Sunday, 23 April 2017

CSKA Sofia v Ludogorets. 23/04/17

"This chap has just said he wants to kill terrorists and journalists. I'd keep your occupation to yourself."

CSKA Sofia 1-1 Ludogorets. Balgarska Armia Stadium.
Sunday 23/04/17
Never before had I left a game of football early due to the temperature. Not at Torquay United on New Years Day 1997 when half the Brighton support took to running laps of a car park behind the goal in an attempt to warm up. Not even at Boothferry Park, Hull on a Tuesday January evening in 1996 for a 0-0 draw. Although my mother would not have been too impressed had we have missed any of that game given she got in trouble for my truancy from school. I mean, what eight year old doesn't want to go to Hull away?

Take a bow then CSKA Sofia. Only an hour of their First Professional Football League - or Bulgarian top flight to you and me - game versus Ludogorets had passed when we decided enough was enough. The game was 0-0, neither side had done anything noteworthy in an attacking sense and Balgarska Armia Stadium was easily the coldest place on Earth at that point in time with the possible exception of the North Pole. Please note the term possible. Back to the pub it was.

Sofia sightseeing - one head...
and one church
This was our last night of three in Sofia on a stag do. It had been full of the normal sort of Eastern European stag do occurrences - lost wallets, blocked toilets and plenty of sick from the stag. They'd even been some sightseeing carried out which lasted all of about an hour. Even this was remarkable from my point of view given that I'd done virtually everything there was to do in Sofia when England visited in 2011. Which amounts to not very much.

My memories of the city from that 3-0 win under Fabio Capello largely consisted of cheap yet horrible beer, spending four days in 30 degree heat wearing jeans as I had neglected to consult a weather forecast and a distinct lack of places to drink, to the point where we had to resort to getting a beer in a fetish club run by a Janet Street Porter look-a-like.

Oli liked his Kamenitza
Scott struggled with his
Either we had not really done a very good job in exploring last time or Sofia has markedly improved in the intervening five and a half years. Central to this weekend of drinking was bul Vitosha, a long street stretching from the Sveta Nedelya cathedral towards the mountains in the distance. On this street were a plethora of bars which we were only happy to give around £1.30 for a pint to. 

One of the best pubs we found broke one of the golden of holidaying - never go to an Irish bar unless you are in Ireland. The Irish Harp was however excellent with good food, local beer and an extremely amenable barman named Boris. Boris gained instant hero status on the Friday night when he put Brighton's game at Norwich on the big screens and he came to be an extremely useful guy to talk to about Sofia. 

His strongest piece of advice came when we asked him what a game at CSKA would be like. The original plan had been for all the stag party to head to the football as a way of saying we had actually done some sort of activity rather than significantly boosting Bulgaria's GDP through sales of Zagorka. Boris was extremely unphlegmatic in his response. "CSKA are mad. If you go and watch them you will get f**king killed."

Floodlight porn at the Vasil Levski Stadium
This, along with an 8pm kick off on a rather chilly Sunday, was enough to put off eight of the party, meaning just two made it to the Buglarian Army Stadium- Oli and myself. So saying our farewells to the group - possibly for the last time if Boris was correct - we headed off.

The stadium is situated just behind the much larger Vasil Levski National Stadium in Borisova gradina, a large park about a 15 minute walk from the centre. It was simply a case of rock up, buy a ticket from a little both for £2 and drink some cans of beer with the locals outside.

Oli parts with £2 for his ticket from this excellent ticket facility

The entrance to the Bulgarian Army Stadium
Security was tight to get in. Riot police were everywhere and there were two thorough searches, one outside the turnstile and one once in the ground. If we were going to die, we wanted to do it in style and so we joined the hardcore CSKA support on the terrace behind the goal. There was no food or beer inside this section of the ground which was a shame as after climbing the steep and crumbling steps to the top of the stand it became very apparent very quickly that a beer coat would be needed given the falling temperature. 

The Bulgarian Army Stadium was the definition of typical Eastern European Stadium. Fantastic floodlights reaching high into the sky, a single tiered bowl and a running track separating pitch and supporters. It holds 22,995 supporters yet the dwindling appeal of Bulgarian football was evidence as the place was largely empty, a crowd of 4,200 being recorded officially and even this looked to be an Arsenal style fabricated attendance. Both ends were terraced with less than 100 Ludogorets fans stationed in a penned off corner at the opposite side. The main stand had the luxury of a small central roof and perhaps best of all, the teams had separate tunnels from which they entered from. That put the Army Stadium in credit even before you filtered in the quite beautiful mountain back drop.

