Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik and Wales star Gareth Bale arrived at UEFA EURO 2016 this month carrying the hopes of their respective nations.
With both countries making their debut at the competition, attentions in the build-up to the match in Bordeaux was naturally focused on the two biggest attractions on show.
With testing fixtures against Euros veterans Russia and England to come, a productive start to life in their new surroundings was vital as over 37,000 expectant fans crammed into the Stade Matmut-Atlantique.
Hamsik and Slovakia very nearly kicked off their campaign with a dream start that saw the Napoli man come within a whisker of instantly upstaging Real Madrid superstar Bale.
After nipping in to dispossess Bale in midfield with one of the five tackles he won during the clash, Hamsik set off on a mazy run that saw him ghost past the entire Wales backline and into box.
His finish was clean, expertly slotted side of Danny Ward, only for Ben Davies to dart back beyond his goalkeeper and miraculously clear the ball off the line.
It would be the only effort on goal Hamsik would have all afternoon, despite a sold period of dominance from his side.
Bale, who had scored seven and created two of his side’s eleven goals during qualifying, refused to be outdone. And he took just 10 minutes to keep his fine goalscoring form going as he sent a wicked free-kick dipping and bending past Matus Kozacik to send Wales into an early lead.
Bale would have four more efforts during the afternoon and very nearly doubled his side’s lead early in the second half when he leaped highest inside the box only to see his downward header well saved.
Hamsik was considerably more involved in his team’s overall play, with more than double the 44 touches of the ball Bale managed, resulting in 66 passes to Bale’s 26.
He was not involved directly in his side’s equaliser but played a major role in helping Slovakia back into the game, making two of his completed passes in the build-up to Ondrej Duda’s strike on the hour mark.
Bale did not create a single chance for a team-mate, while Hamsik created a shooting chance for a colleague further forward and sent two crossed into the Wales penalty area.
But Bale is not in the side to create. He operates much higher up the pitch than Hamsik and had already had a major say on the match with the stunning strike that brought the opening goal, while the other four strikes he had on goal kept the Slovakian defence on red alert.
And his involvement in his side’s winner cannot be measured solely by stats. Bale drifted away from the play, heading towards his own goal as Joe Ledley looked up for a forward pass.
That movement left a space in front of the back-four that Aaron Ramsey exploited, collecting a smart pass from Ledley and rolling in Hal Robson-Kanu for the winner.
You could also make your debut at UEFA EURO 2016 by showing your passion in a photo on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #MakeYourDebut to win a pair of tickets. There are lots of different match tickets for grabs, so go and enter now!