Despite the promise of a meet-up with the Red Devils of Belgium, it turned out to be more of a gathering with the Red Dragons, for the first half at least.
Word had emerged via the You Boys In Green supporter forum that a group of Belgian fans were meeting to watch the England-Wales match with the Irish at the Brasserie des Marquises in Arcachon, the base for many supporters 60km outside Bordeaux.
As the first half rolled on, however, the only red jerseys amid the large Irish contingent were on Welsh fans who had stayed on in the seaside town following their clash with Slovakia in Bordeaux last Saturday.
It later transpired that the Belgians’ bus got stuck in traffic, and they arrived true to their word amid cheers from the waiting Irish late in the second half.
Mattias from Belgium revealed that their contingent isn’t staying locally, but that the organiser in their group arranged the bus to stop off in Arcachon to meet with the Irish.
“The guy responsible, he knows one of the Irish guys, and he called them and said we would all meet up together,” said Mattais.
“It’s very nice, we’re having a good time.”
He said what convinced the group to take the break on their journey was the Irish fans’ reputation.
“We know about the Irish fans already, and now we see it,” said Mattais.
“We know why they are famous. The songs they sing, the ambience, the atmosphere. It’s great.”
Among the Welsh fans represented in the bar were Newport County supporters Matt Southall, ‘Speedy’ — who shares his name with late Welsh legend Gary Speed — and Mark Davis, whose nickname ‘Sparky’ gives more than a hint as to which commanding forward he was named after.
“It’s been fantastic, couldn’t be better,” said Matt. “Staying on the beach in Arcachon, we went to the game on Saturday and heading on to Toulouse on Monday. Best football trip I’ve ever had.”
Speedy said they’ve had a great time with the Irish fans who have arrived in the past few days.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant. Everyone is happy, friendly, just enjoying the football, it’s been fantastic. A real party,” he said.
Mark shared a train down with some Irish from La Rochelle.
“All the Irish fans and all the Welsh fans were getting on great, it’s been fantastic,” he said.
Mark said that he missed Gareth Bale’s opening strike because he was on his phone, but said that he knew by the reaction of the Irish in the bar that something special had happened.
“I just saw loads of cheering through the window,” he said.
Despite the long-standing rivalry, Matt had some sympathy for the few English fans in the square.
“There are only four England fans here. We knew what would happen if we got a goal,” he said of the celebrations that greeted Bale’s free-kick.
The handful of English fans were understandably quiet amid a gathering of Irish, Welsh, and Belgians, but they erupted with joy following Daniel Sturridge’s late winner.
And those same English fans took with good humour the response they received to their celebrations, as “You only sing when you’re winning” rang around the pedestrian square outside the bar.
With the formalities of the football out of the way, supporters from all four countries mingled and swapped stories and chants in Arcachon’s Place des Marquises long into the night.
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