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The Biggest Surprises Of Euro 2016 So Far

Euro 2016 is well underway as we approach the end of the first round of group matches, and there have been some engrossing storylines so far. We here at The18 took a look at some of the highlights and surprising moments from the past week across France.

Dimitri Payet

Euro 2016

Payet was emotional after scoring the winning goal for France against Romania. Photo: @MirrorFootball | Twitter

Those who have watched West Ham over the course of the Premier League season were already aware that Payet was coming into this tournament in terrific form. However, we don't think anybody could have predicted his impact in France's opening game against Romania.

Besides running absolutely everywhere, Payet also created eight chances-twice as many as the rest of the French team combined- scored a brilliant goal and assisted the other. For a man approaching 30, who has been on the fringes of the national team for years, it was a wonderous performance. Judging by his reaction upon being substituted, it meant the world to him too. 

Wales

Euro 2016

Aaron Ramsey and Wales overcame Slovakia to seal their first win in a European Championship. Photo: @FAWales | Twitter

Wales, making their first Euro finals appearance in history, became the first team to break the British curse at the Euros by becoming the first to win their opening game.

A Gareth Bale free kick became Wales' first ever European Championship goal before Slovakia equalized through Ondrej Duda.

The game looked destined for a draw but then Hal Robson-Kanu, who is currently not attached to any professional club, put the Welsh back on top with a mishit shot into the corner. It was a historic victory for Wales as a draw between England and Russia put them top of Group B. So far, so good for the Euro debutants. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger 

Euro 2016

Almost immediately after coming on as a substitute, Basti scored the winner for Germany against Ukraine. Photo: @TeleFootball | Twitter

Many eyebrows were raised when Schweinsteiger was named to the German squad. Coming off of an injury that kept him out of the final months of the season, there were doubts over whether his fitness and form would be up to scratch for this tournament. "Over-the-hill" was a term that was thrown around a lot in reference to the German veteran. 

Flash forward to the 90th minute in Germany's game versus Ukraine. Germany are 1-0 up and Mario Götze is making way for Schweinsteiger, a move intended to shore up the midfield in the dying moments of the match. Barely one minute later, Schweinsteiger, with what was probably his first touch of the ball, calmly converted Özil's inch-perfect cross into the back of the net. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. What a way to answer your critics. 

Italy 

Euro 2016

Bonucci and Giaccherini celebrate going 1-0 up against Belgium. Photo: @goal | Twitter

It was supposedly the worst Italian team in history. When Antonio Conte revealed his finalized squad list, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who was enthusiastic about Italy's chances.

Yet, against Belgium, Italy put on a masterclass showing of typical Azzuri defensive nous and clinicism. Both goals by Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle were the product of a patient soaking up of pressure, followed by explosive counter-attacks.

It was classic Italy, and it had Belgium beating their heads in frustration. Worst Italy team ever? Maybe, but only by virtue of how good the other ones were. That doesn't mean this team can't go all the way. 

Hungary

Euro 2016

Hungary upset 10-man Austria 2-0. Photo: @goal | Twitter

Nobody saw this one coming. Austria may not be a global football powerhouse, but they do have some talented players such as David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic, and Christian Fuchs. It seemed like a pretty easy task for the Austrians, who had impressed in qualifying by going unbeaten and winning nine out of 10 matches. 

However, a red card for Aleksander Dragovic tipped the balance in favor of a determined Hungary side, who finished them off 2-0 in one of the most surprising results of Euro 2016 so far. 

Iceland

Euro 2016

Iceland grabbed a precious point from overwhelming favorites, Portugal. Photo: @BreatheSport | Twitter

The smallest team ever to qualify for a major tournament (a country of just 330,000 people) Iceland's Euro 2016 fairytale continued as they held Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo to a 1-1 draw. They rode their luck at times, but they stood up mightily to a Portugal team who actually have a decent record in Euro finals. Like Leicester in the Premier League, Iceland are capturing the hearts and minds of neutrals across the world, and long may it continue. 

Follow me on Twitter @J_Hansen_89

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