Italy end Spain's football reign for good, 2-0 in last 16 at Euro

Published 28.06.2016 00:05
Updated 28.06.2016 00:19
Graziano Pelle of Italy celebrates after scoring the 2-0 goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Italy and Spain at Stade de France in St. Denis, France, 27 June 2016. (EPA Photo)
Graziano Pelle of Italy celebrates after scoring the 2-0 goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Italy and Spain at Stade de France in St. Denis, France, 27 June 2016. (EPA Photo)

Inspired Italy ended Spain's reign of world football for good on Monday when they ousted the two-time reigning champions 2-0 in the last 16 at Euro 2016.

Defender Giorgio Chiellini tapped the opening goal and Graziano Pelle wrapped up matters in stoppage time against a Spanish team which lacked ideas against a well-organised opponent who avenged a 4-0 defeat from the 2012 final.

Spain ruled international football with back-to-back Euro titles 2008 and 2012, plus the 2010 World Cup win, bringing a new level to the game with their tiki-taka style passing game.

But they went out in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and have now also failed to become the first team to win three Euros in a row.

Andres Iniesta failed to direct the Spanish game as in the past and forward Alvaro Morata could not score against the Italian defence made up of his former Juventus team-mates.

Italy meanwhile go on into another mouth-watering clash, a quarter-final Saturday in Bordeaux against world champions Germany against who they have never lost at a major championship.

"I knew the lads had something within them in order to do what they achieved. We definitely played a good game and created a host of chances against one of the best sides in the world," Italy coach Antonio Conte said.

"This is a team that plays football. We were very organised in defence and organised going forward. People only seem to see the defensive side ... We showed that Italy is not just catenaccio."

Chiellini said: "We suffered in the last 15 minutes. We would have deserved to decide the game earlier. It was our revenge after many years in which they dominated."

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque did not want to say whether he will now step down after seven years in charge, and also dismissed that Spain's golden era was over, but he spoke of a deserved outcome.

"We were a bit timid in the first half, without confidence and determination. It was better in the second half but we couldn't equalize," he said. "Italy were the better team, I congratulate them."

Italy had not beaten Spain since the 1994 World Cup, as apart from the crushing defeat in the 2012 final they also lost to Spain on penalties in the Euro 2008 quarters and 2013 Confederation Cup semis.

There were no surprises in the two line-ups in the clash of the titans in front of a large 76,165-strong crowd at the Stade de France which came early in the tournament because Spain had only finished second in their group after losing 2-1 to Croatia.

Del Bosque fielded the expected 11; and Conte had his best men on the field as well after resting some in the last group game against Ireland, with Mattia de Sciglio taking the place of injured Antonio Candreva.

The game started in heavy rain with Italy far from holding back and almost ahead after eight minutes when Pelle met Alessandro Florenzi's free-kick but saw his header saved by David de Gea.

It took Spain 20 minutes to get into the game and to string together some passes but a first attempt from Cesc Fabregas was blocked and Iniesta's tame shot proved no problem for Gianluigi Buffon.

But Italy's lead in the 33rd came as no surprise.

Sergio Ramos clumsily brought down Pelle and with the free-kick skills of Andrea Pirlo not available Eder used brute force with a low 22m drive which De Gea could not hold onto and Chiellini poked home after Emanuele Giaccherini had tried his luck first on the rebound.

Giaccherini then saw his curling shot tipped over the bar by De Gea on the stroke of half-time as Italy threatened again.

Spain stepped up the pace after the break with Morata heading into the arms of Buffon on his first chance but Italy should have then ended the game as a contest in the 55th, only for Eder failing to beat De Gea after being set up by Pelle.

Spain finally besieged the Italian penalty area but the 38-year-old Buffon first tipped Iniesta's volley over the bar, dove to his right to palm away Gerard Pique's shot, and another one from him in the 89th.

Pelle then smashed home from short ranke on the other end on the break to clinch matters for the Azzurri who then celebrated with the elated tifosi.

Conte's team originally seen as underdogs impressed again, after already topping fancied Belgium 2-0 in their opener, but substitute Thiago Motto was booked late in the game and is suspended for the Germany game.

"It is not the rosiest period for Italian footballing talent. (But) I think we are a team, not a group of players," Conte said.

"I am pleased above all for the players, they worked intense for a month to do something great and to surprise everyone a little bit. To a certain degree we have achieved this."

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