Kris Fernandes is a FIFA accredited freelance writer based in Toronto. He has been actively involved in spreading the love of the beautiful game in Canada and abroad for several years through administration, media coverage and coaching. He also covered the 2006 FIFA World Cup live for CBCSports.ca with the popular journal series, "A Canadian in Germany". Contact Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org
VIENNA, AUSTRIA — After the first semifinal, all the focus was back on Vienna for the Spain-Russia match.
The Russians invaded the city after legendary coach Guss Hiddink again turned straw into gold by dousing off the red hot Dutch in the quarter-finals.
I had a few hours to hang outside of the stadium to chill with some fans and enjoy a great pre-game party.
First off, these two teams have the best altered flags of any I have seen at the tournament. A lot of Spaniards have these flags with a bull silhouette in the middle that is classic. I have made it my mission to bring one home with me. The Russians have theirs with a killer bear coming out at you, though sadly neither were being sold. I did however land a Russian scarf - my 16th scarf since coming here.
A 100-piece Russian marching band, led by what looked to be Sports Illustrated's entire line-up of swimsuit models, emerged from a corner and played for a while.
I knew the Russians loved their vodka but a lot of these older guys just down this stuff like water. They'll stand in circles and pass a bottle or two around while laughing out loud. You could smell the harshness from across the street.
I ran into three Spanish supporters from Valencia dressed as Oranges. I mean, full out orange costumes, with happy faces in the middle. Later on when UEFA security staff insisted they check them in at the baggage depot, fans of both teams hissed and whistled until they budged and allowed them to wear them inside.
One thing that has really ticked a lot of people off here is that UEFA bans the sale of alcoholic beer during international matches, thus everyone is forced to drink non-alcoholic Carlsberg. A number of people stand outside the stadiums drinking a few regular beers while holding big signs protesting the non-alcoholic beverages.
Despite a few hot and sunny days, the weather has been terrible at this tournament and it came down hard before kickoff so everyone rushed to get in. Luckily the stadium has a giant roof covering most of the fans because it poured throughout the game.
I wrote in an earlier piece that every fan should try sitting with the Spanish at least once in their lives. Overall, I believe the Spanish have been the best fans at this tournament, but the Russian fans meant business during this game.
Even at Germany matches during the last World Cup I have not seen so many flags within a supporters section. And they were as vocal as you can get, drowning out the thunder from outside. They didn't stop for a single minute during the first half and even when down 3-0 they still went at. The Russian team and players earned a serious amount of respect from a lot of people.
Though it was still pouring outside after the match the Spanish fans danced in the rain and some even went sliding down muddy hills, Crocodile Mile style.
Germany vs. Spain in the final — this is going to be huge.