Bonjour mes amis, here is the day we have all been waiting for since the start of qualifying for the tournament just less than two years ago, the start of A Continental Affair, no of course the birth of Euro 2016. As the world fixed its aligned eyes on the well-secured and expectant Paris, all attention turned to both the Opening Ceremony (which I thought was attempting to challenge the London 2012 Olympics on uniqueness and hilarity, cue can-can girls) and the small matter of the football, between France and Romania. Work and school is over (only for the week sadly) and we could all tuck into some top-class, summer tournament football. Of course, we all expected a strong, patriotic French team to satisfy their home crowd by beating the fairly unknown underdogs of Romania, and hand themselves a healthy group lead.
Until 89 minutes, it looked like those distinctly unpartisan fans would go away from the ground (and their televisions) extremely disappointed and disheartened by their team’s lack of drive for the win. Then, just as we all thought plucky minnows Romania had got a credible draw, there came a thunderbolt, straight out of the story books from Dimitri Payet, who had previously been drifting in and out of the game. That goal was exactly what the game needed, after it had been partly livened up by two ugly yet unarguable goals, a backwards header from Olivier Giroud and a composed penalty from Bogdan Stancu. I would’ve liked to see Romania grind out the draw, as I think for a few periods of the game they were definitely on top and played much better than many expected them to prior to the start. A good, respectable opening to the tournament, but definitely room to improve for the next four weeks.
Player of the Day
My pick for the most game-changing player on the pitch today would be Paul Pogba, the heartbeat of the French team and the spearhead of their hopes this summer. I have to be honest, I doubted Pogba’s ability to step up to this stage, but he proved me wrong with a great performance. I could not see a pass he misplaced, he was spraying them all over the park, the highlight being a first half cross-field ball to Bacary Sagna which almost lead to a goal for Antoine Griezmann. In the second half, his talent shone through with a showboating period of back heels, short passes and roulettes, catering to the French fans desires. As soon as he came off, you could see Romania gain confidence as they almost got a winning goal. Honourable mentions go to Nicolae Stanciu and Vlad Chiriches of Romania for their hardworking, confident performances which almost got a draw, as well as Adil Rami for his surprisingly leading-man turnout.
Goal of the Day
Of course it was Dimitri Payet’s, you’d be mad to say anything else!
Shock of the Day
Anthony Martial and Costel Pantilimon not starting, although both decisions proved to be fair given the games that fellow Premier League player Dimitri Payet and Ciprian Tătărușanu had, very commendable in themselves. Also the fact that Romania nearly got a draw against the pre-tournament favourites on what was supposed to be their day!
I’m Looking Forward to…
A day spent in front of the TV tomorrow, with three promising matches in Groups A and B, especially England vs Russia (COME ON YOU THREE LIONS!!!). My pick for the most exciting game tomorrow would be Wales vs Slovakia though, as I think that could be a group-deciding match up with plenty on the line. Expect to see fireworks, especially from Gareth Bale (fingers crossed).
For tonight, I would round it up as a good, respectable opening to the tournament, but definitely room to improve for the next four weeks. For now, I will bid you adieu and say Allez les Blues!
Author - Will Hugall
Now a BA Journalism student at Nottingham Trent University, I divide my time between my base in Radford and back home in East Sussex while watching as much football as I can!