Gerard Pique got titleholders Spain’s Euro 2016 off to a victorious start on day four at the expense of Czech Republic, while Italy brought Belgium back to earth after Republic of Ireland previously had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Sweden.
But we learned plenty more than that, such as how football might not be France’s most popular sport this summer.
EURO 2016 HAS A RIVAL IN LYON
Most people would assume it does not get any bigger or better than a major tournament of the beautiful game in football-mad France.
But for a keen bunch of Petanque devotees, a contest beside the Rhone on Monday morning was being taken at least as seriously as the attempts of Didier Deschamps’ side to lift a third Henri Delaunay Trophy.
With matching polo shirts and straw hats, announcements over a loud speaker and the improbable accompaniment of Mercedes sponsorship, here was a social event to give the first match of the European Championship to be staged in the city, Belgium versus Italy at Stade de Lyon later that night, a quintessentially French run for its money.
Allez les boules!
— Iain Strachan (@IainStrachan) June 13, 2016
MORATA’S REVENGE FOR ALL STRIKERS DENIED BY THE OFFSIDE FLAG
Any striker who has suffered the frustration of a linesman’s raised flag will have given Alvaro Morata a nod of approval on Sunday.
The Juventus man started up front for Spain in their opener against Czech Republic, but his most notable contribution during a difficult match came in the form of a crunching tackle on assistant referee Pawel Sokolnicki.
Admittedly, there wasn’t a huge amount he could have done to avoid wiping out the man on the touchline as he lost his footing when attempting to retrieve a pass. But at least Sokolnicki didn’t make a meal of it.
THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT CLUB IS YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB
The violent scenes that marred Russia’s trip to Marseille at the weekend were almost replicated at a media opportunity at the team’s base at Croissy-sur-Seine on Monday.
One Russian journalist asked another to quieten down but only aggravated his tetchy colleague who proceeded to shout abuse at him before advancing menacingly over to his desk, seemingly ready to trade blows.
Only the intervention of a third Russian journalist prevented the two from engaging in a fist fight. He managed to restrain his compatriot just in time, leading him away from the room, with the foreign media corps looking on in bemusement.
Things heating up at the #RUS team base. A near bust-up between two journalists. One had to be restrained and led out of the room!
— Neil Barker (@Mockneyrebel) June 13, 2016
ROAD TRIP FOR THE GUDJONSSON FAMILY
When your country has never qualified for a major tournament before, like Iceland, you want to be there when your heroes make their debut at last. And that’s exactly what the Gudjonsson family thought.
“This is a lifetime experience, it may never happen again,” they told our man Alex Burd. “It will be unforgettable when the national anthem plays.”
And the best way to get to Saint-Etienne? It’s over 1500 miles, so one might think an airplane is the logical answer. Not for the Gudjonsson family, though. Family motor home road trip it is then!
— Alex Burd (@alexburd) 13 juni 2016
MOULING ROUGE INSPIRES IRISHMAN
Paris is a place to be inspired by one’s surrounds, with the Eiffel Tower arguably the ultimate romantic gesture.
This can be a mixed blessing, though.
Amid some pre-match merriment before his team’s 1-1 draw with Sweden, a Republic of Ireland fan decided to climb on top of a van outside iconic burlesque venue the Moulin Rouge and take all his clothes off. Our dubious hero was egged on every step of the way by a fully supportive crowd, with the climax of his act drawing roars of approval.
Thankfully Wes Hoolahan’s fine goal at the Stade de France a few hours later meant this was not the standalone – in every sense – Irish highlight of the day.
— Eoghan Doherty (@dohertyeoghan) June 13, 2016