Euro 2016 round up: Italy 2 Spain 0 - and what the result means

 Italy's Pelle celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between Italy and Spain.
Italy's Pelle celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2016 round of 16 football match between Italy and Spain.PHOTO: AFP

Spain's reign is over. In a tournament full of surprises, Italy have provided the biggest shock of all by ending La Roja's 2,920-day stranglehold of the Henri Delaunay trophy in the round of 16.

Giorgio Chiellini epitomised how hungry Italy were for an upset when he followed up on a parried shot to put the Azzurri ahead from close range after 33 minutes.

The only real surprise on the day, however, was that Antonio Conte's men did not get their second goal earlier. They had to wait until Graziano Pelle's stoppage-time volley before victory at the Stade de France was confirmed.

Criticised after their 2014 World Cup exit in the group stage and written off after being drawn into the Group of Death, Italy have overcome injuries and the odds to reach the quarter-finals.

Their potential path back to Paris for the final gets tougher still, with world champions Germany up next. But Italy will take on all comers after this performance.

 
 
 

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon; defenders Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Chiellini; and Daniele De Rossi - the survivors of the starting XI that lost 4-0 to Spain in the Euro 2012 final - were not to be out-thought again.

Perhaps Spain expected their opponents to be on the backfoot once more. Spanish newspaper El Mundo described the rematch as "talent versus catenaccio (Italian for door bolts)". Yet this Italy side are so much more than just a defensive side. They were tight at the back but they sprung forward in numbers and were aggressive whenever they had opportunities to attack.

Not even a superb goalkeeping performance by David de Gea could have prevented the holders from bowing out.

Match highlights

- In the 8th minute, Alessandro Florenzi took a free kick on the left flank. Pelle rose at the back post and got a firm header on target. De Gea got down low to turn the ball behind for a corner. Nothing comes of the set-piece.

- Three minutes later, Florenzi stood up a cross to the far post. Pelle headed the ball back across the face of goal and Emanuele Giaccherini's overhead kick was pushed onto the post by de Gea. The referee blew his whistle for a high boot.

- In the 25th minute, Italy counter-attacked. Mattia De Sciglio's cross into the box was met by Marco Parolo but he headed wide.

- Four minutes later, De Sciglio's dangerous low cross was sliced behind by Sergio Ramos for a corner. Spain cleared the resulting set-piece.

- In the 32nd minute, Ramos fouled Pelle in a central position, just over 20 yards from goal. De Gea could only parry Eder's free kick, and three Italian players raced forward. Giaccherini got a touch and Chiellini pounced from four yards out to put Italy ahead.

- In the 45th minute, Giaccherini, on the left wing, cut in and shot towards the top corner. De Gea tipped his effort over the bar.

- In the 49th minute, Andres Iniesta took a corner short. A cross found Alvaro Morata in the box but he headed straight at Buffon.

- In the 54th minute, Pelle was booked for a foul on Cesc Fabregas. Seconds later, the Southampton forward went in late on a Spain defender. The referee kept the red card in his pocket.

- A minute later, Pelle put Eder through on goal but de Gea saved.

- In the 62nd minute, De Sciglio tried to shoot through de Gea's legs. The goalkeeper flapped at the shot and his team-mates mopped up the danger.

- In the 70th minute, substitute Aritz Aduriz's first time shot from the edge of the box went just wide.

- Six minutes later, Iniesta's volley was tipped over by Buffon. From the corner, Spain started a move which ended with Gerard Pique forced Buffon into another save.

- In the 85th minute, substitute Lorenzo Insigne raced past Ramos. His shot from outside the box was saved by de Gea.

- In the 89th minute, de Gea's goal kick was nodded on for Pique. The centre-back's outstretched leg connected with the ball from about six yards out but it had no power and Buffon palmed it away.

- In stoppage time, Pelle volleyed home substitute Matteo Darmian's cross from the right flank.

The talking point

The recriminations will begin in Spain: who is to blame? What went wrong? And not just in this match but in their costly 2-1 loss to Croatia which put them in the bottom-heavy half of the draw.

De Gea had an uncharacteristically poor game against Croatia, culminating in him being beaten at the near post to concede the winner. The Spanish media had lobbied for Iker Casillas to start in goal in their final Group D game, if only for sentimental reasons given Spain had already ensured qualification into the knockout stages. Ironically, Italy would have been out of sight by half-time if not for de Gea.

Should Ramos have taken the penalty against Croatia? Should Vicente del Bosque have started the same XI for all four matches? The players looked tired on Monday. They started slowly and never recovered.

Man of the Match

Giaccherini (above). The Bologna man was a livewire, particularly in the first half. He was a constantly attacking outlet for Italy and assisted the opener. When Italy did not have the ball, the attacking midfielder closed down the opposition and chased the ball. He covered 12.97km - the ground any player has covered over 90 minutes at Euro 2016.

What the result means

Italy will face Germany on Saturday, with the world champions having an extra day's rest after strolling to a 3-0 victory over Slovakia on Sunday. With Spain's elimination, Germany can become the first team to win four European titles.

Spain will almost certainly begin a new era under a new manager. Vicente del Bosque, 65, has strongly suggested that he will retire after Euro 2016. Since he became La Roja boss in 2008, he has led his country to titles at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Spain kick off their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign against Italy in September. Albania, Israel, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein complete their group.

Key statistic

Italy have kept a record-extending 19 clean sheets at the European Championships.

What they said

Chiellini: "I had belief for the goal, I knew that Eder would hit it hard."