Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 14th 2016 Contents A55
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
TOULOUSE---Gerard Pique finally
broke down the Czech Republic s
stubborn defence in the final min-
utes, giving defending champion
Spain a 1-0 victory yesterday at the
Pique ran behind the defenders
and calmly headed the ball into the
net after a well-placed cross by
Andres Iniesta in the 87th minute.
"It was an incredible pass by Ini-
esta," Pique said. "It was very impor-
tant to start with the three points.
We played very well, we controlled
the game but it seemed the ball didn t
want to go in."
The two-time defending champi-
ons had created a series of scoring
chances throughout the match at the
Stadium de Toulouse. But they looked
set to being denied victory by a com-
bination of poor finishing and a
superb performance from Czech
Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech.
"Is not the first time we ve had
this kind of game, this kind of oppo-
nent," said Iniesta, who was voted
the best player of the match. "There s
not a single way to break down these
teams, you have to be patient, be
calm, and keep going forward for as
long as it takes."
The Czechs had a chance to break
the deadlock in the 65th but Cesc
Fabregas saved Spain with a goal-
line clearance after a header by
Theodor Gebre Selassie.
The result left Spain and Croatia
at the top of Group D with three
points each. Croatia defeated Turkey
1-0 on Sunday. "We took the initiative
during the entire match. We dom-
inated," Spain coach Vicente Del
Bosque said. "Iniesta made a perfect
pass and Pique was phenomenal."
La Roja controlled possession and
was on the attack most of the time
but couldn t break down the Czechs
resistance until Pique s late header.
"If you keep insisting with this
intensity, the goal will come," Spain
defender Sergio Ramos said. "We
have to continue like this."
The Czechs barely threatened Spain
goalkeeper David De Gea until Gebre
Selassie s header. The team s lone
chance in the first half came when
Tomas Necid s shot drew a save by
De Gea in injury time.
De Gea was making his senior tour-
nament debut despite getting
embroiled in an off-the-field con-
troversy just three days before the
game, when his name appeared in a
police investigation into a Spanish
It was Spain s first win in the open-
ing match of a major tournament
since beating Russia 4-1 at Euro 2008.
It had lost to Switzerland at the 2010
World Cup, drawn Italy at Euro 2012
and lost to the Netherlands at the
2014 World Cup. Spain won the last
two European Championships but is
trying to redeem itself from a disap-
pointing early elimination at the
World Cup in Brazil, when it arrived
as the favourite but couldn t make it
out of the group stage.
The result extended Spain s
unbeaten streak at European Cham-
pionships to 13 games, with ten wins
and three draws. The team hasn t
lost since a 1-0 defeat by Portugal in
2004. It also hasn t conceded a goal
in the European tournament since
its opener in 2012, a 1-1 draw against
the star who calls himself a legend,
saved Sweden yet again.
Even if he couldn t get a goal and
set a European Championship scoring
record, the 34-year-old Ibrahimovic
helped rescue a 1-1 draw after being
stifled by an impressive Ireland for
most of the match.
Sweden trailed until the 71st
minute, when Ibrahimovic glided for-
ward and sent a teasing ball across
the goalmouth that Ireland defender
Ciaran Clark stooped to head it into
his own net.
Though their captain had been far
from his best in Euro 2016 s biggest
arena, Ibrahimovic s yellow-shirted
teammates swarmed him to celebrate
"I give the cross and he headed in
the goal," Ibrahimovic said, replying
with a chuckling laugh and reference
to Clark when asked if it was Ibra
magic. "You should ask him."
Ibrahimovic was seeking to become
the first player to score in four dif-
ferent European Championships but
was limited to half-chances, hooked
shots wide in each half.
"We forced him away from our
goal as much as we possibly could
and it worked a treat," Ireland coach
Martin O Neill said.
Ireland has taken a deserved lead
in the 48th minute of the Group E
match when Wes Hoolahan scored
from a sweetly struck half-volley from
inside the area. Until then, Ireland
had followed an early trend at Euro
2016 of teams failing to turn dom-
inance into goals.
