UEFA EURO 2016 – Day 8

Italy are through to the last 16 of the European Championship finals after Eder struck late on to beat Sweden. The game looked to be heading towards a dull goalless draw before Eder raced onto Zaza’s knockdown to drive home from the edge of the box. Sweden failed to produce a shot on goal for the second successive game, with captain and star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic kept quiet throughout. Italy are top of Group E with six points while Sweden are third on one. Prior to the tournament, Italy boss Antonio Conte had played down his side’s chances of success in France, citing an ageing squad and a lack of upcoming talent as reasons for fans to temper their expectations.

In their opening group game at Euro 2016, they caught the eye as they outfoxed one of the tournament favourites in Belgium with patient and well-organised football. They found joy in that game by getting between Belgium’s lines, quickly turning defence into attack against a side that – while packed with individual talent – looked disjointed. Italy, though, had no such luck against a conservative Sweden side, who were content to sit deep. For 88 minutes, the tactic worked but this Italy side is built upon a foundation of being defensively solid and clinical in attack. That latter quality was illustrated when Brazilian-born striker Eder scored in the closing stages with only Italy’s second shot on target, driving brilliantly into the left corner of Andreas Isaksson’s net.

Crowd trouble and flares on the pitch marred the Euro 2016 Group D draw between Croatia and the Czech Republic. The match was halted in the 86th minute when flares from the Croatia end rained down on the Saint-Etienne pitch. A steward appeared to be hurt by a firework during a five-minute stoppage. Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic had given Croatia a 2-0 lead, but the Czechs hit back through Milan Skoda’s header before Tomas Necid smashed in a penalty for handball in the 93rd minute. That late equaliser will have hurt the Croatian players, who dominated much of the match, and the team could be punished further by Uefa for the fan violence.

Coach Ante Cacic’s men were counting down to a deserved win before a volley of flares appeared towards the left of Czech keeper Petr Cech’s penalty area. Stewards and players went to the corner in an attempt to remove the objects and quell the trouble among the Croatia supporters. However, one of the stewards appeared to be struck by a firework as he went to remove it and had to be escorted away by his colleagues. English referee Mark Clattenburg eventually restarted the match, and in the additional time allowed the Czechs levelled after Domagoj Vida handled in the area.

Two-time defending champions Spain progressed to the last 16 of the European Championship with a masterful display against a poor Turkey in Nice. In the performance of the tournament, Spain became the first team to score more than twice in a Euro 2016 match. Alvaro Morata headed Spain ahead while Nolito doubled the lead within minutes, side-footing home from close range. The third goal was a sublime 22-pass move involving nine outfield players, ending with Morata finding the net. In the past Spain have often found it difficult to break down opponents intent on defending deeply to contain their technical brilliance, but they had no such trouble against a Turkish team who found it impossible to suppress their opponents.

On a day where crowd trouble and flares had marred Croatia’s draw with the Czech Republic, there was a series of loud bangs after the final whistle at the Stade de Nice, with fans lighting up flares. Uefa have imposed a strict ban on all flares being taken into stadiums and Turkey are expected to be the latest country to face disciplinary action. Three Spain fans were also arrested before the match trying to bring flares into the stadium.

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