The lovely mountain backdrop of the Army Stadium
In with the CSKA support
Bulgarian Army Stadium
We soon made friends with one CSKA fan who, on first impressions, would definitely have been considered a man who could easily have organised our Bosman free transfer to the grave. Some of his opening lines included "I am a Nazi", "Not being able to get a beer is worse than the Holocaust" and "I hate terrorists and journalists". Don't tell him your job, Scott. 

Krazovir as we Christined him was actually extremely friendly if you ignored the fact that he was clearly a raging racist and quite possibly mentally unstable. He had even heard of "Brighton Albion" and took a keen interest in the fact we had been promoted to the Premier League. He introduced us to several of his friends, taught us a number of Bulgarian phrases to hurl at the opposition and officials and even invited us for a beer "and some drugs" after. By this point 40 minutes of mind numbingly boring football had elapsed and the early signs of frostbite were already starting to show, so we politely declined and said we were thinking of leaving at half time. 
Two players tunnels = big plus marks
Bulgarian Army Stadium under lights
Krazovir understood this approach by agreeing that "Bulgarian football is s**t". His advice however was to stay until just before the hour mark, when the CSKA support would unleash their flares, fireworks and "home made bombs". You had us at flares Krazovir, let alone home made bombs.

That did however mean staying another 15 minutes in which nothing of any note occured. We hadn't gone expecting to be wildly entertained but given that Ludogorets have won the previous six titles in a row and CSKA are the most successful side in Bulgarian history, we kind of expected at least something to happen. The Bulgarian League splits in two for the final quarter of the season, with the top six playing off for the title and the bottom six battling to avoid relegation. If this was the standard of the Championship Round - and the two sides who finished third and top in the the regular camapign, no less - then Christ knows how bad the Relegation Round must be. *Adds to list for next season* 

Things did seemingly get better once we'd left if Soccerbase is anything to go by. Predictably, CSKA took the lead a matter of minutes after we'd departed through a Petrus Boumal penalty. That was cancelled out by Marcelinho's 75th minute equaliser as nothing could seperate the play off leagues top two.

The black banners signal the flares are on their way...
Imagine how warm it must've been in the middle of that...not jealous
We moved to the other side of the terrace at the start of the second half, partly to get a better look at the display and partly in the hope that the main stand may provide a wind break and with it a little less cold (it didn't). 60 minutes of play finally elapsed and right on cue, the CSKA support unfurled a huge black banner. That was followed by the terrace being turned into a wall of fire - a mightily impressive display and, if I'm honest, a pang of jealousy that we weren't in the middle of it if only for heat purposes.

Disappointingly, the home made bombs were seemingly not actual bombs
As their flares expired, the CSKA support threw them onto the running track where they smouldered and the smell of smoke filled the stadium. Krazovir was right, it had proved to be well worth staying for but finally, cold won the battle and we were retreating back to The Irish Harp.

Boris seemed genuinely surprised when we arrived back at The Irish Harp via our own two feet rather than a hearse. He wasn't surprised to hear the game had been terrible and with El Classico now on the big screens, told us we could watch some real football now. 

But give me Krazovir, pyrotechnics and CSKA Sofia over a game on television any day. The real football was at Balgarska Armia Stadium. The only thing El Classico has over it is that presumably it wasn't -30 in Madrid. So just next time we at a game in Sofia, can we have some Spanish weather please? 

CSKA Sofia: Georgi Kitanov, Stanislav Manolev, Nikolay Bodurov, Anton Nedyalkov, Bozhidar Chorbadzhiyski, Ruben Pinto, Petrus Boumal 1 (Kristiyan Malinov), Arsenio, Gustavo Culma (Kevin Koubemba), Fernando Karanga (Kevin Mercado), Kiril Despodov.

Ludogorets: Renan, Cosmin Moti, Cicinho, Jose Luis Palomino, Gustavo Campanharo, Anicet Andrianantenaina (Juninho Quixada), Wanderson (Lucas Sasha), Nathanael Pimienta, Marcelhino 1, Jonathan Cafu, Virgil Misidjan (Claudiu Keseru).

