After the World Cup in Germany we stayed in the German-speaking territory and travelled to our neighbours Switzerland and Austria for the Euro two years later. It would be my first European tournament. This time, we supported another team alongside Germany: Russia. But soon it would become three teams...
How my love for a certain team began
While Germany and Russia got our support for personal reasons, it was more of a lucky coincidence for the third team. The tournament started early for Germany, on the second day. Our opponent was Poland which made things complicated for Klose and Podolski, who had their roots in that country. It was the latter that secured our victory but he didn't celebrate in honour of his home country.
Two days later, Russia's first match took place – against the team that would end up being the third country we supported: Spain. At the World Cup I didn't pay attention to them so they were completely unknown to me. I can't remember when exactly our support for Spain started. If it was after or during the match. I don't even know how it all happened, except that it was mainly my sister's fault. She started talking about the goalkeeper that she somehow noticed, and then Spain just became the third team on our list. I took an example of my older sister and went along with it. It was actually a good decision as Spain soon became my favourite team. But unlike my sister, it wasn't because of the goalkeeper. It was the first time I noticed a certain player and said player would go on scoring three goals in the first match. Russia lost 4-1... but they still had two matches to attend.
Our defeat to Croatia was a shock and suddenly put the next round in danger. Spain ensured the quarterfinals and a certain player with the jersey number 7 scored the decisive goal. Russia won as well but needed another win to advance to the knockout stage.
Everything was at risk for Germany in the last match. It got serious against one of the hosts, Austria. But like Switzerland the tournament ended early for them and Germany qualified for the knockout stage as the group's runner-up. While Spain could lean back, being the secured group winner, Russia had to win to earn a place in the quarterfinals. It was the two best-known names of the team that settled their qualification. With Spain being the group winner with three victories and Russia as the runner-up, all of our three teams were among the last eight.
Germany opened the knockout stage with a nail-biter that ended with a one goal-margin. The match Russia against the Netherlands was so spectacular I can still remember it very well. Shortly after the 2-1, my father predicted another goal but my sister didn't believe it would happen. Moments later, she would be proven wrong as Russia would indeed score a third goal. It is still one of my favourite matches after all these years. Spain were the last to battle it out for a semifinal spot against the current World Champions, Italy. We were fascinated watching Spain's style of play that was mistakenly called „triangolo“ by our commentator. (Apparently he didn't know its real name, „tiki taka“. Neither did we, obviously.) The match was decided by penalties that were won by Spain, much to our delight. Three of the four semi finalists were the teams that we supported. The first match in group D between Russia and Spain would get a remake.
But before that, Germany wanted to reach the final. The match started with a shock when Turkey took an early lead. Towards the end of regular time we drew and all signs were on extra time. But shortly before that could happen we managed to score the decisive goal and advanced to the final.
The match Russia against Spain 2.0 was also a battle between my sisters as they both liked a goalkeeper each. What I still remember very well is that it started to rain during the match. The Russians were put off by it as they seemed to not be used to wet grass, while the Spanish players could deal with it a lot better and went on to score goals that put them through to the final. Germany had found its opponent: Spain. I was torn between. Of course I would be happy if the victory was ours. But we already won a lot of times, and I would also love to see Spain winning. Probably even more than ourselves...
It was disappointing that a certain number 7 didn't play. But it had its reason, and it didn't ruin my mood. Our opponents took the lead –and to be honest I didn't mind us losing. I secretly hoped that it would stay this way and we wouldn't score. And that's what happened. Spain won – and I was truely happy for them. Honestly speaking, I think I supported them way more than my own country. During the tournament, I became a traitor for the first time – and it wouldn't be the last.