Italy start it with a bang
The opening match may not have been the most competitive of games as Turkey gave a pre-cursor to their dreadfully disappointing tournament by failing to do anything of note against the Italians, though the eventual 3-0 winners still put on such a high-tempo, free-flowing performance that it was impossible not to be entertained all the same. They would repeat the trick in their next match against Switzerland, establishing themselves early as the team to watch this tournament.
Kjaer’s live-saving heroics
The sight of Christian Eriksen lying on the turf while medics tried desperately to save his life was undoubtedly the low point of the tournament. But as horrible as it was to watch a world-class professional athlete receiving chest compressions and a defibrillator shock, the Dane’s eventual recovery brought about a wave of emotional support from fans across the continent. And that may not have been possible if it weren’t for the quick-thinking and courage of his team-mate. Simon Kjaer was first on the scene, checking Eriksen's airwaves and beginning CPR before the physios were able to arrive. He then organised a circle around the player to ensure privacy, and helped to comfort Eriksen’s terrified wife. The team doctor later revealed the AC Milan defender’s actions could very well have saved the life of his friend. These Euros have been one of the best ever, but it’s hard to imagine us all taking real pleasure from the action had Eriksen failed to pull through.
Patrik Schick’s goal of the tournament
The moment that really let the air out of our hype balloon. In Scotland we didn’t appreciate the skill of this goal as much as we should’ve, getting caught up in our own self-pity and frustration, with debates raging about whether to blame David Marshall or Jack Hendry. The matter of the fact is this: even with both of those two errors, it still needed something incredible from the Bayer Leverkusen striker to score from such a distance, and he produced it.
Wales get their moment
Our British neighbours didn’t have the best of tournaments, losing to an Italian reserve side before going out with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Denmark. But a fortunate opening match draw against Switzerland gave them the opportunity to have a celebration when they faced Turkey, knowing victory would all but guarantee a place in the knockout rounds. Robert Page’s side were excellent in Baku and walked away with a 2-0 triumph that was sealed deep into injury-time by Connor Roberts, giving Welsh men and women everywhere a reason to ascend into delirium.
Scotland hold eventual finalists
There wasn't much to celebrate from a Scottish perspective as 23 years in the wilderness fed into a hype frenzy that our battling boys just couldn’t live up to. There’s no doubt, though, the highlight came at Wembley as we played the heavy pre-match favourites to a deserved 0-0 draw. The result meant Scotland still had it in their own hands to go through, while it created a real buzz throughout the country and we truly began to believe we could do it. We were wrong, but it was great while it lasted.
Hungary explodes in celebration
This wasn’t much of a tournament for the underdog. North Macedonia, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia and ourselves all failed to get out of the groups, but there we still a few moments to cherish. Finland and Slovakia won their first game, North Macedonia had the entire continent cheering when Goran Pandev equalised in their opening match against Austria, and Hungary came within a few minutes of defeating Germany and advancing. That opportunity came about thanks to a 1-1 draw with France in a sold-out Puskás Aréna. Having been forced to sit through football matches without spectators for over a year, it was tremendous to see and hear the home fans explode in unison after Attila Fiola put them ahead against the reigning world champions.
McGregor’s goal and our 15 minutes of hope
Mercifully, we finally got a goal of our own to celebrate at these Euros and the first Scotland goal at a major international tournament since Craig Burley against Norway at France 98. And, at the time, what an important goal it was. Callum McGregor’s arrowed finish towards the end of the first half against Croatia tied up the scores and lead to wild celebrations in bars and living rooms the length of the country. The 15 minutes at half-time could not have gone any quicker as anticipation levels rose through the roof. We needn’t discuss the rest of the match.
England get the monkey off their back
S’pose we should give them their due. England have improved as the tournament has progressed but there wasn’t a high amount of expectation going into the match against Germany, other than the Germans not looking particularly strong themselves. Gareth Southgate’s men had scored twice in three group stage games and didn’t look at all convincing. In tournaments of the past, this would’ve been a game the Three Lions lost: a knockout game against a European powerhouse. It didn’t happen on this occasion. Germany didn’t take their chances when they were presented, England did. The confidence from this victory propelled them onto two excellent performances against Ukraine and Denmark, setting up the final meeting with Italy.
The greatest ever evening of international football
Monday, June 28. Spain v Croatia and France v Switzerland. Two matches which should immediately go down as all-time Euros classics, played back to back and filled with goals, drama and a welcomed additional 30 minutes. Spain failed to hold onto a late 3-1 lead against the Croats but went through in extra-time regardless. France followed their neighbours’ lead by surrendering from the same position but ultimately were not able to right themselves and exited the tournament on penalties.