Attendance: 4,200

Sunday, 9 April 2017

FC Ingolstadt v Darmstadt 98. 09/04/17

"You know Nigel Farage, the Brexit bloke? Yeah, you look like him"

FC Ingolstadt 3-2 Darmstadt 98. Audi Sportpark.
Sunday 09/04/17
The Bundesliga has been in fashion among English football supporters for over half a decade now. Cheap prices, terraces, great atmospheres and beer while watching a game have made Germany the number one destination for football tourists.

That popularity has apparently failed to reached Ingolstadt however. There was an incredibly bemused reaction to the appearance of eight English blokes on the south terrace for Die Schanzer's huge relegation clash with Darmstadt. This was perhaps best summed up by one blokes question of "Why the **** have you come to watch Ingolstadt? We never get English people here."

Audi Sportpark. Creatively named after the local motor company
It turned out that this bloke, as well as sharing an uncanny resemblance to Nigel Farage, was actually an Ingolstadt director. As far as opening remarks in a conversation with a board member of a football club you are visiting go, "You know Nigel Farage, the Brexit bloke? Yeah, you look like him" is perhaps not the best greeting you can make. Still, the Ingolstadt fans took it all in their stride. For them at least, Brexit doesn't seem to mean Brexit. Unlucky Theresa.

But back to the main question here: Why the **** had we gone to watch Ingolstadt? We were actually on a stag do in Munich but rather than do a normal stag do activity like paintballing, go karting or something that involves exercise and grossly unhealthy stuff like that, we decided to take in a football game. A wise choice, I'm sure you will agree. 

Drinking in Munich's Englischer Garten with Dortmund and
Bayern fans on the Saturday, including Busche. We all love a bit
of busche.
Englischer Garten fun and games
Watching either 1860 or Bayern Munich play would've been the sensible choice. But 1860 were away and Bayern were hosting Borussia Dortmund so tickets were scarcer than a vegetarian Bavarian. This was great news for me, having been to the Allianz twice already to see both Munich teams, as it meant the new ground klaxon could sound. 

And that new ground ended up being Audi Sportpark. Ingolstadt is about 45 minutes north of Munich by train and so with the obligatory train beers purchased - not that they were really needed after two solid days of drinking in Munich beforehand, which included a fantastic session in the Englischer Garten with Bayern and Dortmund fans the previous afternoon - we were on our way. 

Big fine coming the way of whoever
was in Munich and yet opted to buy a pack
of Heineken for the train...
Given the lure of Munich's beer and a fantastic train timetable cock up, we only arrived in Ingolstadt 30 minutes before kick off. Thankfully, the club seemingly had the foresight to employ Sebastian Vettell as one of their shuttle bus drivers and against all the odds we made it to the out of town stadium just in time for kick off.

Audi Sportpark was built in 2010 and is your standard new German stadium; single tiered in a rectangular shape, compact and with a great atmosphere. The current version of Ingolstadt were only formed in 2004 - since then they've been on a meteoric rise through the divisions which culminated with promotion to the top flight for the first time in 2015. Seeing that when the ground opened in 2010 when they were still in the third tier, it's on the smaller side for a Bundesliga ground holding just over 15,000. Being miles out of town, there is little around but the club are clearly trying to improve that with a traditional Bavarian wooden shed having been erected outside as a pub. 

The South Terrace
On the terrace in what turned out to be blistering heat
Inside and we were with the hardcore support on the terrace. It was an interesting mixture of people and not solely the flag waving ultras you tend to find dominating that sort of section of the ground at other German clubs. In amongst those types were kids scaling the fences at the front, old blokes puffing on cigars and yes, members of the board who look like Mr Farrage. No need to worry about the trouble that can come from taking photos or being football tourists as has become the case at some venues across Germany in recent times, everyone was welcome at Ingolstadt. 

Child scales fence, not put off by giant speaker next to him
There were other elements missing that you usually associate with German football. No man with a 1980's building site bullhorn stood at the front leading the singing for example. No, Ingolstadt lead the way in the use of modern technology, giving their top boy a microphone and a set of speakers strung along the front of the terrace. Welcome to the 21st century.

Some might expect this eclectic take on fan culture to dilute the atmosphere but Audi Sportspark was rocking despite the emoty soaces. This was probably helped by the importance of the game, with both sides in very real danger of relegation to Bundesliga 2 next season. The proverbial six pointer as the season draws to a close this most definitely was.

