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21 June ~ Slovakia coach Jan Kozak described England as “acceptable” group-stage opponents when the Euro 2016 draw was made last November. He also taunted them with their lack of recent big tournament success after arriving in Ireland for a friendly with the Republic in March. But on Monday night, after an ultra-defensive performance had secured his side a 0-0 draw, Kozak’s delight was obvious. "A point against England in the final stages is something fantastic,” he said. “We’ve proved we can play against anybody.”
20 June ~ With Euro 2016 nearly halfway though and the Champions League, FA and Scottish Cup finals barely behind us, it feels like the entire planet wants to attend a football match. Huge, packed venues dominate the media. And all I do is rue the fact I’ve never been in a six-figure crowd and that no ground in Europe can currently hold one.
Belper Town 4 Gresley 1, 28/01/2014, Christchurch Meadow, Northern Premier League
19 June ~ “The glass is half full” declared “Nati” coach, Vladimir Petkovic, after the 1-1 draw with Romania in Paris. Petkovic’s comment captured the almost unanimous verdict across Switzerland on the team’s performance so far. The positives are that the Swiss have controlled large parts of their games against Albania and Romania and are on course to qualify for the second round of a European Championship for the first time ever.
18 June ~ It’s open season on Marc Wilmots in Belgium. The Red Devils’ inept display against Italy highlighted the national coach’s tactical frailties – nothing new there – but, to make matters worse, Wilmots doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with his strategy, or lack thereof. “I don’t think Italy won a tactical battle,” he told national broadcaster RTBF.
17 June ~ Disappointment at conceding a late goal against Spain has given way to a more positive mood in the Czech Republic, with everything still to play for against Croatia today. Having taken an atypically defensive approach against Spain, coach Pavel Vrba has promised to return to his trademark attacking style for the remaining group games. Sparta Prague midfielder Borek Dockal, the Czechs’ leading scorer in qualification, is expected to return to the starting line-up.
16 June ~ Whatever conclusions can be drawn from the chaos so far at Euro 2016, one thing is for sure – fans in Russia have been picking over the events in great detail. At some point in the last week everyone has pointed the finger at everyone else. Fratria, the Spartak Moscow ultras group, were one of many claiming the English fans started the trouble by provoking the Russians – Fratria claim they only fought with those English fans that wanted to.
15 June ~ At half-time in last night’s Portugal v Iceland match I wandered down from my flat to the crescent of bars surrounding Gare Lille Flandres. When I got there it was obvious a number of Lille locals had chosen to participate in another spectator sport rather than tuning in to Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
15 June ~ Last Friday the Football League voted to include Premier League under-21 teams into the Football League Trophy. The competitions new, expanded format, which has been announced just a few weeks after the League suggested they needed to cut fixture congestion, will begin with a group stage and include 16 category one academy sides alongside the usual clubs from League One and Two. It will initially be trialled for one season, but the change hasn’t gone down well with fans, who were not consulted on the new format.
14 June ~ A week before the Euros kicked off, Turkey’s manager Fatih Terim tried to lower fans’ expectations. He declared that a draw against Croatia would be a great start to the tournament, and noted that should Croatia qualify for the knockout stages they would go very far in the tournament. By the looks of pre-game commentary on social and other forms of media, he was successful.