Spain deliver a masterclass to dispatch Italy and head into last 16

June 20 – With a display of total dominance, Spain dispatched Italy 2-0 to clinch a ticket to the last 16 of Euro 2024 and send a warning to other tournament contenders that they mean business. 

For 55 minutes, Spain attacked and attacked, but failed to find the end product, thwarted by their own inefficiency and a staunch Italian defence, until Italy’s budding star defender Riccardo Calafiori turned the ball into his own net.

It was agony for the Azzurri, but a just reward for Spain, who dominated the match from start to finish and laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament. They will not be easy to beat and they still know how to deliver a masterclass.

For the fifth time in a row, Italy and Spain met at the European championship and Luis de la Fuente’s team began on the front foot with Nico Williams causing havoc on the left channel. His first cross was almost converted by Pedri, whose header lacked proper direction with Gianluigi Donnarumma at his mercy.

Italy had a déjà vu: against Albania, they had also been overwhelmed by their opponent’s fast and furious start. From the left, captain Alvaro Morata picked out Williams, who flashed a header wide in another terrible miss, confirming Spain’s poor aerial credentials.

Wondered Lamine Yamal controls the ball whilst under pressure from Federico Dimarco 

Inside the first ten minutes, De La Fuente’s team should have had a two-goal advantage.

Most of the game was played in Italy’s half and Williams was a constant menace, tormenting Giovanni Di Lorenzo at full-back.

The Italians, unchanged from their opening victory, struggled to get hold of the ball. Morata was up next to take aim at Donnarumma, but the Italian goalkeeper blocked his low attempt with his leg he followed up by keeping out Ruiz Fabian’s rising shot with a formidable fingertip save.

It seemed only a matter of time before Spain would score. Italy lurked on the counter but failed to string together a coherent sequence of passes. Such was the difference between the two sides.

In a measure of Spain’s dominance, wonderkid Lamine Jamal nutmegged Lorenzo Pelligrini. Italy did not have a single attempt on target before the break. When Federico Chiesa did try, he sent his shot halfway to Munich.

Even so, Italy, second best in every department, were perhaps the happier of the two sides returning to the dressing room with the scores level. They were not out of it yet.

Bryan Cristante and Andrea Cambiaso replaced Davide Frattesi and Jorginho, but Spain rolled on and the waves of attacks kept coming and so it was inevitably going to be a question of when Italy would fold. Even those who had refined the art of defending were not going to keep the Spanish armada out for 90 minutes.

Alvaro Morata of Spain is challenged by Giovanni Di Lorenzo 

When the moment arrived, it did so in mundane fashion. Williams crossed from the left, Morata flicked it on and Donnarumma got a hand to the ball only to push it at high speed on to the knee of Calafiori, who deflected the ball into the net. It was another own goal in a tournament of own goals, but Spain did not care.

They did not relent either. Spain were all over Italy and around the hour mark a barrage of new Spanish attacks followed. Cambiaso cleared Robin Le Normand’s header off the line and Yamal dropped a shoulder to dispatch a great curler. Spain should have long decided the match.

Italy, it seemed, had no way back in. An outstanding duo, Rodri and Ruiz had dominated the midfield, spraying the ball around and dictating play. Spain constantly kept moving the ball, kept finding the space. It was never a contest.

Marc Cucurella of Spain and Federico Chiesa of Italy battle for a loose ball 

In the 70th minute, Williams cut inside and aimed for the top corner. Donnarumma was once again beaten all ends up, but the ball ricocheted off the crossbar. Somehow Spain never got a second – substitute Ayoze Perez twice had the chance to score, twice Donnarumma saved.

In the dying seconds, Italy had a little flourish but they did not come close. Nor did they deserve to. In truth, Italy never merited anything. Spain were elegant and sophisticated. At their very best. They are into the last 16 – and how.

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