Euro 2016, Spain vs Czech Republic Live Score and Commentary, Euro 2016 Match Updates
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FT: Gerard Pique is the 87th minute saviour for the defending European champions. The Czechs were fantastic in defence, completely blocking everything the Spaniards threw at them as Czech legend Petr Cech put in a masterclass in goal. However, the Spaniards are champions for a reason, and they kept pushing, pressing and driving at the Czech goal until a split second of hesitation in marking the Barcelona defender allowed Pique to head in virtually unmarked.
However, Pavel Vrba will probably come off slightly more pleased with his team’s performance than Vicente Del Bosque. Spain were far from brilliant and still require some football before they can reach trophy-winning level. They were well marshalled and Alvaro Morata was not the focal point in attack they were looking for. Aduriz had an encouraging cameo but at the end of the day, they had to rely on 2010 World Cup hero Andres Iniesta once again. They now share top spot with Croatia on 3 points a piece, while the Czech Republic and Turkey lie bottom with nothing after one round.
90’(+3) 3 minutes of added time have been given and Cech takes the goal-kick as the Czechs camp their entire team up in a reverse role. The Spaniards whip it away but the Czechs are insistent and a cracking volley by Darida in the penalty box is repelled by Manchester United’s David De Gea
89’ Is that Spain on their way to the final again? Tomas Rosicky goes off furious as Pavelka comes on. The Spaniards remained calm and collected, completely confident in their philosophy despite the Czechs almost neutralizing them completely. Heartbreaking for the Czechs but a gigantic sigh of relief for Del Bosque and his men.
87’ GOAL! Josef Sural comes on for the Czechs in place of Gebre Selassie. Spain take their five millionth corner in this match as they push for that dramatic last-minute winner and it’s a brilliant, looping cross by Andres Iniesta that floats right onto an unchallenged Pique’s head, who beats Petr Cech at his near post.
85’ Brilliant block by Kaderabek from a splendid ball over. He completely cuts out Pedro’s attempted run mid-air with a fearsome spearing challenge! Another Spanish corner, right into Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech’s gloves. Spain don’t stop the pressure – the Czechs don’t stop repelling them.
82’ Once again, Aduriz lifts himself miles into the air to get his head to a Ramos cross. He’s made Spain’s aerial plan a whole different proposition since his introduction. Iniesta waltzes through 3 or 4 Czech players on the edge of the box before they’re pushed back. Selassie attempts a strange back-pass that’s cleared. Pedro comes on for Nolito as Del Bosque tries to inject more speed in their wide areas. Nolito has been poor today.
78’ Aritz Aduriz attempts a fantastic bicycle kick which goes just a metre or so wide of Cech’s right-hand post. So far, the Czechs will be really pleased with their gameplan as the Spaniards simply cannot find a way to Petr Cech’s goal. They’ve only got to hold out for a few more minutes to earn a very creditable draw, but the Spanish never make it that easy. The ball is out for ANOTHER Spanish corner.
75’ Spain are really pressing the Czech Republic here, and it’s anyone’s guess how long they can hold out. David Silva tries to shoot but it’s blocked, like so many of their attempts right throught the middle. Another dubious decision by the referee allows Spain to (ilegally) win the ball back playing the ball before Silva takes another strike. The Czechs get right back up the pitch though for a free-kick that goes right into De Gea’s hands. Lafata comes on for a clearly weary Necid – he’s had a tough but good game today!
69’ From that corner, Fabregas became a hero as he clears the cut-back just millimetres before it’s turned in. Spain are feeling the pressure now, so they’ve cranked it up at the other end. Thiago comes on for the man who made that brilliant clearance, and the impact is immediate as Jordi Alba gets the ball just yards from the goal. Unfortunately, he can’t control it and it goes out for a corner. Spain have won hundreds of these tonight!
65’ Can Aduriz make the difference here? Spain have managed to get the ball to Morata on numerous occasions, but they’ve made very few clear goalscoring chances. De Gea meanwhile, is playing a bigger spectator than some fans in their own couches! The Czechs don’t like it though and win a corner.
62’ Iniesta is really lighting up this fixture, crossing for Silva to miss the ball by mere inches before shooting straight at the giant Cech – the Czech goalkeeper. First yellow card of the game goes to Limbersky for a clear block on Silva as he tries to get past him. Fabregas floats in a freekick to another Czech clearance. Del Bosque introduces Aritz Aduriz in favour of Morata, wh has been very well marshalled by the Czechs here.
57' The Czechs win a freekick high up the field, and its a reprive from the downpour of Spanish attacks (and rain). It almost results in a goal that is smothered by David De Gea, before the Czechs run right back at the Spaniards. This time the ball is recollected calmly, with the Spanish playing some dangerous tiki-taka in the box. Foul on Sergio Ramos.
