A quiet morning by the pool, catching a bit of sun and drying kit. Preparations and down to meet for a 12:00 departure in the coach. We were at the ground for 13:00 and ready for the off at 14:00, the Aussies playing Scotland in the other semi-final. We were playing on the top pitch and started with some good play, despite the midday heat. We went 1-0 up and then 2-0, ending 2-1, despite another series of opportunities to score (yes, I shot wide on one) and a missed flick (not me). Still, we got the right result and face Australia in tomorrow’s final.
The evening saw us back in the coach for the tournament dinner – held at the Hollandse Club with c. 500 people in attendance. Good food, a couple of drinks, a few presentations and some great Bangra music. However, we were away by 10:15 (after the Aussies), in preparation for the final game.
Saturday dawned and after a late breakfast we again began preparations. Only 16 players can be named and play in internationals, so two of us would be standing down. I had offered for earlier games, angling for the finals, but at the ground, I was approached and given the bad news. Felt absolutely gutted, but told the coach, and later the skipper that a) I would prepare as normal and b) they must concentrate on getting the squad ready. There had been many fewer injuries than Hong Kong, a tribute to everyone’s fitness and PJ’s mantra on hamstrings, but three had fitness tests. Shortly before the final gatherings, I was told to get my shinpads on and twigged I would play. In the event, PJ was a big man and with a tweak that might have gone after 5 minutes play, he stood down. I could see he felt like I had. Talk about a finely balanced contest – the Aussies went 1-0 up, I think from a short corner. Then Conrad made a sparkling run into the circle and roofed the ball – 1-1. I came on at halftime and we continued to look for the opening. At full time, we went into two periods of 5 minutes sudden death. Our fitness was telling now and I and the skipper Kim, came very close to sliding in a cross, but too fast. So it was down to 5 penalty flicks – could they overcome the footballer’s inability to win? With Webby in goal, there was always a good chance of a save, but the Aussies went ahead as we had two saved, then they slipped and it was down to Kim to step up and level it. Yes! Then into sudden death – first up, Nobby Stiles and in it went top right. The Aussie striker settled, but put it on the post - and we were winners, streaking across the pitch to mob Webby (of the quadruple heart bypass, so some care required!). A great contest and not a great way to lose, but someone has to. A gold medal for each of us, a large gold cup to go home in Kim’s hand luggage and a host of memories. We came to win and achieved it.
The evening saw us have our own dinner, with everyone in attendance, bar Andrew K who was in the air back for an Ofsted inspection. The ladies have been a fantastic support for us and all were wearing the gold medals. A great evening with Gilly in fine form with his speech, followed by the up-to-now secret fines committee of PJ and Tim. No escape for anyone, including me for Turette’s in front of the NZ goal and Mike Rudd for parking his ship on top of three tower blocks, fines averaging $50.