The first round of games concluded with an interesting game in which an unknown Hungary overcame 10-man Austria; their second goal, a delightful chip from Zoltan Steiber was particularly enjoyable.
The evening game saw underdogs Iceland frustrate Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal by holding them to a draw; the Real Madrid star complained afterwards that Iceland had a defensive approach and a small mentality, as if they were supposed to just turn up and let Portugal do whatever they wanted? I think probably all supporters other than the Portuguese enjoyed that game thoroughly.
Unexpected rain in Nice meant that we had to shelter in a restaurant for a large part of the afternoon yesterday; but a couple of pichers of vin blanc and being serenaded by some Northern Irish fans for one final time before they headed off to Lyon, helped to pass the time before the Slovakia – Russia game.
Slovakia were impressive, particularly in the first half and the thunderbolt of a goal that Hamsik crashed in off the far post even overshadowed the opener from his team mate Weiss; it will certainly challenge Payet’s for France in the opening match as the goal of the tournament so far. Slovakia seemed to tire in the second half and Russia began to build pressure, but they held on despite Glushakov pulling a goal back for Russia late on.
The second game of the day saw Switzerland take on Romania, the game didn’t quite live up to the one that went before but it did provide me with my first opportunity to run the rule of Arsenal’s new signing Granit Xhaka. He looked to be strong in the tackle, neat and tidy on the ball and has an interesting range of passing. The Romanians took the lead through another Stancu penalty. The Swiss equalized in the second half through Mehmedi and for me deserved at least a point out of the game.
Thankfully the rain abated in the evening so my wife and I were able to head to the Fanzone to watch my wife’s team France in their second match. After a rousing version of Le Marseillais, the match looked like it might be a frustrating one for the hosts. Our favourite striker Olivier Giroud was having one of those games where it seemed like if he stayed out there all night he wasn’t going to get one in the net and to make matters worse it seemed like Manchester United forward Anthony Martial was playing with his bootlaces tied together. At the start of the second half Deschamps opted to end Martial’s misery and replaced him with Pogba. It still looked like the hosts would rue their lack of cutting edge until just as time was running out Griezmann, on as a sub for Coman, nodded home Rami’s cross. The Fanzone erupted, so much so that my wife found herself on the floor as she tried to retrieve her Chanel jacket, in scenes reminiscent of a thrash metal gig! Fortunately she recovered in time to watch Payet add a second in added time and we headed off to celebrate at the beer stalls where we met some very enthusiastic Hungarian fans, who were buoyed by their victory against Austria and confident of their chances of progressing further. After more news of problems involving England ‘fans’ in Lille it was nice to have another brilliant true football experience.