England triumphed in the so-named ‘Battle of Britain’ against Wales, Northern Ireland stunned Ukraine and Germany were thwarted by Poland in another eventful day at Euro 2016.
As ever, we present the pick of the more seldom-seen moments of gold from the tournament in France, featuring England’s coronation of a new hero and Will Grigg on you-know-what…
After a frantic few days in Marseille, it was reassuring to find the pace of life had slowed down significantly on Thursday.
Following the carnage of the weekend when Russian fans went on the rampage around the Old Port and inside the Stade Velodrome – not to mention the scenes of anti-social behaviour from thousands of England fans – Marseille barely had time to recover before France and Albania rolled into town.
The streets were again packed on Wednesday, although this time with a far friendlier vibe as French and Albanians mixed freely.
That feeling of goodwill and tranquillity continued into Thursday as life, finally, got back to normal.
People went about their business and this gentleman did what he does best!!
Tranquility has returned to the streets of Marseille! pic.twitter.com/pAGecWJgkh
— Jon Fisher (@fisherjon10) June 16, 2016
ETERNAL YOUTH: HODGSON HAS THE SECRET!
Roy Hodgson admitted after England’s victory over Wales that he has rarely celebrated a goal with quite so much vigour.
One reporter from Norway enquired afterwards as to whether the 68-year-old felt any younger, such was the party atmosphere in England’s dressing-room.
“I feel younger than ever as long as I keep away from mirrors, then I can feel as young as I like!” came the reply.
Sounds too good to be true. Then again, so did an England win with 90 minutes played…
Hodgson: “I feel younger than ever as long as I keep away from mirrors, then I can feel as young as I like! #ENG
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 16, 2016
WILL GRIGG FEVER IS TAKING OVER FRANCE
A special mention on Thursday should go to the unofficial song of the tournament, ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’, belted out lustily by the Northern Ireland fans several times during and then long after their 2-0 win over Ukraine at Stade de Lyon.
The reimagining of Gala’s 1996 dance classic Freed From Desire has captured the hearts of UK football supporters and the fever is threatening to spread throughout Europe, with Ukrainians, neutrals and even some journalists unable to resist taping their feet and joining in.
Has an as-yet unused substitute ever been the centre of so much attention at a major tournament? Perhaps not since Theo Walcott’s surprise call up to the England squad for the World Cup in 2006.
Even if he does not succeed in getting on the pitch, defences are set to remain terrified throughout the competition.
PROBABLY THE BEST TROPHY IN THE WORLD
Irish FA employee David Currie was left holding the baby after the team’s 2-0 win over Ukraine, the ‘baby’ in question being Gareth McAuley’s enormous UEFA Man of the Match award.
Sponsored by a prominent Danish brewer – the same company responsible for quenching the thirst of journalists after each match via a carefully guarded and branded fridge – the trophy is big and heavy enough to be considered a dangerous weapon.
— Iain Strachan (@IainStrachan) June 16, 2016
And McAuley himself, having ticked a chest-dive goal celebration off his bucket list following a headed opener in the driving rain at Stade de Lyon, told Omnisport he is worried about being hit with excess baggage when it is time for Northern Ireland to go home.
But if their victory in Lyon is anything to go by, that might not be for a while a yet.
ENGLAND FANS’ A-PAUL-ING BEHAVIOUR
Beating Wales with a stoppage-time winner was pretty memorable for most England fans. For one, it was unforgettable.
On a packed train from Lens back to Lille, an entire carriage proceeded to serenade the most popular man of the hour: not Jamie Vardy, not Daniel Sturridge, but ‘Paul’.
What began with a mild-mannered attempt to distract this gentleman from a phone call turned into the most spectacular raft of tribute songs ever heard over a 40-minute rail journey.
‘Pauly’s on fire’, ‘Pauly is our captain’, ‘Pauly’s coming home’, ‘He’ll sit where he wants’ and ‘Pauly’s on the pole’ – he was holding a railing – were among the favourites belted out by 30 or more fans who had found a new hero in northern France.
For everybody in that carriage – including the man himself, grinning broadly as he thanked his fans back on the platform in Lille – it was a surreal experience. Nobody’s even sure if his name really was Paul.
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