54' David Silva fires another Spanish corner into the byline in a poor attempt. Meanwhile Nolito's swerve around the completely confused Selassie is being replayed to the Spanish fan's delight!
50’ The Czechs endure some more of the same from the defending champions, who manage to send th eball into the box after much work down the left flank but are once again unable to capitalize on it. Balls over the top are being reflected right back at whoever sends them - no way through or above!
46’ The Czechs get us off for the second half, and once again they lose the ball to the brilliant Andres Iniesta. With a majestic outside-of-the-boot pass, he stretches the Czech defence and almost causes an own goal – Czech saves again. The Spaniards take their 4th corner in a row, before Rosicky tears it away on the counter. Clear foul by Iniesta not given on Rosicky - what a strange decision?
HT: The Spanish started a bit shaky, showing some post-World Cup tournament nerves. For the Czechs, that was all the invitation they needed to assert themselves on the match. Although the Spaniards have typically dominated possession, they've rarely managed to take decent shots on goal. Whenever they have, they were absolutely shut out by the impreious Petr Cech. On the offence howeer, they've been almost null as almost every second ball is wasted or sent straight at a Spanish player. Almost all of the action is in the Czech half, but most of it has been in the middle thrid of the pitch, with Plasil & Darida doing an admirable job of harassing any red shirt that goes even a metre further.
Del Bosque will want to see if the Czechs will flinch before making a change, but if they want to win this can't carry on for too long. Vrba will be pleased with his team’s effort but they will remain pinged back to their own goal if they cannot tidy up their passing. Spain have maintained 68% of the possession while the Czech Republic have only completed 67% of theirs. What will both managers switch up?
45’ David De Gea stays alert to save from a rapid counter-attack finished by Gebre Selassie, and the final few minutes of the first half wind down without any major incidents as Spain keep on trying to pierce a resolute Czech Republic midfield. The referee blows the whistle for half-time.
42’ As the half winds down, Cech comes almost 20 metres from his goal to take a freekick following a Morata foul. Iniesta drives at 5 or 6 retreating Czech defenders before pinging it to Nolito, who was almost born offside! The Spaniards are trying to play the ball through the Czech flanks, but their hard-working wingers and full-backs are keeping things completely tight there. Spain have resorted to some unsuccessful shots from distance, the latest another funny slip by captain Sergio Ramos.
38’ Another foul in this match, and Fabregas floats it into the Czech box, which is populated by a set of genuine giants on the pitch. Iniesta tries to surprise Cech from a mile away, but he'd never manage that – although the Spanish fans don’t care, hailing their Catalunyan magician! Meanwhile, both managers watch on impassively – none has even said a word. Petr Cech makes another grood save after some brilliant Spanish interplay. The big man is on form today!
33’ Nolito’s brilliant work is wasted by his runner Cesc Fabregas, but once again the Spaniards retrieve the ball from play and pass it around ech other. Silva cleans two players in the midfield with some silky skills. Spain are catching their rhythm now but Pavel Vrba's men now how to cut up the football. Busquets with a shot from range sends the ball towards the Eiffel tower!
30’ Spain aren't finding any problems dominating the middle of the pitch as their quick, young players zip around playmaker Andres Iniesta. In just such a play, he nips the ball through the entire Czech defence. Alvaro Morata feints his defender and fires across goal but a tip of a finger from the majestic Cech sends it wide. Play restarts with a corner and the tall Czechs can clear. The Spaniards come again, with some sweet hold-up play by that man Morata, although Cech plucks the ensuing cross out of the sky.
24’ The Czechs have done their homework, as Petr Cech intimated before the match. The Spaniards are stroking the ball around but not at all comfortably. They're trying to pry open a side that is intent on snatching the ball off their big midfield block and pinging it right down the middle. So far it’s not working, but it’s keeping the Spanish players in the air where they don't like it at all. Clever work, but the Spaniards pick the ball p again and continue tring to push them back.
20' The game seems to have settled now, with Spanish players covering every length of the Czech Republic’s half as they try to stretch the stout Czech defence. As of now, the play is narrow and just in front of Petr Cech's box. Spain win a penalty now as they take on the Czech full-backs. The delivery is poor though, but Spain captain Sergio Ramos writhes in pain holding the shoulder that's been troubling him this season. Worrying for Del Bosque, but the Real Madrid hard-man is right back up!
15’ Replays clearly show Fabregas pushing Tomas Rosicky just as he was about to fire the Czechs ahead. At the other hand, former Chelsea keeper Petr Cech blocks a point-bank Morata strike from a delicate David Silva cross. Spain are coming into their own now, but the Czechs can just about match them at every end of the pitch.
