !!

Volgograd Arena from Mumayev Kurgan

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