MATCHDAY 8: Nothing To Separate Czech Republic And Croatia, Italy And Spain Go Through, And More

Italy’s defence came out on top once again as the Italians defeated Sweden 1-0 in the first of the three games of match day 8.

The Italian defence managed to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co. quiet, refusing them even a single shot on target throughout the game. And with 87 minutes gone, it looked like the game would end in a goalless draw, but up stepped Eder, who dribbled through the Swedish defence to score the winner with his first and only shot on target in the 88th minute.

Giorgio Chiellini was named the man of the match for his fantastic display in the heart of Italy’s defence.

This victory means Italy are now through to the knockout stages of the competition, whereas Sweden currently sit third in Group E.

Italy coach Antonio Conte was delighted on reaching the last 16 stage, and said: “Many were even doubting us going through and the fact we’re into the last 16 after just two games is a huge satisfaction. I’m pleased for these lads because they deserve a lot and hope these wins gain us more confidence because we started with the wheels deflated and now we’re trying to pump these wheels up with every game.”

Sweden boss Erik Hamren had his say on the game by stating: “We defended well and we really succeeded in closing down Italy’s game, but it was only towards the end of the game that we lost a bit of concentration.”

He also had supportive words for his team’s captain and star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “I think Zlatan did what he needed to do in the last two matches. It was tough for him today because Italy defended very well, but we had more of the ball than we did against Ireland and of course a centre forward needs the support of wingers. Zlatan is one of the greatest forwards I have ever met. He is a winner and if he’s disappointed, I think everybody can accept and understand that – we all are disappointed.”

Italy will be guaranteed a first place finish in Group E if they secure a point against Republic of Ireland in their final group game on Wednesday, and Sweden will need to win against Belgium under any circumstances if they are to stand a realistic chance of progressing.

The second game of match day 8 was played between Czech Republic and Croatia, and it ended in a 2-2 draw.

Ivan Perisic opened the scoring for Croatia after a brilliant left foot finish in the 37th minute. Ivan Rakitic then doubled Croatia’s lead after half-time by chipping the ball over Petr Cech 14 minutes after the restart. However, the Czechs did not lose hope, and hit back in the 75th minute via Milan Skoda, who scored a wonderful header to pull one back.

The game was then halted for five minutes in the 86th minute to clear the flares that were thrown onto the pitch from the Croatian end, which ended up injuring a steward.

Following the restart, Czech Republic were awarded a penalty for a handball offence by Domagoj Vida inside the box, which was converted confidently by Czech striker Tomas Necid.

Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba commented on his team securing a late draw by saying: “I’d be careful using the word miracle. We managed to get one point, which is very important for us. We’ll play for everything in the last match. It wasn’t going well, but we’ve given ourselves a spark of hope to get out of the group.

“All the players gave their utmost in the second half, and of course the two substitutes helped a lot. What helped most was that we didn’t give up. We didn’t give up on the point and I’m really proud of all the players. We didn’t look at who was substituted – Luka Modric is important for Croatia, but I only look at my team. The fans were our 12th, 13th and 14th player today and pushed us on.”

Croatia coach Ante Cacic also had his say in the post-match interview: “The Czech Republic are a quality team. We played one of the best games since I’ve been coach and we had a lot of chances. But this is the Euro every team has chances. They scored two goals. What can I say?

“We should have won and had six points. I’m just happy about the team’s performance – until it was 2-1, we did everything perfectly. After the interruption, we lost concentration. We’re used to this kind of situation. We can only be stronger and better after this. I’m sorry we lost two points, but that’s football.”

Croatia now need a point against Spain if there are to qualify for the last 16 stage, whereas Czech Republic will require a win against Turkey if they are to go through.

Reigning European champions Spain hammered Turkey 3-0 in the final game of match day 8.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring for Spain in the 34th minute by heading the ball into the net, past Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan. Nolito doubled the lead just after three minutes by scoring from close range, and Morata then added the third in the 48th minute, finishing off a 22-pass move that involved nine outfield Spanish players.

Thanks to Morata’s brace, Spain became the first team to score more than 2 goals in Euro 2016, and are now unbeaten in their last 14 games at the Euros (W11 D3).

Andres Iniesta made 99 passes, including 3 key passes, and dominated the midfield throughout the game, and was therefore rightly named the man of the match.

The Barcelona midfield maestro had the following to say in the post-match interview: “We showed our winning mentality and great team spirit. It depends on ourselves how far we go here, the feelings we have are very positive at the moment. It is 10/10 for the players and 10/10 for the fans, who supported us incredibly.”

Turkey manager Fatih Terim also had nothing but nice things to say about the Spaniards: “We conceded two goals by making individual mistakes – one of them was unbelievable. But I congratulate Spain. They’re a very important team, a special team.”

Spain now need only a point against Croatia to finish the group stage as leaders of Group D. Turkey, meanwhile, must defeat Czech Republic if they are to have even the slightest chance of going through to the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.

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