Day one of Euro 2016 saw the host nation open the tournament with a win thanks to a memorable goal from Dimitri Payet at the Stade de France.
But with teams arriving all over France for their first matches, there were plenty of talking points – and colourful characters – to be found…
PARIS TRANSFER CHIEF UNMASKED!
After collecting an Omnisport News reporter from the airport, the redoubtable Mahmadou’s ears almost pricked up to the roof of his swish Citroen estate when he heard our man was a journalist covering the tournament. You see, the esteemed chauffeur claimed to be part of a management agency that looks after a smattering of footballers, including two France internationals. In between driving taxis, obviously.
Anyway, the players named and tales told mean this was either a particularly left-field blag or Mama was telling the truth. For those who enjoy putting together abstract clues, Sunderland are apparently in for one of the group’s internationals, a young full-back, but are a whopping £5million shy of a £15m asking price.
Meanwhile, one of the teams who failed to escape relegation from the Premier League have a want-away client on their books but his admirers have baulked at a £20m tag. You heard it here first. Sort of.
RED FACES ABOUND IN LENS
Switzerland’s new captain was given something of an ignominious Euro 2016 introduction at the pre-Albania news conference in Lens.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, seated alongside coach Vladimir Petkovic and team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri, was introduced to the media at Stade Bollaert-Delelis as ‘Stephan Liechtensteiner’ by an aide. Cue a wry glance at Shaqiri, and some giggles from among the audience.
Minutes later, as Shaqiri began to respond to a French journalist on the front row, the lady cut across his answer to go to the next question before realising there had not been an answer to the last one. The Stoke City star took it in good humour, as she turned as red as the Swiss shirt.
But the Switzerland stars were not exempt from a touch of bashfulness themselves. Striker Eren Derdiyok pulled off a neat trick during training but, as he turned round to his supposed admirers, he found that the rest of the squad had already begun the next drill. At least it looked pretty good.
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 10, 2016
CHIVALRY AT CHANTILLY
Following England’s final training session in Chantilly ahead of their tournament opener against Russia, boss Roy Hodgson got a little more than he bargained for during a late morning stroll around the picturesque town.
On his way back to the England hotel, two men dressed head-to-town in full St. George regalia (the imitation armour and helmet gilded with glitter was particularly fetching) performed the kind of well-timed interception Hodgson will hope to see from his defenders at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday.
Thankfully, there was no fire-breathing on either side as handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged before the hearty dragon slayers stood beaming in possession of autographs and selfies.
NOTHING BUT GOOD TASTE IN LILLE’S FAN ZONE
Unsavoury scenes may have soured Marseille in the last 24 hours, but up in the north, something very different was on the menu.
Visiting fans have mixed with local patrons in Lille with minimal problems, culminating in a spirited yet highly positive atmosphere in the fan zone for France’s opening game.
Albania followers sharing pre-game drinks with the Swiss, a trio of proud Germans shaking hands with every local they could find, and even a determined rendition of ‘Will Grigg’s on fire’ from within the crowd all underlined a terrific sense of occasion made all-the-more positive given the pre-tournament security concerns.
And if that is not enough to whet the appetite, the ‘burger cheese bacon’ on offer is good enough for a fan zone all to itself.
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 10, 2016
WANT TO BE A EURO HERO? IT’S AS EASY AS PAYET
France’s curtain-raiser against Romania was an elaborate affair before a ball was even kicked, but it threatened to prove a damp squib for the hosts.
The intricate choreography of the opening ceremony – featuring can-can dancers, David Guetta and more than a few cumbersome costumes – had the Stade de France bouncing, but the match which followed left thousands of home fans feeling more than a little anxious.
Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman all struggled to unlock a resilient Romania defence which seemed poised to hold out for a 1-1 draw. That was until the 89th minute, when Dimitri Payet swung a boot from 25 yards and found the top corner, before a standing ovation moved him to tears.
“It’s quite easy in football when you can bang it into the top corner,” said France coach Didier Deschamps. If every team opts for the same “easy” answer, this could be one of the best Euros ever.