Hosts France, reigning champions Spain, and the Italians have all qualified for the knockout phase of Euro 2016 after coming through their second round of matches with unbeaten runs intact.
Italy followed France into the knockout phase of Euro 2016 after a moment of brilliance from the Sampdoria striker Eder in a game of few chances against Sweden in Toulouse. The Italians go through as group leaders with a match to spare.
The Italian broke the deadlock in the 88th minute after weaving through the Swedish back line before curling a low shot into the back of the net. It was only the second chance of note. The first coming in the 81st minute when Marco Parolo headed the ball against the Swedish crossbar following a pinpoint cross from Emanuele Giaccherini. It was the 11th time in the championships that a side has scored a goal beyond the 85th minute.
It was a classic Italian performance: compact, defensive, boring. Giorgio Chiellini didn’t give Zlatan Ibrahimovic a kick, and because of that, the Swedes never looked likely to become the first side in this championships to put the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy won this competition back in 1968 when they beat the old Yugoslavia 2-0 in a replay, after drawing the first game 1-1. They are 10/1 to repeat that feat, and look the best bet if an outsider is going to lift the trophy on July 10. Sweden has to beat Belgium in their final game if they are to have any chance of getting out of the group stage and the bookies don’t think that are going to do it with odds of 7/2 that they will qualify from the Group of Death.
Belgium brushed off the cobwebs that covered them during their opening defeat against the Italians with a comfortable victory against the Rep. Ireland in Bordeaux. A brace from Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, and a header from Axel Witsel giving the Premier League Allstars a 3-0 win.
The victory means Ireland will almost certainly have to beat the Italians in the last game to qualify. The only saving grace for Martin O’Neill’s side is the game a dead rubber for Italy, who have already qualified, and have publicly announced their intention to rest several key players from that match.
Group E Results
Rep. Ireland 1 v 1 Sweden
Belgium 0 v 2 Italy
Italy 1 v 0 Sweden
Belgium 3 v 0 Rep. Ireland
Group E Table
1. Italy – 6 pts
2. Belgium – 3 pts
3. Rep. Ireland – 1 pt.
4. Sweden – 1 pt.
Group D: Croatia Implode As Fans Explode; Spain Roast Turkey
Croatian flares exploded, and the Croatian team imploded after throwing away a seemingly unassailable two-goal lead against The Czech Republic in St Etienne.
Goals from Ivan Perisic and Ivan Ratikic, either side of half-time, underlined Croatia’s utter dominance in one of the most one-sided matches of the tournament thus far.
The tide turned when the Croatian coach took Luka Modric off in the 62nd minute. It made perfect sense to protect their star player with the game firmly under their control. Then in the 75th minute, Tomas Rosicky found the space on the right to send a speculative cross into the Croatian penalty area and substitute Milan Skoda thundered a header past the Croatian keeper.
Then we had anarchy.
With Croatia winning 2-1 fighting broke out between the Croatian fans, with 7-8 flares fired onto the pitch, one of which exploded when a steward tried to remove it.
Referee Mark Clattenburg handled the situation well, the Croatian players urged their fans to take a few chill pills, and the nonsense subsided. There will be repercussions for the Croatian national side as a result of their fans idiotic behaviour. It was also another clear sign that the organisers of the event do not have adequate systems in place to prevent fans from smuggling these types of dangerous instruments into the ground.
The incident clearly affected the Croatian players, and in the 92nd minute, the Czech Republic were handed a lifeline after Vida was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty area and the substitute Tomas Necid smashed the ball into the roof of the net to earn the unlikeliest of points.
Spain Roast Turkey
In the other Group D game, the reigning champions Spain dished out the first spanking of the tournament by beating Turkey by 3-0. It was the first time anyone had hammered three past a keeper at this year’s tournament. Spain joins Italy and France in the knockout stages thanks to two goals from Alvaro Morata, and a smart finish from Manuel Agudo Nolito
Group D Results
Croatia 1 v 0 Turkey
Czech Republic 0 v 1 Spain
Croatia 2 v2 Czech Republic
Spain 3 v 0 Turkey
Group D Table
1. Spain – 6pts
2. Croatia – 4 pts
3. Czech Republic – 1 pt
4. Turkey – 0 pts
Group F: Ronaldo Penalty Miss Opens Door For All Four Sides
Qualification from Group F is going to be a lemon meringue fight after Cristiano Ronaldo managed to have more shots at the Austrian goal than the entire Northern Ireland team and still manage to find himself in the changing rooms with his head in his hands after a goalless draw.
Ronaldo, one of the most gifted players this planet has ever seen, has now had 24 shots on goal during this tournament. He has scored none. And worse, he even missed a penalty during the draw with Austria after sending a tame shot into the base of the post.
The Real Madrid star has had 95 shots in major finals, more than any other player, and 36 of them have been free kicks. Do you know how many of those he has scored?
It’s not just the famous number seven who can’t put the ball into the back of the net. Nani, Quaresma, Moutinho – they are all equally at fault, and although they will cause teams a few problems with their pace and power in the forward line, they are still to be tested at the back.
Austria has been weak. They came into the competition ranked the fifth best European side. They have been dog doo. And after Iceland and Hungary played out a 1-1 draw in the other Group F game, I wouldn’t like to pick the top two from this bunch of jokers.
Like the wimp I am, I will look to the bookies to get me out of this one. With so many third place qualifiers going through, Hungary is 1/1000 to qualify with their four points. Portugal is 1/12, Iceland 8/11, and Austria is the outsiders at 11/10.
Group F Results
Austria 0 v 2 Hungary
Portugal 1 v1 Iceland
Iceland 1 v1 Hungary
Portugal 0 v 0 Austria
Group F Table
1. Hungary 4 pts.
2. Portugal 2 pts.
3. Iceland 2 pts.
4. Austria 0 pt.