12’ Alvaro Morata slips and goes in two-footed on the linesman in a comical attempt to control the ball. The Czechs responded with lightning speed, pouring into the box before a dubious challenge by Chelsea midfielder Fabregas results in half-hearted penalty claims. Spain grab the ball and send it up, but their passing is letting them down today. THe Czechs are immediately stealing the ball and going on the counter. It's end-to-end, non-stop action!
7’ Spain are trying to play their calmer football on the edge of the box but the Czech midfield and defence are staying tight and preventing them from finding pockets of space in the middle. Somehow they wriggle free and do it but Cech saves the ensuing shot, which was offside anyway.
5’ The free-kick comes to nothing as the Czechs are flagged offside. Spain are back in possession, and instantly right back up the field. Uncharacteristically, they lose the ball again almost immediately as Jordi Alba loses out on his tussle with Gebre Selassie. Goal kick to Petr Cech
3’ Consecutive coerners for the Czech result in some pressure, which the Spanish manage to hold off. Throw-in taken by Juanfran and immediately sent back towards the Spanish defence. Foul on the edge of the box
0’ And it’s the champions who kick us off as the ball gets rolling, with Pique immediately pushing it forward for a goal kick. Not your typical Spanish side? Petr Cech sends it back into their half from the goal-kick.
2’ The Spaniards are holding a very high line, moving the ball fast and putting the Czechs immediately on the back foot. Offside for Spain, and once again Cech goes forward and boots it even further
Tonight we’ve got the defending European champions at stage 1 of their bid to become the indisputably greatest European team ever. Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain are already on back-to-back titles, with the last one even better than the first.
In 2008 the Spaniards won every single match in their group stage, becoming the first side since France (24 years earlier) to win every group match on the way to the title. Moreover, they were the first side to win the tournament completely unbeaten. They had to fell the last holders of that record - Germany - in order to do that. Fernando Torres latched onto a 33rd minute pass from Xavi before chipping former Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann. In a dominant display, they kept absolute control of the match before seeing out the title. David Villa finished as the tournament’s top scorer to show that their dominance was complete.
4 years later they were back, as imperious as ever. In the group stages they scored 6, conceding only one. Then, they took down the French (2-0) and got past their Iberian neighbours Portugal on penalties before the grand final with Italy. Mario Balotelli’s unquenchable tears at the 90th minute whistle said everything anyone needed to know. Although Spain were clearly the better team, Fernando Torres’ late cameo turned added serious insult to injury. Brought on in the 75th minute, he would score and assist then Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata to double the score to 4-0.
But all that was a different Spain facing different opponents in bygone years. Now it’s June 2016, and this is a resurgent Czech Republic side. Although they haven’t won the Euros by that name, success still courses through the legacy of the Czech team. In 1976 as Czechoslovakia, they were crowned European champions with Antonin Panenka immortalizing himself with that penalty chip. That wasn’t against any West Germany side either; they were the defending world & European champions. In fact, that loss was so stinging that the Germans made sure that they learnt - not losing on penalties in any major tournament since that night.
For the Czechs, that brilliant victory ended in tears at the next tournament as they fought bravely but wound up finishing third. By 1992, the nation would separate into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but the good football didn’t stop there. Just 4 years after such a cataclysmic event in their history, the Czechs regrouped and reached the final. Unfortunately, Olivier Bierhoff equalized and then shattered their dreams with a 95th minute golden goal as Germany exacted a revenge they’d waited 16 years for. A tough but proud moment in their history; they were one of the few teams to be defeated by a rule that was later scrapped. In 2004, Ballon D’Or winner Pavel Nedved had to watch injured as surprise champions-to-be Greece eliminated then with a silver goal in injury time.
Today, both sides are out to prove something. If Spain lose on the back of the Georgian upset, their fear factor will officially disappear in this Group of D(eath). For the Czechs, it could be the start of a miracle that a nation has been begging for since its formation. With Croatia grabbing a win against Turkey, a win here would balance the table out. But who will take it? Let’s see below!
The official line-ups are out, and for Spain, the starting XI is:
De Gea – Alba – PIque – Ramos © – Juanfran – Iniesta – Busquets – Fabregas – Nolito – Morata – David Silva
For the Czech Republic, it's:
Cech – Limbersky – Hubnik – Sivok – Kaderabek – Plasil – Darida – Krejci – Rosicky © – Gebre Selassi – Necid
Here are the subs:
Spain: Casillas, Azpilicueta, Bartra, Koke, Vazquez, Pedro, Bellerin, Thiago, San Jose, Bruno, Aduriz, Rico
Czech: Kadlec, Dockal, Pudil, Skoda, Kolar, Pavelka, Vaclik, Sural, Skalak, Lafata, Koubek
Managers: Del Bosque, Vrba
The players are out, the anthems are sung (or hummed in Spain's case), so let’s kick-off!