In with the Ingolstadt massive
Wild celebrations all round as Ingolstadt pick up the win
If we were watching a side that, come the end of the season deserves to get relegated then the same should definitely be said of the referee, a Herr Manuel Grafe. He would've been better of being named Manuel Gaff given the number of mistakes that happened over the 90 minutes. Had this been in England, the famous chant about the man in black being a word that rhymes with banker would've been ringing out from all four corners of the stadium given how attrocious he was for both sides. 

Thankfully, Herr Gaffe didn't affect the quality of entertainment factor of the game which ranks as arguably the best I've seen in Germany since my last match involving Darmstadt. On that day four and a bit years ago they drew 1-1 with Alemannia Aachen in the Bundesliga 3. On this day, they were on the wrong end of a 3-2 defeat that pushes them closer to the trap door back to whence they came. Make no mistake however, it has been quite the fairytale rise for both these clubs to the top flight of German football.

As you can see, I managed to take a lot of varied photos
The game went off at breakneck speed, Ingolstadt going 1-0 up through Pascal Gross. That didn't last very long and soon it was 1-1, Darmstadt equalising via Mario Vrancic. Herr Gaffe then decided he wanted to become centre stage, awarding Darmstadt one of the worst penalty decisions I've ever seen which Vrancic converted for 2-1. Almog Cohen made it 2-2 just past the hour mark and then Markus Suttner netted what turned out to be the winner with a quite beautiful free kick. Not content with that penalty decision, Herr Gaffe decided to flash two red cards with a matter of minutes remaninging to Darmstadt's Antonio Colak and the hosts Romain Bregerie. Blimey. That made it three wins in a row for Ingolstadt for the first ever time in the Bundesliga and took them to within a point of safety. For Darmstadt and their manager Torsten Frings - the former German international of fantastic mullet fame - it looks as though Bundesliga 2 beckons for next season.

What with this being a Sunday, we were on a tight schedule to get back to Munich afterwards and so had to foresake any sort of exploration of Ingolstadt itself. This was a shame as not only does the Danube pass through it, but according to Wikipedia it is the place where Victor Frankenstein creates his monster. Rather less excitingly, it is also home to Audi which explains the sponsorship deal behind the stadium. There was just time for a look around the club shop - given the apparent lack of foreign visitors, were we the first ever English supporters to buy Ingolstadt scarves - and to grab a selfie with the mascot Shanzi. We had no idea what Shanzi was meant to be so any answers on a postcard please.

Any ideas what this thing is meant to be?
Once back in Munich, we toasted our new found friends at Ingolstadt's hopeful escape from relegation by turning a Chinese restaurant into a karaoke bar until 3am. If English supporters rocking up at Audi Sportpark seemed bizarre to Mr Farage, Lord knows what he'd have made of them then singing Taylor Swift songs in-between plates of lemon duck. `

FC Ingolstadt: Martin Hansen, Romain Bregerie, Markus Suttner 1, Marcel Tisserand, Marvin Matip, Roger (Alfredo Morales), Pascal Gross 1, Sonny Kittel (Lukas Hinterseer), Almog Cohen 1, Matthew Leckie, Dario Lezcano (Anthony Jung).

Darmstadt 98: Michael Esser, Aytac Sulu, Sandro Sirigu, Immanuel Hohn, Fabian Holland, Mario Vrancic 2 (Leon Guwara), Markus Steinhofer, Hamit Altintop, Wilson Kamavuaka (Sven Shipplock), Antonio Colak, Felix Platte (Jan Rosenthal).

Attendance: 14,081

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Germany v England. 22/03/17

"A 20 minute train delay? Have Southern Rail secretly taken over Deutsche Bahn?"

Germany 1-0 England. Signal Iduna Park. Wednesday 22/03/17
It may have said Germany v England in an international friendly on the match ticket. It may have been reported by such reputable sources as The Times and the BBC as being Germany v England in an international friendly. But this was not Germany v England in an international friendly.

This was in fact the Lukasz Podolski tribute match. After 130 games, 48 goals and one World Cup winners medal, this was Podolski's final game for Die Mannschaft in front of a capacity crowd who had turned out to worship him at Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park.

The love in started before kick off. Podolski captained the side; there was a delightful video played in his honour on the four giant big screens in each corner of this footballing cathedral; he then even made a speech to the masses. 

Can you imagine England's only comparable international in the form of Wayne Rooney being feted in that manner at Wembley if he ever calls time on his Three Lions career? If it did happen, you can bet your life that some cretins would boo throughout. Which is what some of the more pond life like element of the away support did here with sad predictably. 

