Saturday was a disappointing day for England on and off the pitch, as the national football team failed to start the EURO 2016 championship with victory while rival fans turned the tournament into a warzone ahead and after the game.
The match against Russia in Marseille had a cruel finish for England. Although Roy Hodgson’s young team was clearly dominant throughout the game and really deserved the lead earned by Eric Dier, they were denied the win they surely deserved by a late goal.
England’s team made the breakthrough in the 73rd minute, when Dele Alli won a free-kick from 20 yards out and Dier stepped in to take it, sending the ball gloriously into the top-left corner. The Tottenham midfielder scored the opening goal, giving the team hope they might finally begin a tournament with a win. However, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Russian side, stripped of its four best players due to injury, had a mediocre performance at Stade Velodrome, but managed a last-minute equaliser nonetheless. Two minutes into three minutes of injury time, a routine cross found the head of their captain Vasili Berezutski, who sent the ball towards the far corner and over keeper Joe Hart.
The England side was definitely superior in this match, playing with style and creativity, but what they lacked was a good defence strategy, which could have spared them the late ordeal.
Eric Dier, England’s goalscorer, had this to say about yesterday’s game: ‘We’re very disappointed. We played well the whole game and then to give away the draw like that at the end is very disappointing. It’s not inexperience we didn’t see it out in the right way. We didn’t lose. We have to pick ourselves up again and go again.’
He’s right, they didn’t lose, but it was a real punch to the guts because winning the Group B is now more difficult.
As for the violent clashes between fans, the tensions had been building in the last couple of days and peaked on Saturday night just after Russia managed to score. The battles between supporters brought chaos on the streets of the French city of Marseille, with reports saying that a group of teenagers threw firecrackers and bottles at opposing fans. Two British fans have been seriously injured, but local emergency services say that many more have been hospitalised and needed medical care.
Meanwhile, at the Stade de Bordeaux, Wales beat Slovakia 2-1 in their Euro 2016 opener, making a spectacular return to major football championships after 58 years of absence.