After 36 intense games, Euro 2016 celebrated the second of two rest days on Friday ahead of the upcoming round-of-16 clashes.
But despite the lack of games, there was still plenty of action to be seen in France. As ever, we present the pick of the more seldom-seen moments, featuring a rap about a not so free-scoring Belgian attacker.
CALL ME BENTEKE, BENTEKE
It’s fair to say Euro 2016 has not been Belgium striker Christian Benteke’s tournament just yet.
The Liverpool man remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes against Italy, while he featured for a combined total of 11 minutes during two substitute cameos against the Republic of Ireland and Sweden.
That’s not stopped Benteke from inspiring other people, though.
Young Belgian rapper Axel Vemba, going by the stage name Axelence, already launched a song in honour of the beleaguered striker ahead of the tournament and has now gone a step further by shooting a video to go with it.
We’ll leave it to you to judge whether the song and its accompanying clip are at the same level as Benteke’s performances in France or slightly more inspiring!
— Stefan Coerts (@StefanCoerts) June 24, 2016
BREXIT CASTS CHILL OVER ICELAND’S PREPARATIONS FOR ENGLAND
The mood at Iceland’s press conference was initially quite subdued ahead of their meeting with England in Euro 2016’s round of 16, as Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the economic uncertainty it had triggered hung over the room like a shroud of the volcanic ash the island in the North Atlantic knows so well.
Iceland has intimate experience of an acute monetary emergency, having opted to default rather than seek a bailout from English and Danish banks in the wake of the original GFC.
Tourism helped to revive the Nordic nation’s reset economy and there was plenty of curiosity about how England’s star players will respond to their country’s decision to walk away from the continent leading into the game in Nice, with Omnisport interview
ed by Icelandic radio to garner the views of British journalists.
— Iain Strachan (@IainStrachan) June 24, 2016
NELLY THE ELEPHANT KNOWS BEST
At every major tournament there is an animal whose magical predictive powers tell us, the gullible public, who is going to win each match.
We’ve had Paul the octopus, Flopsy the kangaroo and even Big Head the sea turtle.
Well, this year, we have Nelly the elephant, who resides at Serengeti-Park in Hodenhagen, northern Germany.
Nelly’s owners claim the one-and-a-half ton animal gets 90 per cent of its predictions correct, by kicking the ball into the net of the losing team.
All this spells bad news for Slovakia as Nelly has plumped for a Germany win on Sunday, proving that even elephants don’t like to stick their necks out.
— BILD News (@BILD_News) June 24, 2016
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, BREXIT?
Michael O’Neill has been meticulous in his preparations for Euro 2016, leaving no stone unturned in his tactical approach to mastermind Northern Ireland’s progress to the last 16.
Unfortunately, O’Neill cannot claim similarly immaculate work when it comes to exercising his democratic right in the EU referendum.
As the UK tried to wrap its head around what on earth Brexit might actually mean, the 46-year-old sheepishly gave his own account at the Parc des Princes.
“I personally made an error and didn’t give myself an opportunity to vote with the postal vote, so I’m disappointed in that myself,” he confessed.
Gareth Bale and company might be the disappointed ones if they expect O’Neill to be similarly slapdash in the French capital on Saturday.
IRISH CONSULATE STEPS IN TO KEEP FANS SINGING
Supporters of the Republic of Ireland have won plenty of praise for their backing of the boys in green at Euro 2016 so far.
In Lille, the scene of the dramatic victory over Italy that sent them into the knockouts, the ear-splitting noise at the full-time whistle had the players talking at length after the match almost as much as Robbie Brady’s winner.
Such a roar comes at a cost, clearly, but the Irish consulate is eager to ensure that the support when they face the host nation on Sunday does not waver.
After giving out free bags of favourite Irish crisps earlier in the day, the temporary consulate – an offshoot of the embassy in Paris – has stepped in to save the voice of a nation in the past 24 hours by handing out free throat lozenges to croaky fans.
— Irish Embassy Paris (@IrlEmbParis) June 23, 2016