Day four of Euro 2016 saw the likes of Spain, Italy and Belgium kick-off their campaigns, as all three games proved fascinating in different ways.
European champions Spain left it late to defeat Czech Republic 1-0 in Toulouse in Group D.
Vicente del Bosque’s side dominated the game, but it took 87 minutes for La Roja to break the deadlock, as centre-back Gerard Pique headed home from a fantastic Andres Iniesta pin-point cross.
The Czech’s offered very little attacking threat apart from early in the second half, when Theodor Gebre-Selassie saw an effort cleared away by Cesc Fabregas near his goal line.
The win moved the European champions level on points with Croatia who defeated Turkey on Sunday. The two will now be favourites to finish in the top two of the group.
Attention then moved to Group E, as Republic of Ireland and Sweden drew 1-1 in Group E at the Stade de France.
Martin O’Neill’s side took the lead just three minutes into the second half, having had the better of the first period without finding a breakthrough. Everton full-back Seamus Coleman floated a cross into the box and Wes Hoolahan smashed a sublime volley past Andreas Isaksson in the Sweden goal.
Sweden failed to get a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, but scored an equaliser on 71 minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic found space down the Swedish left and crossed the ball into the six-yard box, only for Kieran Clark to head past his own ‘keeper.
A draw was not a terrible result for either side, but Ireland could rue the missed opportunity, as this game might have been their best chance of picking-up a win in the group stages.
Much-fancied Belgium suffered a 2-0 defeat against European Championship veterans Italy in their opening game of Group F.
Italy took the lead on 32 minutes. Defender Leonardo Bonucci played a fantastic pass over the Belgian defence to Sunderland midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini who took a touch and beat Thibaut Courtois with a powerful effort.
The game was then end-to-end with chances at both ends of the pitch. Italy’s second goal came in stoppage-time, as Belgium desperately searched for an equaliser. Ciro Immobile found Antonio Candreva who picked-out Southampton striker Graziano Pelle at the far post and the striker fired home a powerful effort.
The win means that Italy top the Group and Belgium are bottom, with a tricky looking game against Ireland next up, while Italy face Sweden in the other game of the group.