Euro 2016 Round-up: Holders Spain start with a win, Italy outfox Belgium

Spain began their title defence with a late win over the Czech Republic while Belgium were thoroughly outplayed by Euro 2012 runners-up Italy.

Gerard Pique ensured a late victory for Spain against a defiant Czech Republic side as they beat them 1-0. Over in Group E, Ireland and Sweden shared the spoils as their game ended 1-1 with both goals coming in the second half. Later, Italy put in a convincing performance to defeat world number 2 Belgium in Lyon.

Spain 1-0 Czech Republic

Spain vs Czech Republic – Highlights & Full Match

Not much has been spoken about the defending champions Spain, but they do remain one of the favorites to retain their Euro 2012 crown. Spain started their title defence with a narrow 1-0 win against the Czech Republic.

After having dominated the entire 1st half and the majority of the second-half, Spain found it difficult to get past a stubborn Czech defence marshalled by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech. Pique finally managed to score in the 87th minute and helped unlock a tight Czech defence who were set up to get a draw from the game.

Spain often cut the Czech defence with precision, chiefly through the inventory of Andres Iniesta, who turned back the clock with one of his vintage performances. The 32-year-old made 93 passes with a success rate of 91% to make sure that he was the one in charge of the tempo and flow of the game in the middle of the park. After creating a handful of chances, Iniesta finally provided the final ball for Pique to head Spain to victory.

Player of the Match: Andres Iniesta
Playing Rating: 7/10

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Sweden

Ireland vs Sweden – Highlights & Full Match

An own-goal by Ciaran Clark ruined a perfect start for Ireland in their Euro 2016 campaign. Wes Hoolahan converted a half-chance from inside the box early in the second half to send Ireland into the lead. Sweden responded by piling pressure on Ireland before eventually bringing the game back to level terms. Manchester United bound Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s attempted cross hit Ciaran Clark and ended up in the back of the net. Even after the equalizer, Ireland weren’t ready to lie down easily as they forced Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson to make several top drawer saves late on in the match.

This is a result that neither team would have wanted as their remaining two fixtures for both the teams are against Italy and Belgium who will be far more tougher opponents.

Player of the Match: Wes Hoolahan
Player Rating: 8/10

Belgium 0-2 Italy

Belgium vs Italy – Highlights & Full Match

Clearly the most anticipated and talked about match in the tournament so far. The Italian team put forth a classy performance, the kind you expect them to save for big tournaments. The Italians have time and again come into a major International tournament and surprises everyone.

Goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle in either half ensured a comfortable 2-0 win for the Italians against Belgium. Having started better, Belgium will rue missing several half chances which they could not convert to goals. Chelsea target Radja Nainggolan had the first opportunity of the game in the 10th minute when he forced Buffon to pull off a save. Deep into the first half, another Chelsea target Leonardo Bonucci delivered a delightful cross to find  Giaccherini in space behind the Belgian defence, where he took one touch and slotted past Chelsea goal keeper Thibaut Courtois with ease to take the lead. Italy had gathered full momentum by then and only a few minutes before the close of the first half, Southampton striker Graziano Pelle headed wide on a chance where he should’ve doubled the lead for Italy.

Belgium brought on Atletico Madrid star and Arsenal target Yannick Ferreira Carrasco in the hope conjuring up yet another goal coming off the bench to salvage a point for the Red Devils. However, resolute defending from the Italians and a lack of a killer instinct in front of goal from the Belgians meant that the latter succumbed to a loss which leaves their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

Player of the Match: Leonardo Bonucci
Player Rating- 9/10

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