Day 6 saw us photograph Argentina against Iceland at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow. When applying for matches we had the option of going pitchside, or shooting from the tribune. I really enjoyed shooting from the tribune at Euro 2016 so I chose to shoot this match, and England v Panama from there. The tribune seats are located near the written journalist’s seats, up in the stand, giving a nice clear shot looking down onto the pitch.
We arrived at the ground around 10am, ready for the 4pm kick-off. Those that are shooting from the tribune are pre-allocated a position so there are none of the shenanigans that go with queuing for a pitchside position. This was fantastic as I could concentrate on shooting the build-up to the match instead of worrying about where I was to sit.
I shot some general views (GV’s) of the stadium, inside and out, and photographed a small platoon of security personnel who were helpfully standing near the media centre.
I sent them off, ate some food and before we knew it, fans started to arrive at the stadium. The media centre was positioned at the Argentina end so we headed out to photograph their fans arriving.
The Argentinians outnumbered the Icelandics 10-1 and provided some great photos in their various fancy dress, masks and face paints. I noticed a fan with a Lionel Messi mask on so asked him to pose with his friends who also had masks, assuming they were all Messi. When they posed up, I noticed one had a Putin mask on, and one had a Ronaldo mask, complete with missing teeth. Even better!
Before going up to the tribune to get ready for the match I trekked around to the opposite end of the stadium in the hope of finding some more Icelandics. There were not many at all but I found a few who were happy to pose up.
I headed back to the media centre, uploaded the remaining photos and headed to the Canon Service Centre. Nikon and Canon are at each venue out here providing basic services such as sensor cleans, small repairs and loans. I borrowed a 24-70mm f/2.8 II lens and headed out to the tribune.
To my left was a photographer who was shooting on nothing more than a kit lens and who took less than 30 photos the entire match, and to my right was a journalist who didn’t even have a camera, yet had a photo bib and a photo position! When there are up to 100 people on the waiting lists alone for these matches it seems wrong that positions are being taken by those who do not need them, however, the extra space for myself was very welcome.
I put the 24-70mm on my 7D Mark II and clamped it to the barrier in front of me. I attached my Yongnuo remote triggers so that every time I shot a photo on my main lens, the 400mm, it would take a photo on the remote too. I focussed the remote on the Iceland goal, thinking that it was much more likely to see some action.
Iceland missed a sitter early on before Sergio Aguero put Argentina 1-0 up. At this point, it seemed that the match would go to script but Iceland had other ideas as they equalised 5 minutes later. I got one frame of the goal – the one before was out of focus and the ball was missing from the one after! – and the celebration ran towards my side.
Half time came and I moved my remote camera to cover the nearer goal, which Argentina would be attacking in the second half. The match progressed with Argentina pressing hard, but failing to find a way through the Icelandics’ resolute defence until Argentina won a penalty. Up-stepped Lionel Messi and everyone assumed – and hoped – that he’d hit the back of the net from 12 yards against Iceland’s part-time film director goalkeeper. Unfortunately - for us photographers at least - a poor penalty was saved by Hannes Halldorsson. I was blocked by the referee for the penalty kick (in hindsight, I should have gone onto the goalkeeper) but the remote saved the day and made for a nice wider photo.
From that point onwards, the story of the match was always going to be the missed penalty unless Argentina could find a goal from somewhere. I concentrated on Messi as much as possible and shot some photos of him taking on the Iceland defence. Every time he touched the ball he was surrounded by at least 2 Icelandics.
Messi and Argentina could not find the breakthrough and the match finished 1-1. Messi looked suitably dejected at the final whistle and even buried his head in his shirt as he trudged off the pitch. Thanks, Lionel.
Next up was an early flight to Volgograd for England’s opening match against Tunisia. Blog post to come soon.