Euro 2016: Spain vs Czech Republic… Live!

by | Jun 13, 2016

Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first of another three match day here at Euro 2016. This afternoon, we kick off with one of the most curious games of the group stages, between Spain and the Czech Republic. Spain have, of course, won the last two tournaments, an achievement all the more impressive for the fact that this particular nation had not won a major tournament before since the 1960s while no-one had ever successfully defended the European Championships before. In the summer of 2016, however, it might be argued that Spain are in a period of transition. The players of 2008, 2010, and 2012 are starting to fall away, but can those brought in to replace them match their success?

The Czech Republic, meanwhile, continue to be considered, in the way that lazy hacks always used to when talking about Eastern European nations that they hadn’t bothered to read up on or watch, “dark horses”. But here’s a tenuous reason to believe that the Czechs may be capable of going a long way this summer. In 1976, Czechsolovakia won the European Championships. In 1996, the Czech Republic were beaten only by a golden goal from Germany in the final of the same tournament at Wembley. Another twenty years on, could be lucky for the Czechs when the year ends in six? Probably not, but they’ll fancy their chances against a Spanish team that doesn’t look quite as strong as it has in the past. Kick-off is at 2.00pm. Why not join us for it?

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Edward June 13, 20161:39 pm

Ah, there you are. Good afternoon, soccer maniacs. Today, the reigning champions enter the fray. Their opponents, the Czech Republic (or Czechia, the name the Czech people are trying to get off the ground in a campaign that is surely working well) always save their best for the European Championships and will surely be looking to condemn Spain to a similar start to the defence of their title as the Dutch did at the 2014 World Cup.

The teams!

ESPAÑA De Gea; Juanfran, Piqué, Ramos, Alba; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Silva, Morata, Nolito.

CZECHIA Cech; Kaderábek, Sivok, Hubnik, Limbersky; Darida, Plasil, Gebre Selassie, Rosicky, Krejci; Necid.

It is David Silva’s 100th international appearance today. Spain also elect to start David De Gea, in spite of his recent shenanigans, ahead of team captain Iker Casillas.

Edward June 13, 20161:44 pm

We’ll be back in time to get our funk on the La Marcha Real at about five to two. Until then, it’s time to leave the room while ITV whiffle on about the Republic of Ireland, who the keen eyed among you will have noticed don’t play until later this afternoon.

Edward June 13, 20161:49 pm

ITV’s pundits for today’s game are Ian Wright, who has come dressed as Urkel; Craig Bellamy, whose shirt is painted on; and the always ornery Lothar Matthäus, living up to his fame as a “difficult” guest by wearing the kind of pinstriped shirt that strobes badly on television.

Edward June 13, 20161:56 pm

We’re here! We’re clear! We don’t want any more bears! The teams are on the field in Toulouse, which is also one of my favourite types of sausage. But I’m not here to talk about food. Even though I feel I should stress that for my lunch today I had a delicious pie from Bangers, the best pie shop in Brighton.

Edward June 13, 20161:57 pm

Tomas Rosicky, there, with his face like an unfortunately folded picture of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.

Edward June 13, 20161:58 pm

And on the bench for Spain we see Vincente “René Artois” Del Bosque, a man so venerated in Spain that not even the performance at the 2014 World Cup could unseat him.

Edward June 13, 20162:01 pm

Spain kick off and we’re under way.

Edward June 13, 20162:03 pm

ITV’s curious insistence on persevering with their own graphics, rather than using the (much nicer) UEFA ones continues to excite and bemuse a watching world, who have the time to speculate on such things because Spain are currently in possession and as such, nothing much is likely to happen for a while.

Edward June 13, 20162:06 pm

The Czechs have started well, electing to go at the Spanish team with the kind of pace and directness of purpose that is simply bound to make a ball-nurdling aesthete feel unwell. In the first five minutes, it has yielded two corners and a direct free kick, all of which were dispatched with consummate incompetence.

Edward June 13, 20162:08 pm

Lee Dixon opines on the Czech winger Gebre Selassie: “he can run all day”. This is perhaps a brilliant conceptual joke but, as likely as not, isn’t.

Edward June 13, 20162:12 pm

The pitch in Toulouse crumbles under the feet of Alvaro Morata, sending both him and a divot the size of a breaded cod fillet hurtling into the linesman. The ITV commentary crew note that this should probably be a red card for the Spanish player, a remark they will surely fondly recall later in the bar as they masturbatorily congratulate themselves on another job well done.

Edward June 13, 20162:17 pm

Spain have started to get their foot on the ball and they nearly make the Czechs pay… the right wing cross from Silva is fizzed into the six yard box but Morata kicks it straight into the arms of Petr Cech.

Edward June 13, 20162:20 pm

The Czech side today are a rather defensive selection, with Gebre Selassie – normally a right full back – operating as an outside right and supplementary defender for when the team lose possession. It gives some indication as to how Pavel Vrba envisaged this game going. It’s disappointingly cagey as a tactical statement.

Edward June 13, 20162:26 pm

Remember when Spain used to be terrible? Their matches a cavalcade of comedic mishaps and thwarted, unsustainable, ambition? Yeah, me too. I miss those days.

Edward June 13, 20162:29 pm

27 minutes played, of which Czechia have contested up to five. It’s a rather meek and deferential performance from a team who should have more of a swagger.

