Spain 1-0 Czech Republic: Iniesta, Silva, Piqué... the main men
Spain beat a resilient Czech side in Toulouse in their Group D opener at the European Championship. Iniesta, Silva, Piqué caught our eye.
After Spain beat Czech Republic 1-0 in Toulouse, AS English picks out a few players who shone in the Group D Euro 2016 encounter.
The old cliché about fine wine is particularly applicable to Iniesta -- he owns his own vineyard and bangs out the AI8 range as successfully as he plonks a pass onto a teammate's boot. In Toulouse, Iniesta was impeccable, the ball stuck to his boot unless he decided it would be better off elsewhere, when it was sent there with unerring accuracy. Provided the assist and kept the side on the front foot throughout.
The Canary Islands magician could teach pretty much any footballer a thing or two, but his set-piece delivery is worth sticking into a text book and distributing among kids football schools. Each of his corners and free kicks cleared the first man, which is fairly elementary stuff, but also found a red shirt with pinpoint mastery. Silva was also full of guile when on the ball and the author of a few glorious passes thwarted only by the excellent defending of the Czechs.
Not a bad afternoon for the Barcelona defender, who was solid in the air, distributed the ball well and was aware enough at the death to realize that with the Czechs pinned to their area he might as well stay up and add some height to the attack. Piqué rose beautifully to meet Iniesta's cross and had the sang froid to pick his spot in the 87th minute to score the vital goal.
Any of the Czech Republic back five are worthy of praise after a colossal effort to keep Spain at bay, which was just a few minutes short of earning a precious point. Sivok, the most-capped of the Czech defence on the day, marshalled the back line expertly and with a certain amount of nerve, luring Spain into seven offsides. He also put in several tackles and executed the Czechs' game plan -- to allow Morata not even a second on the ball in the area and defend everything aerial with purpose -- superbly.