Wednesday 22 June 2016, 00:31

Germany ease through but pain for Spain

THE DAY REPLAYED –On Tuesday the curtain came down on UEFA EURO 2016 Groups C and Group D. Following 1-0 wins over Northern Ireland and Ukraine, Germany and Poland respectively finished first and second in their section and progressed safely to the last 16. Having limited the damage against Die Mannschaft, Northern Ireland clinched a spot among the best third-placed finishers and also advance.

Spain and Croatia will similarly be present in the next round of the competition, despite La Roja making life more difficult for themselves by losing 2-1 to the impressive Vatreni, who claimed top spot in Group D. European champions Spain will now face Italy in the Round of 16 in a repeat of the 2012 final. rounds up the action from Tuesday's four matches.

The day's results*Ukraine 0-1 Poland Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany Czech Republic 0-2 Turkey *Croatia 2-1 Spain

The analysisAfter drawing a blank in a lacklustre draw against Poland on 16 June, many German fans called for a traditional No9 to be brought into the starting line-up to take on Northern Ireland. Mario Gomez vindicated this view by earning victory for the world champions, who put in a businesslike performance up against decidedly plucky opponents. Having racked up 28 shots to Northern Ireland's two, Germany could well have handed out a hammering had it not been for a combination of some wayward finishing and an inspired Michael McGovern, but having topped Group C, they will consider it a case of mission accomplished.

Poland failed to leapfrog Die Mannschaft after only mustering a 1-0 win over already eliminated Ukraine, when a triumph by three goals or more would have been enough to take top position. Adam Nawalka's men struggled to break down a carefree Ukrainian side, but Jakub Blaszczykowski's introduction after the interval changed the game. The Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder, who spent this season on loan at Fiorentina, broke the deadlock in the 54th minute and booked his side a last-16 tie against Switzerland.

Not only did Spain's 14-game unbeaten run in the European Championship come to an end against Croatia, but their 2-1 defeat was made all the bitterer by the fact that it relegated them to second in the group and condemned them to a more challenging path through the competition, at least on paper. La Roja looked to have subdued their opponents in the first half, in which they took the lead through Alvaro Morata's ninth-minute effort and dominated in terms of both chances and possession, only to be pegged back by Nikola Kalinic's equaliser on the stroke of half-time. The holders' intensity subsequently dropped and they paid the penalty for Sergio Ramos' missed spot-kick when Ivan Perisic bagged an 87th-minute winner.

Turkey, meanwhile, turned over a new leaf against Czech Republic, chalking up a crucial 2-0 victory that puts them in with a shot of joining Croatia and Spain in the last 16 as one of the top third-placed teams. Burak Yilmaz set his side on their way after nine minutes, before Ozan Tufan sealed the spoils with a powerful 65th-minute strike following a free-kick. The Czechs, for their part, bow out ruing their failure to take their opportunities.

Highlight of the dayPerhaps one day soon we will find out what Croatia captain Darijo Srna whispered into goalkeeper Danijel Subasic's ear in the 71st minute of the match against Spain, just before Sergio Ramos stepped up to take the penalty awarded to La Roja for a foul on David Silva. Whatever it was, it clearly helped the Monaco shot-stopper, who duly flew through the air to keep out the Real Madrid defender's tentative attempt. This save buoyed the Croats, who subsequently secured victory through Perisic a quarter of an hour later.

The stat3 –Germany have gone three games without conceding in this edition of the EURO. The last time they put together such a streak in the competition was back in 1996, when they went on to be crowned champions.

What they said"Hopefully we're not going home. I don't think the fans are going home any time soon either way. We wanted to guarantee a place in the last 16 but you're never going to play the world champions and not have that kind of night. It was very difficult for us but we hung in there and defended great," **Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill

Next matchday*Wednesday 22 June (all times local)* Group F Iceland-Austria (6pm) Hungary-Portugal (6pm)

Group E Italy-Republic of Ireland (9pm) Sweden-Belgium (9pm)

The winners of UEFA EURO 2016 will represent Europe at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017