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In the first of the two match day 16 games, Italy managed to knock reigning European Champions Spain out of the competition by defeating them 2-0.
Antonio Conte’s men tactically bossed the Spaniards, and it was defender Giorgio Chiellini who opened the scoring in the 33rd minute by scraping the ball into goal after a saved Eder free-kick. Striker Graziano Pelle sealed the victory in injury time by volleying in Matteo Darmian’s deflected cross, thereby ending Italy’s run of going five matches without a win against Spain.
Italian full-back Mattia de Sciglio was one of the prime reasons behind Italy’s tactical dominance in the game, and was therefore named the man of the match.
Giorgio Chiellini, scorer of Italy’s first goal, had his say in the post-match interview: “We deserved this win. We could have killed the game off earlier. After years of Spain dominating, we have been able to get some revenge. This is just the beginning, we will enjoy this victory but there is still a long way to go until the end. The best is to come.”
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque admitted that the better team won the game, by saying: “They were probably better. They don’t play great football but they are strong in the air, very physical and they were dangerous. We came out in the second half with a chance and the players tried to do the best they could. We tried everything but we couldn’t score.”
Italy will now face world champions Germany in the quarter finals, in Bordeaux on Saturday.
The second game of match day 16 was played between England and Iceland, in which the Icelanders managed to snatch a shock 2-1 victory.
England captain Wayne Rooney scored an early opener by converting a penalty from the spot in the 4th minute, but Iceland made a swift reply by scoring the equalizer within the next minute via Ragnar Sigurdsson. The winner of the game came in the 18th minute, when England goal keeper Joe Hart failed to keep out Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s shot.
Joe Hart, who has since been widely criticized for his blunder, admitted of not performing well in the post-match interview: “As a group it is down to us. All the plans are put in place, we knew everything about Iceland – but ultimately we didn’t perform. Personally I didn’t perform.
“It’s not a question of wanting it, there’s nothing we want more – they are just words though. We were in a good place but we haven’t done it. We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it. We will learn from this and try and bring English football back to where it belongs. We have put it in a low place.
“We just couldn’t find a way back into the game. The next manager has a tough job on his hands. We worked hard but with no success. That is how this team will be remembered.”
Skipper Wayne Rooney also had his say: “It’s a sad day for us. Sometimes not always the best team win. Once they got in the lead we knew it would be difficult to get the goal back because they are well organised. Going into the last 16 facing Iceland we were confident we could win the game. It’s disappointing but we have to move on.
“It’s tough. There are always upsets in football – it’s not tactics, it’s just unfortunate. We know we’re a good team. I can’t stand here and say exactly why it’s happened. Roy Hodgson will look back and think what he could have done differently. I’m still available to play. It’ll be interesting to see who comes in.”
With the Three Lions humiliatingly knocked out, Iceland will now go on to the quarter finals to face hosts France on Sunday.