Podolski had the last laugh though, scoring a quite brilliant goal - number 49 - from a full 30 yards before departing to a standing ovation as the music from Gladiator was played. That was frankly ridiculous but it did beg the question, why aren't movie title tracks utilised more when substitutions occur? Find me someone who says they don't want to see Raheem Sterling being replaced to the sound of My Heart Will Go On from Titanic or Eric Dier exiting proceedings to Beauty and the Beast's Be Our Guest and you will have found me someone lying through their teeth.

It wasn't just a productive evening of work for Podolski either as yours truly managed to visit European country 28/42 on this trip by going via Luxembourg. There were two reasons behind what looks on paper like a ridiculous route to have taken. The first was that this was my third visit to Dortmund and so rather than go to a town that is, footballing reasons aside, pretty dull, it was a good opportunity to visit somewhere new. The second was that given than Luxembourg City is not somewhere many people choose to go to for anything other than business, flights to and from Europe’s fourth smallest country and travel onwards to Dusseldorf came in at less than £50. Strap me in.

Hiding from prostitutes in Luxembourg City's
bars was a great game to play
That travel came in the shape of an overnight coach from Luxembourg to Dusseldorf which didn't leave until 5am Wednesday morning. The plan therefore was simple. Don't bother booking any accommodation, just find a nightclub and wait until the early hours, jumping straight on the bus and sleeping for the duration of the five hour journey across the border and into the heart of the Rhineland. This approach had worked very well when travelling from Munich to Ljubljana for Slovenia away back in October and there was no reason to assume it wouldn't work here.

Pint of Bofferding please bar keep
Except of course that Munich is a city renowned for its drinking culture and has a wealth of bars. Luxembourg City is frankly on a par with Blackburn for its Tuesday nightlife, although with what I suspect is a slightly more lively prostitution scene if the number of girls standing around on street corners, actively offering their wares like something from a Victorian novel was anything to go by. Things did originally look promising for the "spend all night drinking" plan when I stumbled across a bar in which a huge party was kicking off. That was until every custodian buggered off at 1am, leaving just the four hours to kill traipsing around the city freezing cold and then waiting at the bus stop. Who says following England away is all glamour?

Schumacher Alt
Other than spending the night on the streets, things went well and Dusseldorf was reached by 10am on game day. That left enough time to pick up a bratwurst for breakfast and meet friends Lewis, Ciaran, Mark and Dean for several beers.  Much like it's near neighbour Cologne, Dusseldorf is an excellent drinking city which specialises in 0.2l beers. Finish one of those little beauties and the barman will instantly bring you another. This will keep happening until you place your beer mat on top of your last empty glass to signal no more. Rather than the Kolsch you get in Cologne, in Dusseldorf it is Altbier, a darker, heavier beer that tastes similar to pale ale. Four of those in the famous Schumacher Brauhaus (unfortunately not named after Michael) and it was off to Dortmund. 

A train delayed in Germany? What is this madness?
Being a resident of Sussex and therefore a frequent victim of Southern Rail's train 'service', trips to Germany are always refreshing to experience how a train system should work. Imagine the horror then when our train to Dusseldorf was delayed by 20 minutes, surely an unheard of occurrence in a country famous for its efficiency and punctuality? Deutsche Bahn do not even have a delay repay scheme in place unlike Southern. That wasn't the end of the transport woes either as Dean and Co's taxi crashed once we arrived in Dortmund on their journey from station to hotel. Another myth surrounding Germany - that they are excellent drivers - was shattered.

Markt Square
England fans gather before the game with Lukas Podolski
After a few beers in Markt Square where several hundred England supporters had gathered for the traditional boot football as high as possible into air game, the car crash survivors and myself headed away to a restaurant serving what can only be described as the greatest schnitzel I've ever had was served. Such was the quality of this piece of pork wrapped in breadcrumbs that not even the fact the place was packed and we had to sit outside in the cold could take away from the delight of the meal.

Schitznel and beer with the taxi crash crew
From there it was onto Signal Iduna Park. The local police had instructed England fans to get off at a certain U Bahn stop as they wanted to ensure everyone got straight in the ground with no mixing with the home support. Needless to say we weren't having any of that and got off a stop early, walking to the stadium, outside of which there were plenty of outlets selling cans of beer and where you could mingle with the Podolski supporters. We even had time to have a 100m race on the athletics track adjacent to the main stand and then a go at the long jump. Neither performance in these events was particularly impressive.

