Impressive Spain beat Italy to enter Euro 2024 knockouts

Impressive Spain beat Italy to enter Euro 2024 knockouts

Spain qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2024 by beating Italy 1-0 on Thursday, ensuring La Roja will advance as Group B winners. Riccardo Calafiori's goal nine minutes after half-time in Gelsenkirchen made the difference between the two sides in the biggest match of the tournament so far in Germany. But the slim margin of victory does not reflect the performance of Spain, who completely outplayed Italy and should have won the game by half-time, just as they beat Croatia in their opening round tie.

Nico Williams was the star for Spain as he troubled Napoli right back Giovanni Di Lorenzo and delivered the cross, from which the unfortunate Calafiori headed the winning goal into his own net.

Luis de la Fuente's side have six points at the top of the group and take on Albania on Monday knowing they are already through to the knockout rounds and playing like potential champions.

Defeat was a reality for Italy on Thursday, as Spain made the most of Gianluigi Donnarumma's brilliant goals throughout the match, while the Azzurri failed to score a single goal.

The display was reminiscent of the Euro 2012 final between the two teams, when Spain crushed Italy 4-0 in the ultimate international match of tiki-taka football.

However all is not lost for Luciano Spalletti's side, who remain second with three points, as even a draw with Croatia on Monday would be enough to guarantee qualification behind Spain.

Spain could have taken the lead twice in the first 10 minutes but missed two great chances.

There were less than two minutes left on the clock when Pedri headed Williams's precise cross straight to Donnarumma.

And then Williams, who had done well against Di Lorenzo, was found guilty as he somehow managed to keep out a header from Alvaro Morata's brilliantly placed, in-swinging ball from the left flank.

Spain were clearly on top while Italy struggled to get out of their half, with Gianluca Scamacca struggling up front with very little support and losing the ball whenever it came to him.

Donnarumma had to be at his best twice within seconds, first getting his foot out to stop Morata and then making a superb fingertip save to keep out Fabian Ruiz’s powerful drive from distance.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon stood as a virtual spectator as Italy's only shot of the first half came just before halftime when Federico Chiesa curled a poor effort from a difficult position.

The pattern of Spanish possession and Italian defence continued after the interval and Pedri again missed a great chance in the 51st minute when he missed the ball after Marc Cucurella had pulled back a perfect low cross.

But Spain soon found the breakthrough through more sensational play from Williams on the left, who outmuscled Di Lorenzo and headed the ball into an own goal which Calafiori could not prevent.

La Roja came close to doubling their lead through two away goals from Morata and teenage sensation Lamine Yamal but Williams's superb effort in the 71st minute beat Donnarumma and hit the crossbar before heading it out.

Italy pressed forward in the hope of an equaliser, replacing the ineffective Chiesa and Scamacca with Mattia Zaccagni and Matteo Retegui.

But Donnarumma again made two superb saves in the closing moments to deny Ayoze Perez twice, giving the scoreline a better reflection of the one-sided contest.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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