In Focus: Euro 2016 – Heroes and Villains of Matchday 1

Matchday one of Euro 2016 has come and gone in a flash. Ben Wills takes us through the heroes and villains of the first 12 games of the tournament.


Dimitri Payet – France

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For a while it seemed France would fail to win their opening match of Euro 2016, until Dimitri Payet brought his A-game to proceedings.

Olivier Giroud’s somewhat fortunate opening goal, which got the tournament properly underway, came as a result of Payet’s sweeping cross. Then, the West Ham winger stole the headlines all for himself with his dramatic late winner.

With all the negative headlines hitting France and Euro 2016 this week, on-the-pitch, matters have given the country something to smile about at least.

Vedran Corluka – Croatia

Vedran Corluka had a really solid game in Croatia’s 1-0 triumph over Turkey but the ex-Tottenham and Manchester City defender may not remember much of it.

Corluka sported a bandage for most of the contest and found himself getting into more bumps and scrapes as the match went on.

He may have felt a bit disorientated but was still on hand to a make a crucial last-ditch challenge to secure the three points for his country.

Jerome Boateng – Germany

After the first round of matches, Euro 2016 has not exactly been a goal-fest, and the best bit of individual defending came from Germany’s Jerome Boateng.

It looked nailed on that Boateng was about to score an own goal but somehow the Bayern Munich defender adjusted his body to hack the ball off the line and keep the World Champions ahead.

Adam Szalai – Hungary

There are no bad times to score, but there are certainly extra special times and Adam Szalai picked his moment just right.

Prior to breaking the deadlock in Hungary’s 2-0 win over Austria in the 62nd minute, Szalai had not scored a competitive goal since December 2014.

This is the first time Hungary have appeared at a major tournament since 1968, a time for new heroes: they might just have found one.

Birkir Bjarnason – Iceland

Up until Group F day, Euro 2016 had been pretty predictable in terms of results – Iceland have bucked the trend.

Cristiano Ronaldo launched a scathing attack on Iceland’s “small mentality” at full-time suggesting “they’ll do nothing”, but they did something to Portugal on Monday night. They created history.

Birkir Bjarnason’s goal was the country’s first ever at a major tournament and as such the FC Basel midfielder’s name will be etched into Iceland sporting folklore.


Patrice Evra – France

France did manage to get their home European Championship campaign off to a good start, much to the relief of left-back Patrice Evra.

Evra was under pressure from virtually minute one by the Romanian right side in a real stinker of a performance that did not merit being on the winning side.

It was in-fact Evra who led to the underdogs Romania equalising midway through the second half He brought down Bogdan Stancu in the box before the Romanian dusted himself down to tuck away the resulting penalty.

Lorik Cana – Albania

Meanwhile in Group A, Albania lost to Switzerland and their captain did little to help the un-fancied Albanians’ cause.

Switzerland took an early lead which dented hopes of an upset early on. It went from bad to worse when Albanian captain Lorik Cana was sent off for two yellow cards before half-time.

Cana became the first man to be red carded during Euro 2016 on just the second day of the tournament.

Ozan Tufran – Turkey

There are some things you just do not do when Luka Modric is lining up a shot, playing with your hair is one of them.

Turkey looked ok at 0-0, just as a looping ball was about to drop onto the foot of Modric. Instead of defending what previously looked like an unstoppable strike; Ozan Tufran was fixing his hair!

It cost the Turks dear as that solitary goal won Croatia the game, but at least Tufran’s hair looked immaculate. The really important issue here.

Joachim Loew – Germany

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Joachim Loew is a very clever man, there is no doubting that. He is a World Cup-winning Manager but the guy doesn’t seem to realise football matches are televised and watched by millions!

At World Cup 2010 the Germany boss was caught picking his nose and eating the contents. This week, he stuck his hand down his trousers and had a good old sniff. Odd.

Germany may add to their impressive collection of silverware this summer, but there is still room for improvement. Specifically, their manager’s hygiene.

The Violent Fans

We have all enjoyed the football this week, the games have been full of excitement, despite being relatively low scoring, but the tournament has been marred by violence.

Russian ‘fans’ clashed with the English in Marseille and Germany’s meeting with Ukraine was overshadowed by pre-match brawling too.

One country, Russia, has been given a suspended disqualification and will be thrown out if trouble persists.

Can we just enjoy the football, please?

Read more from Ben here

Follow Ben on Twitter @_BenWills


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