Complimentary German flags? Don't mind if we do
Thomas Muller
After collecting some complimentary Germany flags which went down a treat with our fellow England supporters and obtaining some "selfies" with the members of Die Mannschaft's triumphant 2014 squad which are painted on the side of the same double decker that was in Berlin for last year's friendly, it was off into the stadium. My previous two visits to watch Dortmund have come in the light yet the place was even more magical in the dark, four steep stands including the famous Yellow Wall opposite us were shrouded in darkness, surrounding the pristine and brilliantly lit green carpet below. 

Let the Podoloski Love In commence
Visit three but Signal Iduna Park remains breathtaking
The away section is up with the God's but the England fans created quite a racket. So much in fact that there was something of a backlash from the FA and the press about some of the more outdated war related chants. Bad tasting? Yes. Disgraceful? No not really when most of the German football supporters I've become friends with down the years through these trips don't mind a laugh and a joke about their past. The anger and outcry smacked of the current trend of people taking offence on other people's behalf.

Gareth Southgate took a bold approach by playing the fashionable-thanks-to-Antonio-Conte 3-4-1-2 formation and it largely worked as England played surprisingly well, only being undone by that moment of magic from Podolski. There were a couple of chances to get on the scoresheet but not enough to convince Coventry Sara and myself to stay for the final 10 minutes, given we both had to get the 23.15 from Dortmund back to Dusseldorf. 

Signal Iduna Park's away end is up with the Gods
It was at this part of the journey that one of the stranger things you are likely to see at a football game appeared as a German supporter in his 50s rocked up carrying a toy of Ernie from Sesame Street. There seemed to be no logical explanation for this but the bloke seemed happy enough to pose for a selfie. No doubt some members of the British press and the FA would see this as a disgraceful piss take as well in which case I look forward to having my England Supporters Membership revoked.

One of the key elements in making a three day trip with no accommodation work is making sure you don't fall asleep in random places before the overnight travel element. This can be quite difficult if, say for example, you have had 10 pints across 14 hours on only five hours sleep. The trick is not to sit down, keep moving and find something to occupy yourself. 

Well here we were back at Dusseldorf Station, 20 minutes before the train back to Luxembourg when I made the cardinal mistake of sitting down in the waiting room. The result? Waking up two hours later with my booked train long gone. This was even more ridiculous in light of the fact that there was a bloke physically lying on the floor of the waiting room sleeping when I entered it whom I heartily laughed at owing to his stupidity for getting into a position whereby he was almost certainly going to miss his train. There was egg well and truly on face when I was finally shaken out of my slumber at 4am, 90 minutes after my train pulled out of the station.

Thankfully, the ticketing guards were very understanding of the situation, no doubt still basking in the glow of Podolski's perfect farewell of the previous day. Luxembourg City was eventually reached at 10am and what with it being daylight this time, the chance to explore was taken. 

Lovely Luxembourg City
Luxembourg City
It may be a boring place but it is actually a quite beautiful one. There are plenty of old buildings and a park running through the middle of the city in a valley. There is also the Stade Josy Barthel Stadium, a 20 minute hike from the city centre and home to the famous Luxembourg national team. Unfortunately there was no way in as the place was being prepared for the visit of France 48 hours later so a few photos from the outside had to suffice before heading back into town to do the only thing left to do until the flight home at 9pm - namely, drink some more beer in several more bars.

Stade Josy Barthel, home to the feared Luxembourg National Side
Luxembourg were gearing up for their huge game 48 hours later
against France
As is normally the case, this drinking killed the remaining hours of the day and gave the chance to reflect back on a successful time for all concerned. Lukas Podolski got the send-off he deserved and I ensured Luxembourg is done and dusted and I won't have to go back there again*

*Until England inevitably draw them in qualifying for Euro 2020

Germany: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Joshua Kimich, Antonio Rudiger, Mats Hummels, Jonas Hector, Julian Weigl (Emre Can), Toni Kroos, Julian Brandt (Andre Schurrle), Lukas Podolski 1 (Sebastian Rudy), Leroy Sane, Timo Werner (Thomas Muller).

England: Joe Hart, Michael Keane, Chris Smalling (John Stones), Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Jake Livermore (James Ward-Prowse), Eric Dier, Ryan Bertrand (Luke Shaw), Adam Lallana (Nathan Redmond), Dele Alli (Jesse Lingard), Jame Vardy (Marcus Rashford).

Attendance: 60,109