Hooligans, great goals, solid defence: Round 1 of Euro 2016 had it all
Tear gas, great goals and acrobatic saves have shared the headlines in the first round of group matches at Euro 2016.euro 2016 Updated: Jun 15, 2016 15:57 IST
Tear gas, great goals and acrobatic saves have shared the headlines in the first round of group matches at Euro 2016.
From the glass-strewn streets of Marseille to Luka Modric’s wonder strike for Croatia, there have been plenty of eye-catching moments, both good and bad.
Here are five things to know about the first round of matches in the group stage at this year’s European Championships.
Return of the hooligan
After six years of relative peace at tournaments with European teams, hooliganism is back with a bang and a beer bottle. Three days of clashes involving fans from England and Russia, local youths and riot police brought water cannons and tear gas to the cobbled streets of Marseille’s Old Port. A prosecutor blamed “highly trained” Russian thugs for the worst of the violence, which continued inside the Stade Velodrome after England and Russia drew 1-1.
While Uefa has told Russia it will be kicked out of Euro 2016 if there is more trouble at a stadium, there are still fears for the matches ahead. As if it needed making clear, Russia forward Artem Dzyuba reminded fans: “We are not in a street fighting championship here.”
There is no denying that Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all bring something to their sides at the European Championships. Ronaldo has been the least fortunate of the trio so far, missing two clear chances against Iceland.
But his Real Madrid teammate Bale opened the scoring for Wales in its 2-1 victory over Slovakia, and Ibrahimovic conjured up the own goal by Ciaran Clark that earned Sweden a 1-1 draw with Ireland. Though all three stand above their teammates in terms of talent and profile, Bale’s comment was a familiar one. “As I’ve said many a time, it’s about the team, not about individuals.”
Heavyweights hit back
A highly-rated Belgium squad with the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, and a promising young England team led by Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, were tipped to shake up the order at Euro 2016.
It hasn’t happened yet, and the old order is doing just fine.
Belgium was outsmarted in a 2-0 defeat by Italy, while slack defending at the end left England with a 1-1 draw against Russia.
In contrast, past tournament winners Spain, Germany and France -- like Italy -- have three points on the board. Hype is part of the modern game. But, as Italy coach Antonio Conte said after his team’s victory: “It proves that nothing is already written in football, and it is on the field where you have to make your point.”
Great goals, great saves
Euro 2016 already has a few of these to savour. Luka Modric’s 25-metre volley is the pick so far, with his instinctive shot from a long clearance securing Croatia’s 1-0 victory over Turkey. Dimitri Payet’s late winner for France against Romania was not far behind, while Ireland’s Wes Hoolahan scored with a sweetly-struck half volley in the draw with Sweden.
There have been some great saves too, with Thibaut Courtois keeping Belgium in its game against Italy and Petr Cech doing a similar job for Czech Republic against Spain. Yet the best save wasn’t from a goalkeeper, but Germany defender Jerome Boateng with his acrobatic goal-line clearance as he fell backward into the net against Ukraine.
Tight matches, no controversies
No team has yet scored more than two goals in a game, a fair indicator of how tightly contested the matches have been in France. Teams are particularly well-drilled in defence, with the Czechs being able to soak up 87 minutes of constant pressure from European champion Spain before conceding, and Iceland keeping Ronaldo’s Portugal at bay.
Not surprisingly, breakaway goals have been a feature of the tournament, with Italy, Germany and Hungary all being beneficiaries. Mercifully for Uefa’s match officials, though, there have been no refereeing controversies so far.