Euro 2016 produced two big upsets in the round of 16, as Italy defeated European champions Spain, while Iceland recorded a famous win over England.
Italy headed into their last-16 clash with European champions Spain as underdogs, but pulled-off a 2-0 win over La Roja. Italy were the first to show any attacking threat on eight minutes, as David de Gea saved a powerful header from Southampton forward Graziano Pelle.
The Azzurri were on control of the early exchanges with Emanuele Giaccherini hitting the post, only to for the officials to rule the Sunderland had produced a high boot. Despite the Italian domination early on Spain had an opportunity to take the lead on 20 minutes.
Nolito found Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas on the edge of the Italy area and the midfielder fired a low effort towards goal, only for Giorgio Chiellini to block the shot. Italy reasserted themselves, as Marco Parolo missed the target from a Mattia De Sciglio cross.
De Sciglio was again involved on 26 minutes, as another cross was sliced just wide of his own goal by Spanish defender Sergio Ramos.
Italy did take the lead on 33 minutes. De Gea was called into action once again to keep out a well-hit free-kick from Eder, but Emanuele Giaccherini was first to the rebound and poked the ball to Chiellini who could not miss from close-range.
Just before half-time De Gea produced a fantastic save to keep out Giaccherini and the European champions went in at the break just one goal down.
La Roja had a superb chance to equalise earlier in the second half, as Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata headed an effort straight at Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal. Italy came close to doubling their lead on 56 minutes though, as De Gea produced a good save from Eder, following a good touch from Pelle.
Spain then searched desperately for an equaliser with substitute Aritz Aduriz firing wide of goal. Veteran Italian ‘keeper Buffon produced two food saves to keep out long-distance effort from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
As the game approached stoppage-time Buffon pulled-off his best save of the game. Barcelona defender centre-back Gerard Pique struck a volley towards goal and Buffon produced a superb stop to keep the effort out.
Italy wrapped up their place in the last eight in stoppage-time. The Azzurri hit Spain on the counter-attack and Pelle was there from a couple yards out to score his second goal of the tournament.
The Azzurri now face a quarter-final clash with Germany on Saturday in Bordeaux, as Antonio Conte’s underrated side look to topple another European giant at Euro 2016.
The other game of the day produced one of the biggest shocks in the recent history of the competition, as minnows Iceland defeated England 2-1 in Nice.
England starter the brighter of the two teams and were awarded a penalty kick on four minutes. Winger Raheem Sterling was found with a ball over the top of the defence and Icelandic ‘keeper Halldorsson came out and up-ended the Manchester City man.
England captain Wayne Rooney stepped-up and made no mistake from the spot to give the Three Lions the perfect start. The lead did not last long though, as the Nordic side were back on level terms on six minutes.
Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw was flicked on by defender Kari Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson was there to prod home from close-range. Iceland were in front on 18 minutes.
A good team move lead to the ball falling to Kolbeinn Sigthorsson on the edge of the area and the Nantes striker hit a rather tame effort towards goal, but somehow it squirmed under the hands of Joe Hart.
England continued to dominate the game without creating many clear-cut chances. Halldorsson saved a Harry Kane effort and Chris Smalling headed over the bar at the far post.
Roy Hodgson attempted to change things with the introduction of Jack Wilshere and Jamie Vardy in the second half. However, it was Iceland that came closest to finding the net, as Hart did well to deny Ragnar Sigurdsson a second goal from a bicycle-kick from close-range.
England midfielder Dele Alli fired over the bar from 12 yards, as Hodgson’s side desperately search for a way back into the game. On 79 minutes Kane headed straight at Halldorsson after a superb cross from Jack Wilshere.
Iceland came close to adding a third as Gunnarsson ran through on-goal, but his effort on goal was kept by Hart. Vardy came close to levelling the scores in stoppage-time, only for Arnason to divert the striker’s header just wide of goal.
Iceland were never overly worried and held on to secure a famous win and a place in meeting with hosts France in the quarter-finals on Sunday in Paris.