Edward June 13, 20162:30 pm

Morata again, this time his low shot from the left hand side pings off of Petr Cech’s finger for a corner. One way traffic. The Czechs are proving the agents of their own downfall, as Spain aren’t looking especially vibrant, creative or cutting. However, as long as the Czech team allow them to knock it around, you know it is only a matter of time.

Edward June 13, 20162:42 pm

Petr Cech has comfortably been the Czech Republic’s best player in this match and he has had to save them twice more in the last minute. The rest of the Czech players seem to be all out of ideas as to how they might go about getting the ball, or keeping it after they do.

Edward June 13, 20162:48 pm

Czechia wake up oh so briefly, a quick counter attacking raid down the right flank sees David De Gea make a comfortable save from Tomas Necid. It’s the last action of the first half. Spain have been comfortable, rather than imperious. The failings of their opposition are far more pertinent to the story of this match so far. My suggested tactical move would be to replace the entire outfield personnel using a system of shirt-swapping and clever disguises.

Back in 15 minutes.

Edward June 13, 20163:02 pm

The two teams are back on the field in Toulouse for 45 more minutes of this fucking bullshit, let’s see what they’ve got for me. Tomas Rosicky kicks off, which may prove to be his team’s only touch of the second half.

Edward June 13, 20163:04 pm

Immediately, Hubnik plays Morata’s square pass onto his own post. From the resulting corner, Spain are emboldened by the fact that at least SOMEONE is trying to score a goal for them and an unseemly scramble of legs and high anxiety is the result. It’s like the Spain of old.

Edward June 13, 20163:08 pm

Weather news: there is a monumental black cloud rolling over the top of the stadium. I’m pretty sure UEFA have all kinds of rules about leaving the field in the event of thunderstorms, which is bad news for me as I am equally certain that I can’t take much more of this.

Edward June 13, 20163:14 pm

Morata, who has had an interesting game, finally stops moving for long enough to receive the ball right in front of the goal – courtesy of Pavel Kaderabek, naturally – but unfortunately he is on his arse. From the Cech’s restart, Czechia win a free kick that Hubnik oh-so nearly slides inside De Gea’s near post. It is a reminder that this could still be quite a match if only the Czechs decide to make it one.

Edward June 13, 20163:22 pm

Morata, having run his legs down to stumps in the futile pursuit of a goal, is replaced by Athletic Bilbao’s 35-year old striker Aritz Aduriz. He’s the one who was recalled by Spain earlier this season due to public clamour for his inclusion. He has been prolific for the Basque side over the last few years.

The Czechs take the opportunity to put together their two best attacks of the game, the best of them thwarted by another Euro 16 goal line clearance, this time by Cesc Fabregas. Game on, it seems.

Edward June 13, 20163:27 pm

Action at either end now. Spain are starting to look a little flustered and concerned by their failure to score, and have taken to pinging the ball up, down and around the box. This is a sensible strategy, as it is where the goal is located. Jordi Alba looked to have been played clean through by David Silva only to have the ball taken off of his toe by the quick-thinking Hamsik.

Edward June 13, 20163:34 pm

We’ve reached the overhead kick stage, Aduriz trying to break the deadlock in the most succinct way possible but instead ending up looking more like Gordon Adurie.

Edward June 13, 20163:37 pm

Superb last ditch pickpocketing tackle by Krejci denies Spain what looked like a gilt-edged chance. Silva and Iniesta are now in full effect, playmaking like billy-o.

Edward June 13, 20163:38 pm

Spain’s final roll of the dice sees Chelsea’s Pedro replace Nolito, who has been fairly anonymous. 82 minutes played.

Edward June 13, 20163:41 pm

Spain are now playing in two lines of four, in a 2-4-4 formation. If the Czechs could fit any more than 10 into their 10-0-0, they would.

Edward June 13, 20163:43 pm

Gebre Selassie is now withdrawn for Josef Sural. This is, on paper, a pretty dynamic and attacking change. In reality, it’s probably because he is knackered.

Edward June 13, 20163:43 pm

GOL!

Edward June 13, 20163:43 pm

GOL GOL GOL

Edward June 13, 20163:45 pm

The ball breaks for Iniesta to the left of the penalty area and he dispatches a typically pinpoint right foot cross straight onto the head of Gerard Piqué. It’s been coming and Spain deserve it, but it has been a little like pulling stumps nevertheless. Spain 1-0 Czechia, 89 minutes played.

Edward June 13, 20163:47 pm

Lee Dixon is now explaining how Spain are definitely a team in the mix for this title. Had they not scored, who knows? Maybe he would have said they were dogshit.

Edward June 13, 20163:49 pm

Close! The ball pops up in the Spain box for Darida, who fires his half volley straight at De Gea. Straight at the keeper is the new placement, in football’s brave new world.

Edward June 13, 20163:52 pm

And that’s your lot. Spain had 96% of the possession and 98% of the chances, but it was a weak Czech performance. Will Spain’s marked lack of a proper goalscorer be their downfall as they get deeper into the tournament? It didn’t stop them winning Euro 2012.

Final score from Toulouse:
<strong>SPAIN</strong> (0)<strong>1</strong>
Piqué 87
<strong>CZECH REPUBLIC</strong> (0)<strong>0</strong>
Edward June 13, 20163:54 pm

And that’s your lot. Spain had 96% of the possession and 98% of the chances, but it was a weak Czech performance. Will Spain’s marked lack of a proper goalscorer be their downfall as they get deeper into the tournament? It didn’t stop them winning Euro 2012.

Final score from Toulouse:

SPAIN (0)1

Piqué 87
CZECH REPUBLIC (0)0