Spain and Italy show pedigree, Czechs peg back Croatians
THE DAY REPLAYED –Italy became the second side to book their ticket to the next round of UEFA EURO 2016 after snatching a 1-0 victory over Sweden on Friday. Spain followed them a few hours later by comfortably seeing off Turkey 3-0. In the interim, Croatia came agonisingly close to qualifying for the last 16 themselves, only to let a two-goal lead slip in the last quarter of an hour of an entertaining 2-2 draw with Czech Republic.
FIFA.comrounds up all the action from another fascinating day of European football.
The day's resultsItaly 1-0 Sweden
Czech Republic 2-2 Croatia
Spain 3-0 Turkey
The analysisTaking a page out of hosts France's book, the Italians left it extremely late to claim victory and a place in the next round. Eder lit up the match in its dying embers, producing a dazzling solo effort with just two minutes to go.
Antonio Conte's men were in less inspired form than against Belgium, struggling to break down a Sweden team who were well organised, but once again toothless up front. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Co have failed to muster a single shot on target in their two games to date, a shortcoming they will undoubtedly have to put right if they are to prevail in the last-chance saloon against Belgium and progress from Group E.
Czech Republic, beaten by Spain in their first match, got a shot in the arm against Croatia, who had impressed hugely against Turkey. The buoyant Croats raised their game to even greater heights and looked rampant for an hour, cruising into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Ivan Perisic's 37th-minute strike and Ivan Rakitic's deft 59th-minute finish. However, they went off the boil following Luka Modric's withdrawal with a muscle problem around the hour mark and, after Milan Skoda had reduced the deficit with a 76th-minute header, Tomas Necib scored a dramatic 93rd-minute equaliser from the penalty spot following a long interruption due to crowd trouble.
Unlike in their opener, in which they had to wait until the 87th minute to get the breakthrough, the Spaniards did not take too long to establish a commanding advantage against Turkey and, unlike the Croats, they were able to hold on to it. Alvaro Morata broke the deadlock after 34 minutes, glancing home an inch-perfect cross from Nolito, who made it 2-0 three minutes later. Morata struck again just after the restart to add further gloss to the scoreline as the two-time defending champions laid down a real marker to their challengers with a masterclass.
Highlight of the dayJust five days after suffering the anguish of losing his father, Darijo Srna took to the turf in Saint-Etienne intent on making his presence felt, which he certainly did. As the captain – who could not fight back the tears while the Croatian national anthem was played – said earlier in the week, "All his life my father wanted me to win things with my country. I went back to my hometown and they told me that this was his last wish. Everyone back there will be delighted to see me returning to the pitch." The right-back will have another opportunity to honour his dad's memory against Spain next Tuesday.
The stat35 –Morata and Nolito respectively became the 34th and 35th players to score for Spain at the European Championship. Their efforts enabled La Roja to first equal and then surpass the record previously held by Germany, their fellow three-time winners of the tournament.
What they said"Very few observers envisaged us being through after two games. Some even thought we wouldn't get out of this group. These lads deserve everything good coming their way," Italy coach Antonio Conte.
Next matchday*Saturday 18 June (all times local)*
Group E Belgium-Ireland (3 pm)
Group F Iceland-Hungary (6 pm) Portugal-Austria (9 pm)
The winners of UEFA EURO 2016 will represent Europe at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017