EURO 2016 has been far from predictable… Five early shock moments

Big guns France, Germany and Spain may have all won their opening games, but elsewhere EURO 2016 has not gone at all as expected.

Upsets, late goals and odd decisions are par for the course at any major tournament but a host of weird, wonderful and worrying incidents have so far caught the eye in France that are enough to make you reassess your understanding of the game.

Here’s FIVE shockers that none of us saw coming…

1. Eric Dier can take a free-kick

When England’s Harry Kane and Eric Dier stood over a set-piece in the 73rd minute against Russia, every single football fan was waiting for the ball to smack the wall or fly into row Z.

Kane had spent his previous three caps firing long-range free-kicks into the crowd and Dier… well… just no.

But to everyone’s amazement, Kane ran over the dead ball, leaving his fellow Tottenham ace Dier to strike it.

Oh how we smiled at the mess the midfielder was to make of his… err, wow. Whoosh went the ball, past the wall and into the top corner to break the deadlock.

England, however, surrendered the lead the a last-minute Vasili Berezutski header – some things never change.

2. Bastian Schweinsteiger still has it

Schweinsteiger was known for years as Germany’s general in midfield, but since last summer’s move to Manchester United, you could be forgiven for thinking he had taken early retirement.

He made just 13 league starts for Man United since his summer move from Bayern Munich, but he returned from a ligament injury to steal the limelight by capping a German win against Ukraine with a ‘wundergoal’.

With the score at 1-0 and Ukraine on the attack, Joachim Low’s side broke on the counter and a breakneck run down the flank saw Mesut Ozil tease a lovely ball across the face of goal.

Schweinsteiger, 31, rolled back the years to steer home into the top corner and prove to millions of doubters that he is still top top quality.

3. Football violence is back – and it’s worse than ever


It seemed like everyone except UEFA and the French authorities saw the words England vs Russia in Marseille and thought ‘uh oh’.

Brits abroad, beers and boardwalks always has the capacity to be a bit anti-social but combined with France’s ‘Mafia town’ of Marseille and the possibility of eastern European ultras, it always had the potential to turn nasty.

Yet nobody foresaw the levels of sheer brutality to which it would all escalate when the ‘hyper violent’ Russians arrived in town on the Saturday.

The waterfront looked like a war zone and city squares became mass UFC arenas. Hopefully the authorities clamp down or the horrendous pictures like those from Marseille are likely to define the tournament.

4. Referees CAN change their spots


Nowadays it is almost a major-tournament tradition that the opening matches see a raft of red cards or ridiculous decisions as the powers-that-be use the first round of games to clamp down on new laws or current problems like tackles from behind, foul throws, time wasting, etc.

But all that has changed this time around and the officials seem determined not to interfere too much. That’s not to say the law is not being enforced, though.

Tackles are flying in, shoulders are coming together and players are even squaring up, but most matches have been allowed to rumble on and it has worked a treat as most of the matches have been left to flow.

France’s N’Golo Kante pulled out some top-drawer challenges to let Romania know he was there, while Slovakia’s Martin Skrtel was probably lucky to stay on the pitch against Wales.

Ireland vs. Sweden was a good old-fashioned ding dong battle full of hard, but fair, challenges, and it never boiled over.

Surely this leniency cannot last, can it? Let’s hope so – as it seems to be working.

5. Europe’s on the defence


As far as goals go, this is the meanest start to a major tournament in six years.

Forget the swashbuckling start to the Brazil World Cup, which saw 34 goals in the first 10 games.

This time round teams found the net just 18 times in the first ten fixtures, which is even fewer than last EUROs’ figure of 23 back in 2012.

Germany, Italy, England, Ireland and France have all been happy to take the lead and then sit back – although admittedly all except England ultimately found a second goal to seal three points, and failure to net again ultimately cost England.

Nobody has yet managed a third goal and nobody has come from behind to win a match. Hopefully it is just a cagey start to the tournament but, if the shadow of crowd violence is going to be banished, the on pitch action needs to be more memorable.