There was no hint of trouble in Lille as impressive Germany showed England how it’s done
PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 June 2016 | UPDATED: 13:26 15 June 2016
What a shame that hooliganism has reared its ugly head in the early stages of Euro 2016, as we’ve seen some cracking action on the pitch.
On Sunday night I was lucky enough to be one of the 50,000 spectators inside Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille to watch world champions Germany beat Ukraine 2-0.
There was no hint of trouble inside a vibrant stadium, filled with bright colour and a stirring atmosphere – nothing like the horrible scenes in Marseille.
What we witnessed was top level football played on a stage befitting of some of the world’s star names.
Manuel Neuer proved why he is one of the best goalkeepers on the planet with some key contributions to thwart a spirited Ukraine side.
Former Manchester City centre-back Jerome Boateng was also highly impressive, displaying a range of passing many midfielders would be proud of and producing a heroic goal-line clearance.
The best player on the pitch was central midfielder Toni Kroos though. The Real Madrid man oozed class and controlled the game. His vision and quality of distribution kept the German’s moving forward to confirm they will – as always – be in the running for the trophy.
Ukraine could well have earned themselves an excellent draw but Joachim Low’s team did exactly what England couldn’t against Russia.
They clung to their lead by their fingertips and then brought on their ever-classy – when fully fit – skipper Bastien Schweinsteiger, who wrapped up the win with a lovely finish.
Me and three friends were sat amongst French, German and Ukrainian fans and were fortunate to be at the right end to see that late goal, after a sumptuous cross from Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil during a swift counter attack. At no point did we feel threatened or worried about our safety – just as it should be.
As I’d written in my last column ahead of our weekend in Lille, I was hoping to enjoy an atmosphere of a united Europe enjoying the football on show.
That is exactly what we experienced. We shared beers and songs with German fans, chatted with supporters of Sweden and Ukraine and received a warm welcome from most of the locals.
The 25,000 capacity fanzone was full of England fans on Saturday, watching Wales get off to a winning start ahead of the main event.
From the chaotic celebrations of Eric Dier’s excellent free-kick, to the frustrating finish of Russia’s late equaliser, the evening was a mixture of emotions.
Roy Hodgson’s decision to move Wayne Rooney to a midfield position and try a new system, in spite of a 100pc qualification campaign, was infuriating.
Rooney played fairly well but Hodgson looks completely unsure of his best team. It was a match England should have won but contrived to draw.
I was at Twickenham when Wales beat England in the Rugby World Cup last year, when the visitors turned up with desperate determination to beat their neighbours.
The outstanding Gareth Bale and his team-mates will be exactly the same tomorrow, so Hodgson had better get a grip of his team quickly – or he will soon be out of a job and England could be heading home.