In a group where Belgium and Italy
are favored, a point for each team at
the Stade de France leaves their Euro
2016 prospects uncertain.
"It does make an awful difference,"
O Neill said of not taking three points.
"We have matches coming up with
two sides that are pretty classy."
"Accomplished," rather than classy,
was the word chosen by the often
professorial Ireland coach about his
team, one usually praised for fighting
spirit and endless energy.
Tiny in stature compared to the
tall Ibrahimovic, and set to play in
England s second division next season,
Hoolahan threatened to eclipse the
The 5-foot-6 Norwich playmaker
controlled a first-time shot and scored
from a chipped cross by right back
Seamus Coleman, who went on a
twisting run deep into the Sweden
Jeff Hendrick, who hit the crossbar
in the 32nd, and his teammates had
earlier exploited space in Sweden s
defense, and an added threat was
supplied by left back Robbie Brady s
Ireland captain John O Shea wasted
his best chance after Brady s corner
was flicked on by Clark. The 35-year-
old O Shea failed to follow Germany s
Shkodran Mustafi and Spain s Gerard
Pique as central defenders scoring
key opening goals in a third straight
Euro 2016 match.
cherini and Graziano Pelle got
Italy off to a winning start with
stunning goals to sink fellow
Group E heavyweights Belgium
2-0 at the European Champi-
Giaccherini has hardly set the
world alight in three years at Sun-
derland and spent last season on
loan at Serie A Bologna but he
ignited Italy s Euro 2016 challenge
with a superb strike.
The winger coolly sent a sub-
lime ball over the top from
Leonardo Bonucci in the first half,
and Pelle volleyed a second in
stoppage time to settle the eager-
Belgium s big names failed to
spark for much of the game, with
Romelu Lukaku missing their best
chance before he was substituted
with 20 minutes remaining.
Belgium at least looked like they
could be threatening in the open-
ing skirmishes with Roma mid-
fielder Radja Nainggolan s fierce
drive forcing a fine save from 38-
year-old Italian Gianluigi Buffon.
But the Italians made the break-
through in the 32nd minute when
Leonardo Bonucci carved open
the Belgium defence with a lofted
ball from the halfway line.
Giaccherini peeled away from
his marker, took one touch with
his left foot and clinically tucked
the ball past Thibaut Courtois
with his right.
With Belgium s defence sud-
denly all over the place Courtois
had to beat away a fierce drive
from Antonio Candreva before
Pelle planted a free header wide
from a corner with the goal gap-
Belgium were surprisingly flat
for most of the first half with
Lukaku barely getting a kick and
Kevin de Bruyne unable to get
into the game. Although Eden
Hazard occasionally looked dan-
gerous, he could not do it on his
But shortly after half-time De
Bruyne finally came to life with
a brilliant crossfield ball to Lukaku.
However, the Everton striker s
first touch took him away from
goal and as he lifted his shot over
the advancing Buffon the ball
curled across goal and wide.
Courtois then kept Belgium in
the game with a stunning one-
handed save to repel a powerful
close-range header from Pelle.
Lukaku s disappointing evening
was brought to an end with
Divock Origi summoned from the
bench, and the Liverpool young-
ster had a chance to equalise with
nine minutes remaining but head-
ed De Bruyne s cross over the
Pique scores late as
Spain in perfect start
Czech Republic's Pavel Kaderabek, on the ground, tackles Spain's Jordi Alba
during the Euro 2016 Group D match at the Stadium municipal in Toulouse,
France, yesterday. AP PHOTO
Ibrahimovic helps Sweden rescue 1-1 draw
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, back to camera, celebrates with Kim
Kallstrom, top, Emil Forsberg, left, and John Guidetti after Ireland's Ciaran
Clark scored an own goal, during the Euro 2016 Group E soccer match
between Ireland and Sweden at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north
of Paris, France, yesterday. AP PHOTO
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