Euro 2016: Italy produce tactical masterclass to defeat Spain and earn quarterfinal spot
Italy produced a tactical masterclass to outwit Spain and defeat the former World Cup champions 2-0. Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring in a first half which italy dominated, while Graziano Pelle wrapped up the win in injury time, thus setting up a quarterfinal clash with Germany in the 2016 UEFA Euro Quarterfinals.
Spain XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Juanfran, Piqué, Ramos, Alba; Busquets; Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta, Nolito; Morata
Italy XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi, Parolo, De Rossi, Giaccherini, De Sciglio; Éder, Pellè.
The pre-match expectations were that Spain would dominate possession and Italy would sit back, defend and hit their opponents on the counter-attack. However, the Azzurri flipped the script, attacking Spain right from the off, with Pelle drawing a fantastic save from De Gea in the 8th minute, as his downward header from Florenzi’s free-kick looked goalbound.
The Manchester United goalkeeper had to be at his best yet again, as Giaccherini produced a wonderful overhead kick when the ball was crossed into the box, but De Gea got down well to save his bouncing shot and keep Spain in the game.
However, the topsy-turvy life of a goalkeeper was in full focus when De Gea made a mistake for Italy’s opening goal. Eder powered a low free-kick that was just off-centre of the goal, but the Spanish keeper was only able to palm the ball into Giaccherini’s path, and the Italian toe-poked a pass to Chiellini, who bundled the ball home from two yards and gave Italy the lead in the 33rd minute.
Giaccherini went close as the half ended, but De Gea saved well yet again to ensure that Spain went into the break only a goal down.
If Vicente del Bosque hoped that his half time words had any effect on Spain, that notion flew out the window 10 minutes into the second period, as Italy spurned a fantastic chance to go 2-0 up. Pelle sent Eder clean through on goal, but the naturalised Brazilian could only find a charging De Gea with his shot on goal.
The Spanish defence was crumbling at the slightest hint of pressure and did their best Keystone Cops impression when Pelle found De Sciglio on the left, as the Milan fullback’s cross squeezed through De Gea’s arms and was scrambled clear, with Spain counting their lucky stars that Italy were still only 1-0 up with 30 minutes to go.
Spanish substitute Aduriz provided the impetus for Spain, starting off a spell of pressure with a snapshot in the box that went narrowly wide. Sergio Ramos went close with a header moments later, while Barcelona duo Iniesta and Pique had volleys from the edge of the box fly narrowly wide.
Pique went close to earning an equaliser in the 89th minute, but Buffon drew a fantastic save from to keep Italy in the lead. With Spain caught up the pitch, Pelle confirmed the win from a counter, scoring a goal in injury time to ensure that Italy meet Germany in the quarterfinals.