Euro 2016 Diary: Day three

Sometimes the anticipation of Italy’s opening game is much better than the reality.

It always starts this way. Relaxed, almost disinterested. A cool analysis of the main contenders and dark horses of the competition. Then it all goes out the window when Italy appear.

The Turkey v Croatia game and Poland v Northern Ireland match were typical of the tight opening encounters of a competition. From what I saw, Turkey could still harbour hopes of qualification. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, looked like a side which might struggle to score a goal. I’ve been wrong many times before, of course.

The Germany against Ukraine clash was one of the most exciting of the championships so far. A 2–0 win was convincing enough but there were some openings for the losing side. Only late in the game was the result beyond doubt.

“We were a bit too open at times,” admitted opening goalscorer Shkodran Mustafi. “There are some things we need to improve.”

But it’s all about the wait now, for me anyway. There was a time I would never have feared Belgium but now I fear almost everyone. They have improved a lot, of course. And we have become much more beatable. At least so it seems. Maybe I’ve always felt this way.

Have I ever gone into a tournament being confident about Italy? Probably not, in truth. There have certainly been sides which provided greater quality and hope but never, really, a faith in ultimate victory.

So, perhaps, it can all click once again. I’ve been lucky enough to see two World Cup victories in my lifetime. It would be nice to add a European Nations to that…