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Spain edge past Italy in narrow EURO 2024 game to reach Round of 16

Spain edge past Italy in narrow EURO 2024 game to reach Round of 16

Spain, who had thrashed Croatia 3-0 on matchday one, have now kept clean sheets in their opening two matches for the second time, the first being in 2016

Spain outclassed defending champions Italy, securing a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 with a 1-0 victory on Thursday. Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal settled the match, which could have ended in a much larger win for Luis de la Fuente’s side.

Dominance from the Start

La Roja, seeking revenge for their elimination by Italy in Euro 2020, dominated from the kickoff. Irrepressible young wingers Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal relentlessly drove forward, putting Italy on the back foot in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Spain had an expected goals (xG) of 1.90 compared to Italy’s 0.17. Spain made 20 attempts with nine shots on target, while Italy managed only one shot on target from four attempts. Spain had 28 touches in the opposition box to Italy’s 12.

Spain achieved a historic feat by winning three successive matches against Italy for the first time, having beaten them in the 2021 and 2023 Nations League before this encounter. This match also ended Italy’s 10-game unbeaten run at the Euros (W7 D3). Spain, who had thrashed Croatia 3-0 on matchday one, have now kept clean sheets in their opening two matches for the second time, the first being in 2016.

Nico Williams and Rodri Shine

Nico Williams caused constant problems for Italy with his pace and dribbling. Early on, he provided an inviting cross for Pedri, whose header was tipped over the crossbar by Gianluigi Donnarumma. Williams later missed a header from an Alvaro Morata cross, and Donnarumma denied both Morata and Fabian Ruiz.

Spain’s midfielder Rodri was exceptional, making 55 passes in the first half, all completed, and leading with the most line-breaking passes (10). Italy’s expected goals of 0.05 in the first half was the second-lowest for any side at Euro 2024, and they managed only three touches in Spain’s box.

Second Half Pressure

Spain continued their dominance in the second half. Pedri steered a shot wide off the post, and in the 55th minute, Williams’ cross was flicked on by Morata, deflecting off Calafiori and into the net. Despite relentless pressure, including a powerful shot from Morata tipped over by Donnarumma and another effort from Williams hitting the bar, Spain couldn’t add to their tally.

Spain will finish top of Group B regardless of the outcome of their last match against Albania on Monday and will face a third-placed side from another group in the round of 16. Italy must avoid defeat in their last group game against Croatia to guarantee qualification.

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