Day 3 of Euro 2016 was not the most prolific day of the tournament so far, but still could prove vital in how the competition shapes-up.
The first game of the day came in Group D, as Croatia recorded a 1-0 victory over Turkey. The only goal of the game came from Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric on 37 minutes.
The former-Tottenham star latched on to a clearance from Selcuk Inan’s clearance and fired home brilliantly past Turkey ‘keeper Volkan Babacan. Croatia controlled the game and hit the woodwork twice in the second period.
Early in the second half captain Darijo Srna was the first trouble the woodwork hitting the bar with a free-kick. Ante Cacic’s continued to dominate and Ivan Perisic saw a header hit the crossbar from Mario Mandzukic’s cross mid-way through the second period.
Croatia were worthy winners and move top of the group with Czech Republic and Spain clashing on Monday, which we will come on to later on.
The action then turned to Group C, as Poland defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 to record their first ever European Championship victory. Adam Nawalka’s side dominated proceedings in the first half, but the only goal of the game did not arrive until early in the second half.
Former-Dortmund winger Jakub Blaszczykowski cut the ball back to Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik on the edge of the area and the Ajax forward fired a low effort past Michael McGovern.
Poland had chances to extend their lead through efforts from Blaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak, but in the end the one goal was enough as Northern Ireland failed to trouble Wojciech Szczesny in the Poland goal.
The win put the Poles temporarily top of the group and the win could prove vital in the race for second spot, with world champions Germany expected to win the group.
In the late kick-off Germany moved to the top of the group with a 2-0 win over Ukraine in Lille. Joachim Low’s side took just 19 minutes to open their account for the tournament, as Valencia centre-back Shkodran Mustafi headed home from a free-kick.
Ukraine did threaten the German goal just prior to the break, as Yevhen Konoplyanka saw an effort cleared off the line by Jerome Boateng and they also had a goal disallowed. However, in the end the world champions sealed a relatively comfortable win by adding a second goal in stoppage-time through substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Low’s side will now face Poland in their next match in a game that could define this group and the two teams destiny’s for the rest of the campaign.
Sunday’s Euro 2016 sees Group C and D start in earnest, as World Champions Germany kick-off their quest for European glory.
However, the first game of the day comes from Group D, as Turkey and Croatia clash at the Parc de Princes in Paris.
Turkey qualified for Euro 2016 by being the best third-place team in qualifying, after finishing behind Iceland and Czech Republic in qualification. Their recent form has been good, as Fatih Terim’s side have lost just once in their last 16 international outings and have won four out of their last five games.
Boss Terim has attempted to refresh his squad in recent months and lower the average age of his squad. Recent results suggest that this strategy has proven relatively successful.
Croatia finished second behind Italy in qualification and are regarded as a team that could make a big impact this summer. Ante Cacic’s side have a good mixture of young and more experienced players in their squad.
Seasoned midfielders like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Real Madrid and Barcelona supply the experience in midfield, while highly-rated youngster Mateo Kovacic provides the youthful exuberance.
These two teams have history in this competition. They met in Euro 2008, when Turkey recorded a penalty kick win in the quarter-finals. Croatia gained revenge in qualifying for Euro 2012 though by defeating the Turkish 3-0 on aggregate in a play-off.
The early game in Group C sees Poland face European Championship debutants Northern Ireland in Nice.
Poland finished second in their qualification group to neighbours Germany, but top the scoring charts in qualifying with a tally of 33 goals scored. Striker Robert Lewandowski was also the top scorer in qualification with 13 goals.
Northern Ireland topped their group qualifying to make it to their first ever European Championships. Michael O’Neill’s side suffered just one defeat in qualifying and striker Kyle Lafferty will be looking to add to seven goals in the finals.
The main event in this group has to be the entrance of world champions Germany. Joachim Low’s side kick-off their Euro 2016 campaign with a clash against Ukraine in Lille.
For once Germany enters a major tournament with slight doubts over their trophy winning credentials. Die Mannschaft may have won the World Cup in 2014, but several key players retired after that triumph and their fortunes have been decidedly mixed since that victory.
Low’s side topped their group in qualifying, but endured a more different campaign than usual and only beat second-place Poland to top spot by one point. Mixed performances in recent friendlies have also added to those doubts.
However, the Germans seem to be able to move up a gear when it comes to tournament football and this year’s event is unlikely to be any different.
Ukraine needed a play-off win against Slovenia to make it to Euro 2016, after they finished third in their group behind Slovakia and Spain.
Their defensive record of just four goals conceded was a positive, but they have struggled to score goals and lack a top centre forward. Mykhaylo Fomenko’s teams main attacking threat will be provided by highly-rated wingers Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko.
Despite supposed weaknesses, Germany will be highly-confident of winning their opening clash and it is worth noting that Germany have not lost a competitive game against Ukraine, winning twice and recording two draws.
Let's have a look at the second day of play in Euro 2016 and how the action unfolded.
The second game of Group A was a rather low-key affair, as Switzerland dispatched 10-man Albania 1-0 in Lens on Saturday. The only goal of the game came after just five minutes through a header from centre-back Fabian Schar, after a mistake by Albanian ‘keeper Etrit Berisha.
Things got worse for Albania on 37 minutes though. Captain and former-Celtic star Lorik Cana was shown given his marches orders following two bookable offences. Vladimir Petkovic’s side did not really make the most of their advantage though, but in the end picked-up the all-important three points.
As expected it was Group B that provided the drama for the day, as Wales and England endured mixed fortunes. Wales produced an impressive display to see off Slovakia 2-1 in Bordeaux.
Slovakia came flying out the blocks and Wales had Ben Davies to thank for keeping their clean sheet in the opening minutes, after the Tottenham defender got back to clear Marek Hamsik’s effort off his own goal line. However, Wales then had the better of the opening exchanges.
The Dragons will no doubt look to star man Gareth Bale for inspiration throughout this tournament and he wasted no time in having an impact in France. In fact he opened his scoring account for the tournament after just ten minutes, curling a free-kick past the Slovakian ‘keeper Matus Kozacik.
Slovakia started to come into the game slightly more in the second half and equalised just beyond the hour mark. The goal was scored by substitute Ondrej Duda, who scored with his first touch, having come on to the pitch less than a minute earlier.
However it was another substitute who made a winning contribution and it was for Chris Coleman’s side. Reading forward Hal Robson-Kanu scuffed effort in the 81st minute was enough to give Wales a historic first European Championship victory.
England had never won an opening game at a European Championships and that record continued on Saturday night, as Roy Hodgson’s side somehow contrived to draw 1-1 with Russia. In truth the Three Lions controlled the game and Russia offered very little attacking threat.
England missed chances through Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli, but finally took the lead with just 17 minutes remaining and through an unlikely source in defensive midfielder Eric Dier.
The Tottenham midfielder curled a superb free-kick over the wall and beyond the despairing dive of Russia ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev. The game looked to be petering out, as Russia’s tactic of aiming high balls at giant striker Artem Dzyuba was failing to break down the Three Lions defence.
In stoppage-time though Russia did manage to make an unlikely breakthrough and again it was from an unlikely source. A ball was play into the England penalty area and centre-back Vasili Berezutski looped a header over Joe Hart in the England goal.
The two results in Group B mean that Wales top the group, with England and Russia behind Chris Coleman’s side and Slovakia propping up the rest.