Day nine of Euro 2016 produced another thrilling day of action, as Italy recorded a win over Sweden, Croatia and Czech Republic produced a breath-taking draw and Spain hammered Turkey.
The first game of the day came in Group E, as Italy recorded a 1-0 victory over Sweden in a tight contest. There was little in the way of clear-cut chances. Italian midfielder Marco Parolo came close to breaking the deadlock on 82 minutes, heading against the Swedish bar.
Italy did eventually find a way through with just two minutes left on the clock. Striker Eder drove across the edge of the box and fired home brilliantly past Andreas Isaksson.
The victory sealed the Azzurri’s place in the knockout stages, while Sweden will need to defeat Belgium in their last game to have a chance of making the last 16.
The evening game between Czech Republic and Croatia in Group D, produced drama off and on the pitch as the game finished 2-2 Saint-Etienne. The game was marred by Croatia fans throwing flares on to the pitch and skirmishes in the stands.
Croatia took the lead on 37 minutes. Milan Badelj stole the ball in midfield and found Ivan Perisic who advanced into the box before firing a low effort past Petr Cech in the Czech goal.
Ante Cacic’s team established a two goal lead on 59 minutes. Marcelo Brozovic played in Ivan Rakitic and the Barcelona midfielder coolly dinked the ball over Cech. The Czech came back into the game and got a goal back on 75 minutes.
Tomas Rosicky produced a sublime ball to Milan Skoda, who powerfully headed past Danijel Subasic. Pavel Vrba’s side rescued what could be a crucial point in stoppage-time. Croatia defender Domagoj Vida somewhat inexplicably handled the ball in the area and Czech striker Tomas Necid scored with the resulting spot-kick.
The draw leaves Croatia on four points and Czech Republic on one. Both teams could make the last 16 depending on results elsewhere.
In the other game in the group European champions Spain eased to a 3-0 win over Turkey. La Roja took the lead on 34 minutes through Juventus striker Alvaro Morata.
The striker diverted Nolito’s cross past Babacan in the Turkey goal from ten yards out. Nolito then got in the act himself two minutes later, capitalising on a Mehmet Topal mistake to score from six yards out.
Vicente del Bosque’s side extended their lead just after the break, Morata tapped in from close-range from a Jordi Alba cross.
As expected Spain have qualified from the group with ease and will now face Croatia on Tuesday to decide who wins the group. Turkey now look highly unlikely to qualify or the knockout stages.
On Friday the action moves to Group E, as Italy go head-to-head with Sweden. The Azzurri could seal a spot in the knockout stages after an excellent 2-0 win over Belgium in the group opener.
Antonio Conte has a highly-experienced squad and they showed all their know-how against the highly-rated Red Devils. The win over the Belgians means that Italy have won their last five games in European Championship games, stretching back to the qualifiers.
The Azzurri also have a decent recent record against Sweden, having gone six matches unbeaten against the Scandinavians.
Sweden produced what could only be described as a tepid display in their 1-1 draw against Republic of Ireland. Erik Hamren’s team managed to secure a draw despite failing to have shot on target all game.
Star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic was largely subdued, but he did create the equaliser with a dangerous cross. The pre-tournament assessment of Sweden was that they are a very average team, other than Ibrahimovic and they have not produced anything to suggest otherwise so far in France.
The Swedes cannot afford another loss in this clash or their chances of making the last 16 would be all-but over.
The evening kick is in Group D, as Czech Republic face Croatia in Saint-Etienne in a game that could define both teams chances of making the knockout stages.
The Czech’s opened their campaign with a 1-0 defeat by Spain and played a pretty cautious style, which is understandable considering the opposition. This game will allow Pavel Vrba’s team a better opportunity to show what have to offer going forward.
The Czech’s had a better qualifying record than their opponents, but will head into this must-not-lose clash as underdogs.
Croatia were impressive in their opening game and have quality running right through their team, especially in the engine room with the likes of Luke Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
The Croats continued a good defensive run of clean sheets from qualifying by not conceding against Turkey, which means they have not conceded in three games in the competition, qualifiers included. Vrba’s team can afford to draw or even lose this game, but with a game against group favourites Spain to in the last game they will want to seal their fate in this clash.
The late kick-off sees European champions Spain face Turkey, who seem to have emerged as the weakest team in the group. Spain dominated the opener against Czech Republic, but the lack of an effective forward meant the Spaniards struggled to take their chances in front of goal.
Alvaro Morata started up front last time out, but Aritz Aduriz could start as the lone striker in this clash. A win will see Vicente del Bosque’s side seal their place in the knockout rounds of the competition.
Day seven of Euro 2016 produced excitement in abundance, as England and Northern Ireland recorded vital victories, while world champions Germany were held by Poland.
The day started with a battle of Britain in Group B, as England and Wales met in Lens on Thursday afternoon. England enjoyed the better of the first period, but it was Wales that took the lead on 42 minutes. It was that man Gareth Bale again for the Welsh.
The Real Madrid forward hit a free-kick from 30 yards that went over the wall and into the goal despite England’ keeper Joe Hart getting a hand to the effort before it crossed the line. Chris Coleman’s side were maybe slightly fortunate to go in ahead at the break.
England boss Roy Hodgson made two substitutions at half-time, replacing Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane with Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Both players were to play a big part in England’s comeback.
Sturridge crossed the ball into the penalty area that Ashley Williams inadvertently headed back towards his goal and Vardy was on hand to turn and powerfully fire home from close-range. England pushed for a winner, but it did not arrive until stoppage-time.
Vardy found Dele Alli, who flicked the ball through Sturridge and the Liverpool forward kept his cool to prod an end past Wayne Hennessey at his near post. The result changed the complexion of the group, with the Three Lions moving to the top and Wales dropping to second.
The action then moved to Group C, as Northern Ireland recorded a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Lyon. Michael O’Neill’s side took the lead four minutes into the second half. Oliver Norwood swung in a free-kick and West Brom centre-back Gareth McAuley got up highest to power a header past Andriy Pyatov in the Ukraine goal.
The win was sealed deep into stoppage-time. Northern Ireland broke quickly with substitute Josh Magennis who cut the ball back for Stuart Dallas, only for Pyatov to parry the ball away to Niall McGinn and the Aberdeen winger made no mistake to seal a historic win.
The win was Northern Ireland’s first ever at a European Championships and means O’Neill’s team moved level with Germany and Poland, who featured in the late kick-off. The win means that they still have a chance of making the knockout stages.
The other game from Group C saw Germany and Poland produced a goalless draw at the Stade De France. Both sides had chances to win it and Poland’s Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik missed a golden opportunity from close-range.
The draw was not a bad result for either side. The pair now look like the favourites to progress to the knockout stages. Germany faces Northern Ireland in their last game, while Poland will look to add to Ukraine’s misery. With Northern Ireland still in the mix the last games could be very tense for the countries respective supporters.