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Smile Because It Happened

I write this on the morning after the night before. In a bold statement of confidence, I booked Monday 12th off so I could celebrate properly should England win the tournament. Alas, I sit here now in a haze of disappointment. Whatever your thoughts on that final – if you’re anything but English, you’re probably quite pleased – hasn’t it been a magnificent tournament? The fact that it was delayed a year made it all the sweeter.

So here are my personal best bits of the last month.

10) Andrea Bocelli at the opening ceremony

Andrea Bocelli’s beautiful rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ at the opening ceremony evoked childhood memories of Italia 90 and was a fitting start to the tournament. Watching that ceremony, knowing that a whole month of endless football lay before us, was glorious.

9) Cristiano Ronaldo

I’m fascinated by Ronaldo. He’s an interesting character, not without his flaws, and is without doubt one of the greatest footballers to ever play the beautiful game. I always look forward to seeing him play. At 36, I suspect he’s seen his last major tournament, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Qatar. This summer, he broke scoring records and won the Golden Boot, despite not even playing after the round of 16. His cheeky little coke bottle moment made me laugh, and he’s been a joy to watch. The day he retires will be a big loss for football.

8) Lorenzo Insigne – Italy v Belgium quarter-final

There have been so many great goals to choose from but this is up there for me. A great little run, followed by an absolute screamer from just outside the box. I could watch it on repeat all day.

7) Mbappe penalty miss

I have nothing against France particularly, and was full of anticipation at getting to see Mbappe tear it up. But his penalty miss, which helped see France dumped out in the round of 16, was an example of what I love most about football – that it can always surprise you.

6) Mikkel Damsgaard’s free kick - England v Denmark semi-final

I didn’t enjoy a single second of the semi-final as I was so full of nerves, wanting England to go through. I obviously didn’t want to see England go a goal down but I had to appreciate how it was done. Free kicks invariably just go straight into

the wall but Damsgaard’s stunner sailed over the wall and into the net. Goal of the round, if not the tournament.

5) Russia v Denmark

After that horrendous moment when the world thought Christian Eriksen had died, I thought Denmark wouldn’t be able to come back from it. But they got through with this win. A full stadium of jubilant Danish fans saw their side take Russia apart. I was thrilled for them.

4) The evening of 28th June - Croatia v Spain and France v Switzerland

These two round of 16 games gave us an evening that showed everyone just how wonderful football is. Both real thrillers.

3) The little car

From that opening match, when everyone went “is that really a remote-controlled car delivering the ball?”, I was pleased to see the little car make an appearance now and then. It was entirely needless but always warranted a little cheer when you saw it trundling along.

2) England v Germany

England fans are obsessed with beating Germany, who aren’t remotely bothered about us. Taking that away though, this was the game I knew would be our biggest test yet. Winning meant a realistic chance of getting to the final. The moment that first goal went in, and you could see the absolute limbs in the crowd, was something very special.

1) Seeing new players

I don’t watch foreign football often. I don’t actually watch the Champions League that much, as my interest usually lies in the lower leagues. So a major tournament is always a good chance to see players who I’ve not se

en much of because they play their club football abroad, like Lewandowski and Mbappe. I was particularly keen to see Pedri, the wonderkid touted as the new Iniesta, as well as England players Sancho and Bellingham, who I’d barely seen play. I also discovered some great players I’d not heard of before like Schick.

So those are my best bits. No doubt you will all have your own. The extra wait for this tourno was totally worth it.

By Ruth Williams-Madden


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