EURO 2016

Euro 2016 Day 4: Italy and Spain off to winning starts, Ireland denied by Sweden

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 5:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 4:54pm

Good morning - here's the key headlines from the overnight action in France: 

 

Italy show they mean business

Italy had been written off in many quarters - not least at home - but they showed they're contenders in France with a hugely impressive win over Belgium.

Marc Wilmots' Belgians are the highest ranked team in the competition, but Antonio Conte's well-drilled Italians were far too savvy for them.

Emanuele Giaccherini gave them a first half lead with a beautiful control and finish from Leonardo Bonucci's terrific long pass. 

Belgium tried to fight back, but with much-vaunted names such as Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku having dire games, couldn't break the Azzurri's veteran Juventus defence. 

Divock Origi came on for Lukaku and missed a couple of good chances, before Graziano Pelle put the game beyond doubt in added time with a thumping volley as Italy broke on the counter.

 

Ireland rue missed chances

The Republic of Ireland took the lead against Sweden with a terrific goal from Wes Hoolahan, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross was turned into his own net by Ciaran Clark to level the game at 1-1, a result that did little side any favours in the group of death.

Ireland had the upper hand against Ibrahimovic's Sweden for the whole first half, but hitting the crossbar was the closest they came.

Early in the second half, Hoolahan blasted in a half volley after great work from Seamus Coleman that had Ibrahimovic applauding in appreciation. 

Sweden fought back though, and though Clark's OG was not the last chance the Scandinavians had, they couldn't find a winner. 

 

Pique heads home late for Spain

Title holders Spain got their championship defence off to a winning start, but only after an 87th-minute header from Gerard Pique. 

The Spaniards had laboured to break through a tremendously resolute Czech Republic defence, and the first 0-0 draw of the tournament looked on the cards.

Andres Iniesta had other ideas though, and sent in a terrific ball from the left that begged his Barca teammate Pique to head home.

David de Gea played in goal for Spain despite facing allegations involving a pornography filmmaker, but it was opposite number Petr Cech who shone, keeping the Czechs in it with some excellent stops.