SATURDAY MORNING’S BIG STORIES

1) Marseille descends into chaos
The recriminations will continue long into the tournament over who was to blame for what were ugly scenes in the Old Port area of Marseille. What there is no doubt over was the wanton violence and criminality on show for long periods through the night.
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Heavy-handed policing and provocations from local youths were cited in mitigation for some of the behaviour on show from some England fans. Certainly the police were not blameless, and yes there was provocation but England fans were more than willing and able to react to said provocation.
Drink certainly played a part but what was more worrying was the sober and menacing figures who appeared to be walking around looking for and getting into skirmishes. Close up, it looked as though some of this was pre-planned and orchestrated.
Worrying times.
2) Payet lights up the opening night, bursts into tears
Dimitri Payet has been in fine fettle since he made the switch to West Ham United last summer. And the 29-year-old carried that from as the Euros began in Paris on Friday. The playmaker set up the first before producing a moment of utter brilliance to win the match with 89 minutes gone.
The West Ham star burst into tears as he left the pitch such was the emotion that overtook him.

France's forward Dimitri Payet (R) and his teammates celebrate after the Euro 2016 group A football match between France and Romania

Image credit: AFP

Unbelievably, the lavishly talented former Marseille man only has 20 caps for France and at the start of the season there was genuine debate as to whether he should even make the France squad.
One game in and he is now looking very much like a talisman.
3) David de Gea fights back
The early afternoon on Friday saw news break that David de Gea had been sent home from Spain’s Euro 2016 campaign for an unspecified reason. It was later reported that De Gea had in fact not been sent home but that he allegedly linked to a case of sexual assault. In an unexpected move, De Gea arranged a press conference to deny the allegations.
De Gea described the allegations as completely false, and that it would have no impact on his preparations for the tournament. However, this has the look of a rolling story. Spain have taken the stance that their keeper is innocent until proven guilty.
Yet, if the story snowballs and begins to become a distraction then that stance may change. Certainly a story to keep an eye on.

TODAY’S BIG MATCH

England v Russia. Wales and Slovakia get Group B underway earlier in the day but it is this match that could define the group and even England’s whole tournament. Roy Hodgson looks set to name an attacking team against a Russia team that have lost key players including Alan Dzagoev and Igor Denisov to injury.
Should England win, they will more than likely go on and win the group. Were they to lose, well a World Cup 2014-esque collapse could be on the horizon.

CLASH OF THE DAY

Harry Kane against Sergei Ignashevich – The mini battle could define the whole game. Ignashevich is a wily old defender but at 36 is beginning to look a touch leggy. However, the CSKA defender is a highly experienced operator and Kane will have to be at his best to get any change out of the 115-cap defender.

ON THE GROUND

Nick Ames in Lens:
Albanian supporters based all over the world are converging on Lens for their major tournament tournament debut and may comfortably outnumber the Swiss despite the latter's relative geographical proximity. Their team looks fairly settled going into tomorrow's game, with question marks only really existing over a couple of spots.
Burim Kukeli should pip Ergys Kace to the holding midfield spot and Armando Sadiku is likely to start up front after good recent form. Eyes will be focused on the midfield contest between Switzerland's Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka and his brother Taulant, who will line up opposite him for Albania. In total, five of the Switzerland squad have Albanian ancestry and nine of the Albania contingent were born or raised in Switzerland. Fierce derby-like contest or tentative, deeply respectful affair? It's going to be fun finding out.

Switzerland's Granit Xhaka

Image credit: Reuters

Marcus Foley in Marseille:
The euphoria that met Dimitri Payet’s 89th-minute winner for France against Romania was short-lived. Moments later the air in the Old Port was filled with tear gas after chairs and bottles had been hurled into the air. Fans of all descriptions were stampeding. There was a rush, a borderline crush and then violence.
One French fan was caught flush with a sickening sucker punch that sent him crashing to the floor. He was absolutely out cold and then surrounded by both French and English fans trying to bring him around. Russian fans arrived on the scene too. An over-worked riot police were stretched and looked as though they were struggling to keep up with a developing situation. They somehow managed to quell what could have turned into a full scale riot.

SHARING IS CARING – EURO 2016 VIRAL GEMS

Top work from Adele here – quality music and a cracking game of football.
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