1 July ~ “His Euro is over, that’s fate for you,” Marc Wilmots told the press on Thursday night, reporting on Jan Vertonghen’s injury. Belgian media had speculated all afternoon about Vertonghen’s ankle, badly sprained in training earlier in the day, causing ligament damage.
30 June ~ It's the end of an era. After Spain's early exit of Euro 2016, Spanish fans and media agreed that La Roja's dominance of international football is over. The so called "tranquil transition” led by manager Vicente del Bosque after the shocking flop at the 2014 World Cup hasn't been successful. Now, broader changes are required.
29 June ~ The England squad that travelled to the 1962 World Cup in Chile had to endure a flight with two separate changes to Lima where they played a warm-up game against Peru before moving on to Santiago, then Rancagua where they would play their group games and then bus to their base at the Braden Copper Company staff house in Coya, some 2,500 feet up in the Andes. The journey of over 7,500 miles would have taken them more than twenty four hours. Hardly an ideal preparation for the tournament.
28 June ~ When the Icelandic men’s team qualified for Euro 2016, articles were published around the world about it being an unprecedented milestone for a nation of only 330,000. However, this is not the first time Iceland have qualified for a European Championship. In fact, this is the fourth. The national women’s football team have played in the Euros three times – in 1995, 2009 and 2013 – and have almost qualified for Euro 2017. The men’s team are ranked 34th in the world, the women’s team are 20th.
27 June ~ Spain, again. The Azzurri beat La Roja for the last time in a competitive match at the World Cup in the US in 1994. The two Baggios (Dino and Roberto) scored the goals, but after that Italy lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals on penalties, 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final, and on penalties again at the semi-finals of the 2013 Confederations Cup. The last victory was in a friendly in Bari five years ago.
26 June ~ While marketeers will occasionally try to aver that Ireland has become “rugby country”, the national team’s progress at Euro 2016 continues to illustrate that nothing comes close to capturing the collective imagination.
25 June ~ At full time in Stade Bollaert-Delelis, as England fans and players celebrated Daniel Sturridge’s late winning goal, Chris Gunter made straight for the Wales fans at the opposite end of the field. As he reached that red-clad corner of Lens, Gunter, the most-capped player in Chris Coleman’s squad, gestured sternly at those applauding back at him, to keep their chins up.
24 June ~ I have just got back from France where, seeing my friends’ white-and-red regalia, people reacted by saying, “You will beat Switzerland, you’ve got Lewandowski!" Those people were probably referring to “Lewy” from Bayern as he’s now almost a totally different player with the national team he captains.
24 June ~ A day after Austria’s defeat in the final group match against Iceland, the country are licking their wounds. Finishing bottom of their group came as a shock for head coach Marcel Koller and the team who had qualified with ease. Of course, the so-called legends were the first to judge. “It’s a fiasco,” said former national coach Hans Krankl in the tabloid Osterreich. In the same article, one journalist wrote: “The Euros were Austria’s Waterloo – and now the international press are laughing about us”.
23 June ~ Southampton ’til I die. Or at least until I know who is managing the first team next season, their philosophy and vision for the club, and whether or not they will be given the sufficient budget to recruit the new players necessary to be successful.