27 June 2016
After defeats for Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mario Mandzukic on Saturday, Sunday brought the progress of three Juventus players to the European Championship quarter-finals as Patrice Evra and Paul Pogba’s France and Sami Khedira's Germany both surged home past Republic of Ireland (2-1) and Slovakia respectively (3-0).
Beginning with the former and the day’s early kick-off, the hosts were forced to recover from a goal down after Pogba had felled Shane Long in the penalty box after just 50 seconds and would do so in emphatic fashion in the second half thanks to Antoine Griezmann's brace.
Robbie Brady, whose late strike had seen off Italy in the final fixture of the group stages, converted the resulting spot-kick to hand the Irish a dream start in Lyon.
Although Martin O’Neill’s men would go close shortly afterwards through Daryl Murphy’s hooked effort, the French upped the tempo to force the visitors back into their own half for what remained of the first 45 as the EURO 2000 winners began to assert control over proceedings.
The breakthrough arrived after the interval and there would be just three minutes separating Les Bleus’ equaliser and the game’s winning goal, both provided by the impressive Griezmann. The first came courtesy of an excellent header from Bacary Sagna’s cross on 58 minutes, the second from a firm drive after running on to a precise knockdown from Olivier Giroud.
The Atletico Madrid forward was denied a hat-trick by a professional foul from Shane Duffy moments later and with the Blackburn defender dismissed, the French were able to cruise through the remaining quarter of an hour untroubled by their tiring ten-man opponents and will now meet either England or Iceland – who play each other this evening - at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Just over an hour later, it was the turn of fellow favourites Germany to book their place in the last eight as goals from Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez and Julian Draxler set up a comfortable 3-0 victory over Slovakia in Lille.
Producing arguably their strongest showing of the tournament so far, the reigning World Champions overwhelmed the Slovaks from start to finish and would have won by an even wider margin were it not for Mesut Ozil’s penalty miss shortly after Boateng’s fine opener.
Juve’s Khedira was withdrawn with a quarter of an hour to play after another solid showing.
Awaiting Germany in the next round could well be Bianconeri stars Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza whose Italy side take on Spain this afternoon (18.00 CEST) in Paris in a repeat of the 2012 final.
Meanwhile there was to be a positive ending to Juan Cuadrado’s Copa America adventure as Colombia defeated USA 1-0 to finish in third place in the competition’s centenary tournament. Chile overcame Argentina 4-2 on penalties in the showpiece event to lift the trophy for the second time in a row.