With the World Cup looming, it was decided that we needed to know who the winners would be at the UK200Group Breakfast held at Braintree Golf Club, Stisted on the morning of 13 June 2018.
It was a late decision – about 18.45 on the evening of the 12th but Nick and Richard weren’t perturbed and worked through a programme, knocked out a spreadsheet and charged around a number of stores in the Tollgate area looking for dice before closing time.
As we sat down for breakfast each of the 6 tables had at least one group to decide and the competition kicked off with the opening match, Russia v Saudi Arabia.
The Group A match was not as tight as most opening tournament games with the hosts losing 5-4. The Russians ended up having a poor tournament, finishing with three losses and conceding 15 goals along the way. As most people would expect, Uruguay and Egypt went through to the knock-out stages.
Group B shocked many of the spectators, with Portugal losing 6-4 to Spain and 6-1 to Iran. Ronaldo’s sobbing could be heard throughout the Golf Club as Portugal went out. Spain joined them, having drawn with Iran but then losing to Morocco.
There were more high scores in Group C with Denmark and Australia progressing at the expense of Peru and dark horses France.
Argentina and Iceland entertained the crowds in Group D but it was Nigeria and Croatia who went through, both teams with six points.
There was another shock in Group E, with Brazil taking the plane home early with Serbia, whilst Costa Rica and Switzerland making it through. This was particularly bad news for one of the members on Nick’s table – a Serbian – who kept Croatia in the tournament with high scores for them and low against. She wasn’t impressed!
The Germans in Group F did just enough to qualify with two draws (including a 6-6 draw with Mexico) and a win against South Korea and they were joined in the last 16 by Mexico. That’s bad news for Korea’s Son Heung Min who may now have to complete his service.
The crowd expectantly waited for the results from Group G, with Belgium going through as group winners with England in second place. Panama and Tunisia went home whilst England kept the hopes alive….for the time being. As expected the England Belgium tie settled the top order and a 2 1 victory for the Red Devils – ably assisted by Toby and Jan at the back blunted the threat of Kane and Alli.
Group H Japan were the only team to win all three matches and were joined in the next round by Senegal.
As we reached the knock out stage of the competition we moved from paper to the projector screen. The tables who had represented the Group from which the qualifiers had come were asked to roll the dice on the teams behalf and the excitement grew with each result.
The last 16 round saw more shocks, with Iran beating Egypt, Morocco beating Uruguay and too much appreciation Switzerland thrashing Germany. England destroyed Japan, winning 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals. Penalties were needed to separate Belgium and Senegal after a 4 all draw with the latter coming through. Maybe a hint to Roberto Martinez in the Belgium training camp.
After beating Denmark in the last round, Croatia beat Iran ending their best ever tournament. Costa Rica reached the semi-finals in an end-to-end match against Senegal, winning 6-5. Australia beat Morocco 5-2 and England ensured that they matched their performance in 1990, scoring 6 goals against Switzerland. It was just before this game that Nick recalled England v Poland in 1986 when Gary Lineker scored a first half hat trick to get us out of the group. The late night, the pain of the first two games and Jimmy Hill cheering in the back of the box as we scored releasing the relief all those watching felt. That game ended with the England fans doing a conga around the stadium – Nick offered the opportunity of a repeat if we progressed to a famous win!
The first semi-final saw Croatia beating Costa Rica 6-3 and the crowd roared as, in the second semi-final England met Australia. Rolling the dice for Australia was our own Mike Carabine and he was warned about the danger of delivering a dynamic result for the Kangaroos. Thankfully he was only able to return a 1 against England’s 5 and an expectant hush fell throughout the venue as the final approached – would England do it?
Sadly it was not to be. Having played well throughout the tournament we came up against strong opposition in Croatia who won the match 5-2 and became World Champions for the first time. The hand of a Serbian rewarded them and dashed all our hopes. Never mind but should we progress to the final the weight of expectation won’t be any higher. Thankfully if we do we play with a ball and not the dice!
World Cup Winners – Croatia
The tournament was very well received by all in attendance with fantastic viewing figures and a great venue – thanks to everyone who joined us.
You can come along to our next Breakfast in September to see if our predictions were correct!
We just hope that England performs as well in the official tournament which kicks off on 14th June 2018.
Come on England!!
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