Luka Modric got Croatia’s Euro 2016 off to a winning start on day three – more from him in a little while – and Poland and Germany were the victors in Group C, vanquishing Northern Ireland and Ukraine respectively.
But we learned plenty more than that, such as how coaches should shelve all their tactical theories and just pick the guy with the catchiest terrace song.
WILL GRIGG’S ON FIRE – NORTHERN IRELAND NOT SO MUCH
Although Will Grigg played no part in Northern Ireland’s 1-0 Group C defeat at the hands of Poland, the Wigan Athletic striker was the name on everyone’s lips on Sunday. The Irish fans could not get enough of him, blaring the chant that has taken the football world by storm.
“Will Grigg’s on fire” we were repeatedly told before the game, even after he was left out of the starting XI for Sunday’s encounter at the Stade de Nice. Michael O’Neill was not to be influenced, though, and did not even bring the striker on when they went in search of a late equaliser.
The result? There would be no equaliser. Lesson learned? When you have a striker who’s on fire, you play him!
Northern Ireland fans have Nice bouncing, to Will Grigg’s on fire!! pic.twitter.com/5b5uzByE4x
— The Away Fans (@theawayfans) June 12, 2016
HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER
Luka Modric’s stunning volley to secure three points against Turkey understandably sent Croatia fans wild inside a raucous Parc des Princes. One gentleman, who you’d be forgiven for thinking reached his peak moment on Sunday by having his entire head painted in the colours of the Croatian flag, got so excited he vaulted the advertising hoardings and burst on the field to celebrate with his heroes.
Speaking at his man-of-the-match news conference, Modric was asked if the intruder made him fear for his safety. On the contrary, the Real Madrid star lavished him with the kind of post-match plaudits any of his playing colleagues would have welcomed.
“It could have been also a supporter from Turkey but, thank God, it was a Croatian supporter,” he chuckled. “After scoring this goal I didn’t notice him. Only after celebrating, I saw it was someone who was not my team-mate [he was wearing jeans and a lot of face paint – come on, Luka!]. “But this man was not a dangerous one. He went with a positive attitude.”
CONTE’S OPEN AND SHUT CASE
Antonio Conte and Gianluigi Buffon cut incongruous figures in the centre circle of the Stade de Lyon, idly inspecting a few blades of grass, the coach in a suit and Buffon casually decked out in jeans and a shirt.
The Azzurri boss insisted his decision not to train at the venue was a consequence of the team’s preference for practicing in the morning and not because of fears over Belgian spies.
But the former Juventus tactician remained on guard ahead of the Group E clash, raising some laughs in the pre-match media conference with his pithy rejection of the traditional pleas to reveal the Italy starting XI.
POLICE APPEAL TO RETURNING ENGLAND FANS
Fans getting off the Eurostar at St Pancras were met by around a dozen police officers, appealing for witnesses to the Marseille violence.
Supporters were stopped and asked for any information or video footage, with fliers also handed out, as police seek to piece together the events that marred England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia.
— Pete Marshall (@petemarshall7) June 12, 2016
From brilliance by the likes of Dimitri Payet and Modric on the field to countless fans having the time of their lives off it, it’s clear Euro 2016 can still be a wonderful thing for so many. It would be awful for the mindless and utterly deplorable few to wreck that as they seem to intend.
ON SAINT-CLOUD NINE
With those dreadful scenes in Marseille fresh in the memory, Turkey and Croatia took it upon themselves to lift the mood in the build up to their match in Paris.
Our reporter found himself on a Metro where a Croatian bunch struck up a winning alliance with an accordion player. They spotted some Turkish fans and encouraged them to chant their own songs – the vigour of them bouncing up and down to Arda Turan’s name was sadly unmatched by the captain’s performance later on.
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 12, 2016
Alighting at Porte de Saint-Cloud, the goodwill continued – one Croat breaking away from a mass singalong to warmly shake three Turks by the hand. Outside, a Turkey fan hanging out of a car with his national flag was greeted by the outstretched arms of a Croatian supporter in a jesters’ hat. More of this, please, everyone!
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