First day of a tournament is always exciting. The starting point for any new tournament is always the title sequences of the BBC and ITV’s coverage. Tradition dictates that the BBC’s is usually pretty good and that ITV’s tries to be but ends up being terrible. There is something about the way ITV put theirs together which always seems slightly low rent, this year’s was no exception.
Having negotiated the opening titles it’s time to get a look at the pundits in action. The BBC led off with Alan Hansen, Lee Dixon and Clarence Seedorf. Hansen said basically all the same things he said before the 2010 World Cup. It’s easier to say nice things about Dixon, as he’s often honest and isn’t a prone to fence sit, but I still don’t particularly care for him as a pundit. Then we get to Seedorf. It wasn’t a scintillating debut, but it showed signs of promise, at the very least I find his voice irresistibly soothing, especially set against Hansen’s scowling Scottish tone and Dixon’s northen nasal notes.
In contrast ITV went with an intriguing Keane versus Vieira showdown. It certainly looked good on paper but questions remain as to whether it can deliver in the big games. I for one won’t be fully satisfied unless at some point during the competition they start punching each other. If you’re new to this football stuff and don’t understand why that might occur see the video below. I should also mention that Gareth Southgate was in attendance, but that’s all he does, attend. He is a man who has never said anything of interest to anyone, ever.
Both teams led off with their chief presenter. BBC has Gary Lineker who boasts a hat-trick at in El Clasico, a hat-trick in a World Cup, a World Cup golden boot, a PFA Players’ Player of the Year and was the leading scorer in the English top flight in 84-85 85-86 and 89-90. He’s up against Adrian Chiles who once presented a breakfast show on ITV with Christine Bleakley before he got axed. On paper Lineker, with his 80 England caps and 48 goals (which puts him second on the list of all time England goalscorers) is far better qualified to present football coverage, but there is more to it than that. I’m not one of these people that thinks just because you’ve played the game it means you should be on television, it helps if you can actually communicate with the audience. So it really should be a kick in the balls that Lineker also does this better than professional TV presenter Chiles and manages to be far less irritating in the process.
Usually the opening games are tight cagey affairs but this was a happy exception. It was preceded by the opening ceremony, be thankful if you managed to miss it. Poland started with a bang, looked aggressive and showed plenty of attacking intent against a Greek side who were all over the place. They grabbed a goal to the delight of gamblers everywhere as Robert Lewandowski (my player to watch) opened the scoring. Then there was a ridiculous red card from the Spanish referee who booked the Greek player for winning a header and than for standing near an opposition player when he fell over. Surely there could only be one result from here? Wrong. The game changed when Sotiris Ninis was replaced by Dimitrios Salpingidis who grabbed a goal from a horrible Szczesny error. Szczesny’s day only got worse as he then got sent off, giving away a penalty in the process for a foul on the lively Salpingidis. Sub keeper on, penalty saved, game ends 1-1 and completes probably the most dramatic opening game ever. Splendid start.
Then we got the Russians. My team to watch for the Tournament and it was soon apparent why. Plenty of attacking flair, loads of movement, technical ability and creativity in abundance, the young Alan Dzagoev looking impressive. They were two up without breaking sweat and it could have been more had Aleksandr Kerzhakov not had an absolute shocker. Second half and the Czech Republic eventually turned up and produced a nice looking goal from Pilar. Kerzhakov continued to waste chances and it looked at one stage like Russia could be punished for his profligacy in front of goal, then they took him off, brought on Pavlyuchenko and scored twice more to seal an impressive victory.
Day One Done
Great start to the competition. The atmosphere in the opening game for Poland was lively and it’s a shame their team succumbed to nerves and couldn’t grab a win. The fears over racism continue to linger however as the Netherlands squad were subjected to racist abuse at an open training session. There was a noticeable lack of black players in the opening games so whether it will become an issue during the games is still unclear. I really hope it’s not something that comes to overshadow the competition.
Highlight of the day: Russia’s attacking football. It was great to watch them rip into the Czech’s who at times really didn’t have an answer. The question is, how far can they go in the tournament?