After leaving Utrecht we headed up north for a couple of days and spent an afternoon in Groningen. Groningen is a university city, the largest city in the North with a population of just over 200000 and it was supposed to be quieter during the summer, but we had the usual hectic game of ‘dodge the bike’ – Groningen has been called the ‘World Cycling City’. We did the obligatory Groninger Museum and were mightily impressed with the building, which stands in the middle of the canal and links the railway station to the city centre.

Of course, before leaving Groningen I had a nosey at the Noordlease Stadion where Groningen, the Pride of the North, play in the Eredivisie. Pinching your nickname off ICT, whatever next.

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Grote Markt, Groningen

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We then headed westwards to a B&B called ‘Middle of Nowhere’ where we spent a nice chilled couple of days with a fabulous sunset, and visited Ameland, one of the Friesian Islands, which is a 45 minute ferry trip, and hired bikes to get around.

Processed with Snapseed.We also had great meal at Logement Doosje run by a couple called Bennie and Dina. Bennie is fanatical about whisky and Scotland and has an astonishing selection of over 100 malts.

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Middle of Nowhere

On Sunday we had a run down to Rotterdam via the 32 km Afsluitdijk which encloses the IJsselmeer from the outer sea and connects Friesland to Noord-Holland. When I was at school our primary teacher told us it was the Zuiderzee.

It was a bit of a culture shock going from roads in the North with passing places, to 5 lane motorways round Amsterdam, especially in torrential showers, but eventually we found our way into Rotterdam and booked into our room at the Stayokay in the famous Cube Houses designed by Piet Blom. No getting away from the parking charges in central Rotterdam at €20 per day.

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So same routine as last time: shower, change into match gear, beer, pizza. The Stayokay (what the Dutch call their hostels) had decent Trappist beers on tap.

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Het Kasteel (The Castle) is rooted in the Spangen area of Rotterdam and holds 11926. It was a simple Metro ride from our station at Blaak to Marconiplein. We fancied getting the leisurely no 8 tram right to the front door but we wasted too much time on beer and pizza and we had to rush, so the Metro it was.

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To the right was the Denis Neville Stand which is the traditional home end. The Scotland fans who bought tickets from the SFA were housed in here. We had been too quick off the mark and had got more expensive seats as part of a 3 game Scotland package from UEFA. The Portuguese fans were away to our left but we were able to mix freely. Both sets of fans kept up a series of chants and in a small stadium the atmosphere was much better than the England game. The Bok de Korver Stand at the other end was empty. Opposite us was the Tonny van Ede Stand which is the main stand with the hospitality boxes and players’ tunnel.

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As Arthur Montford would say, disaster for Scotland…

Here’s the lineup for matchday 2:

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So one enforced change from the first game, with Jane Ross ruled out, and both full backs, Kirsty Smith in for Chloe Arthur, and Rachel McLauchlan replacing Frankie Brown. Yet another game which was lost by defensive howlers. Scotland badly missed Jen Beattie who was injured before the tournament, as well as veteran midfielder Kim Little. Striker Jane Ross had scored ten times during the qualifiers but sustained a shoulder injury against England. Lana Clelland replaced her up front and did well, but it took substitute Erin Cuthbert to finally bring a goal for the supporters to cheer, when Caroline Weir played her in to equalise the first half goal from Mendes.

The joy was short lived as Portugal’s winner came 4 minutes later via route one, as Leite ran on to a header and outpaced Vaila Barsley to slip the ball past Gemma Fay. Scotland still had time to miss a couple of chances and Weir rattled the crossbar. Although Scotland physically dominated their smaller, more technically gifted opponents in midfield, it was ironic that the winner came in Wimbledon style…

Portugal also had 5 bookings, including the goalkeeper, who was booed repeatedly during the second half for blatant timewasting. Rachel Corsie was also booked 2 minutes after the winner as frustration got the better of her. A huge opportunity missed for Scotland and now they have the unenviable task of beating Spain by 2 goals to stay in the competition. The attendance was 3123. highlights are here

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Time to do what Scottish fans do best and drown our sorrows:

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Next day we had a rake around the Oude Haven, the old harbour. Before we left Rotterdam next morning I was keen to get another look at Stadion Feijenoord (De Kuip – The Tub).

We had been here in 2002 for a match against NAC Breda which sadly finished goalless. Christine and I got off the train at Feyenoord Station right outside and somehow managed to blag tickets despite not being members. It was fascinating to see the Breda fans arrive on the opposite platform and be taken by a walkway right over the top and into the stadium without meeting any home fans at all, and take their place in a wee section at one end behind a net. Here’s a pano which I made back then:

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And here’s a couple of shots I found on the internet that I really like: an aerial pic from 1956 and another from about 1960…

IMG_0216IMG_0217Finally here’s de Kuip, home of the Kampioen, as it looks today:

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Next up is Scotland v Spain in Deventer on Thursday, but first we’re hopping up to Volendam for a couple of days. See you.

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