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EURO 2016

Defending champions Spain eye Euro 2016 knockout stage

The knockout stages of Euro 2016 beckons for defending champions Spain and 2012 finalists Italy if they can back up their opening wins with more success against Turkey and Sweden on Friday.

Defending champions Spain eye Euro 2016 knockout stage
Spain face Turkey on Friday. Photo: AFP

Luka Modric's Croatia could also get through win a win against Czech Republic.

Spain avoided their normal early tournament jitters as Gerard Pique headed home the winner three minutes from time to seal a deserved three points against a dogged Czech Republic with a 1-0 win.

Vicente del Bosque's men are now unbeaten in 13 European Championship games as they look to win an unprecedented third straight title.

Del Bosque is expected to name the same side that started against the Czechs despite doubts over his striking options.

Juventus' Alvaro Morata spurned a number of opportunities before he was replaced by 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz on his major championships debut.

However, Del Bosque has so far resisted the temptation to deploy Cesc Fabregas in the false nine role he shone in as Spain won a second consecutive Euros in 2012.

Turkey are under huge pressure to improve on an insipid display as they went down 1-0 to Croatia on Sunday.

Young midfielder Ozan Tufan was mocked at home and abroad after pictures showed him adjusting his hair at the very moment Croatia's Luka Modric scored a stunning match-winning volley.

And Turkey manager Fatih Terim called for more “fight” from his players against Spain.

“There are two games and six points still to play for, we can still go far,” Terim said on Thursday.

However, the veteran former AC Milan boss also conceded that even a draw would be a “great result”.

History-chasing Zlatan

Italy produced arguably the best performance in the first round of fixtures to shut out highly-fancied Belgium 2-0.

Next up for the Azzurri is a clash with a man who terrorised opposition defences in Serie A for seven seasons in Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

However, Chelsea-bound Italy boss Antonio Conte is keen to avoid euphoria setting in after Italy crashed out the 2014 World Cup at the group stage despite beating England in their opening game.

“Zlatan is so strong that he can play in any league in the world… he is capable of destabilising a whole team,” Conte said on Thursday.

Ibrahimovic could become the first man to score in four separate European Championships.

The Manchester United target scored a spectacular backheeled effort against Italy when the two sides met in the group stages of Euro 2004.

And the man he beat that night in Porto, Gianluigi Buffon, will stand in the way of his ex-Juventus teammate once more in Toulouse.

“At the time Zlatan was just a young player and probably did not know the kind of career that lay ahead of him,” said Buffon.

“In the past 12 years he's shown on more than one occasion how talented he is and he's managed to repeat that backheel goal three or four times since. It's become his speciality.”

Sweden are in more need of the points after a poor display despite salvaging a point in a 1-1 draw against Ireland on Monday.

“Little-Spain”

Croatia can book their place in the knockout stages with victory over the Czech Republic if Turkey fail to beat Spain.

Real Madrid's Modric was the star of the show in their win over Turkey and Czech coach Pavel Vrba believes a team also boasting Modric's Real teammate Mateo Kovacic and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic can be considered a “little Spain.”

“With their stars playing at Real and Barcelona, they can be nicknamed 'little Spain'. We know another tough game is in front of us,” said the Czech boss.

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Del Bosque quits as Spain coach after poor Euro 2016

Vicente del Bosque said on Thursday that he has resigned as coach of Spain, just days after the reigning champions crashed out of Euro 2016.

Del Bosque quits as Spain coach after poor Euro 2016
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque announced he is quitting. Photo: AFP

“Without a doubt, I have no intention to remain as coach, but you have to be discreet. No matter what the result of the Euros, I had no doubt about what my future would be,” he told Spanish public radio RNE, confirming reports in sports dailies AS and Marca that he had quit.

Spain were eliminated from Euro 2016 on Monday following a meek 2-0 defeat to Italy and Marca says that ex-Granada coach Joaquin Caparros will take over.

Del Bosque, 65, who succeeded the late Luis Aragones after Spain's triumph at Euro 2008, is a popular figure in Spain after leading the national team to a maiden World Cup victory in 2010 and a second consecutive European Championship two years later.

But some felt a fresh start was needed after Spain's failure to advance beyond the group stage at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, however del Bosque had stayed in the job for France.

He said he will remain in the post until his contract expired on July 31st. Nobody at the Spanish football federation had asked for his advice regarding who should replace him, he said.

“I would be excited to manage the national team, any Spanish coach would be honoured to take this job. But I hope Vicente stays, he is the best coach possible,” Caparros told Marca.

Caparros has managed a host of Spanish clubs including Villarreal, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Levante, but he is currently out of work.

Among the other names tipped to replace del Bosque is former Spain under-21 boss Julen Lopetegui, Granada coach Paco Jemez and former Marseille coach Jose Miguel Gonzalez.

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