There were wins for Switzerland and Wales, while Russia snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw against England as Euro 2016 got into full swing across France.
But there was also plenty going on away from the field, from charm offensives to downright offensive.
ALBANIANS BRING THE HOUSE DOWN
Albania’s debut on a big international stage didn’t quite go as they had hoped, but one thing’s for sure – they’re here to celebrate.
Traffic was held up heading into Lens town centre as fans clambered out of windows to wave flags, or even stopped their cars completely so they could grab a flare or blow an air horn.
The carnival atmosphere continued into the city as dozens of fans, decked out in traditional dress and football tops, danced in front of music stations set up within the streets – and all without the need for police to become involved.
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 11, 2016
It was a positive sight to behold. Just imagine if they start winning…
WHILE SOME PEOPLE JUST SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED OUT OF THE HOUSE
The World Cup of 2014 was played out to a soundtrack of Samba music as Brazil danced its way through the tournament. From Rio de Janeiro to Manaus, there was the backdrop of uplifting music as fans enjoyed a carnival of international football.
Fast forward two years and there were two very different noises most prevalent on the streets of Marseille leading up to England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia – sirens and broken glass.
Wherever you went in the city – in particular, down by the old port – there was a siren to be heard. Police vans, ambulances and fire engines were all out in force, not to mention the large tank-like vehicle deployed to fire a water cannon at trouble-making supporters.
On the floor, every step was met with the crunch of shattered glass from the hundreds of bottles thrown in the direction of police. It wasn’t just England fans at fault, there were reports of Russian ‘super ultras’ rampaging through the city looking to cause havoc while the role of the French police will also be called into question.
Either way, in terms of making the right noises, it was a collection of bum notes.
ANTE SAYS RELAX
Ante Cacic journey from owner of a TV and radio repairs shop in Zagreb to Croatia boss via a nomadic coaching career is one of the more endearing tales of Euro 2016.
At the pre-match news conference ahead of Sunday’s Group D opener against Turkey we were granted an insight into Cacic the man, the leader and the leader of men.
Quizzed over why he elected to have his team wallop San Marino 10-0 in their final warm-up outing while their rivals in France tackled more testing assignments, Cacic gave a simple response.
“Every coach has his own choice. This was just my choice and I was thinking that in my opinion we don’t need too many hard matches,” he explained. “We don’t need to play against such a strong opponent.”
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 11, 2016
I bet there were half-days aplenty and dress-down Fridays galore back in the glory days of Cacic TV and Radio. They must have been wonderful times, although Dejan Lovren would never have got a job.
THE EMPEROR AND THE ARTIST
If the first-half of pre-match proceedings in Paris was a touch “fun boss”, we were served up a double act of learned school master and teacher’s pet when Fatih Terim was flanked by Turkey playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu.
Given the chance to put veteran tactician Terim on the spot over stationing him on the right of midfield, Calhanoglu declined somewhat spectacularly. “Mr Terim, he puts me on the right side, sometimes in the middle. It is all his decision and I am absolutely there to contribute, to do my best for the team,” he gushed.
“Hakan is an important player, he is very humble and he is a gentleman. He knows how to stay humble,” came Terim’s response.
Happy to join in with this fawning, one reporter asked the pair to reflect on their statuses as ‘The Emperor’ and ‘The Artist’, with Calhanoglu possibly daubing on the acrylics just a little too strongly. “I can understand that many people consider me as an artist. I am really working very hard, it is not easy to be an artist,” he mused.
Hakan trotted off for training shortly afterwards, his failure to leave an apple on the desk a mild surprise. Terim then talked at length about Turkey’s most important player – Arda Turan. You don’t become an emperor without a certain line in brutality.
Mascots at major tournaments are often forgettable characters, but UEFA has been left a little red-faced by their Euro 2016 creation.
‘Super Victor’ was the name chosen for this particular doll – a pint-sized hero, complete with a cape – but shoppers hoping to make an online purchase were given something of a rude awakening when sex toys by the same name appeared in their browser search.
The topic trended on social media to such an extent that UEFA issued a statement, published on Saturday in L’Equipe, which read: “All we can say is that these sex toys have never been made by us”.
We’ll happily take their word for that.
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