Italy v Spain – five things we learned


Paris (AFP) – Italy dumped out the reigning champions Spain at Euro 2016 on Monday, winning their last 16 tie 2-0 at the Stade de France. Here AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from the match:

Conte coaching masterclass

Written off before the tournament began, Italy are more than the sum of their parts and that is in large part down to their coach Antonio Conte. If he was hailed after the Azzurri beat Belgium 2-0 in their opening group match, he deserves to be so again as Italy stunned the reigning champions at the Stade de France. Italy asphyxiated their opponents in the first half — rather than doing all the defending they did all the attacking, pressing high and thoroughly deserving their lead when it arrived through Giorgio Chiellini after 33 minutes. Spain created nothing of note in the first period and could not break down the Italians in the second half as Conte’s men soaked up the pressure before Graziano Pelle clinched the win at the death. Indeed, only David de Gea prevented Italy from winning by a greater margin. Chelsea fans will be even more excited now about the prospect of seeing Conte at the helm of their team next season.

BBC switch off Morata

Spain finally appeared to have a centre-forward worthy of the name at this European Championship in the shape of Alvaro Morata. Scorer of three goals in the group stage, he nevertheless found the going far tougher up against an Italian defence comprised of players he has called his team-mates at Juventus in the last two seasons. And Italy’s back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini — aka the BBC — along with veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, ensured that Morata provided no threat during his 70 minutes on the field. He moved to the left of the Spain attack in the second half after Aritz Aduriz replaced Nolito before making way for Lucas Vazquez in the closing stages. Aduriz scored against Italy in a friendly in March but he was also unable to break down the sturdy Italian back door. Bonucci was later named man of the match.

Italy have their revenge

Two of Spain’s biggest results during their recent era of domination came against Italy. There was the penalty shoot-out win in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 that set Luis Aragones’ team on the way to a first major international trophy in 44 years. And then there was their stunning destruction of the Azzurri in the Euro 2012 final, when they won 4-0 in Kiev. Italy had not beaten Spain at a major tournament since a 2-1 win in the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup. Spain fans may best remember that game for Mauro Tassotti’s elbow on Luis Enrique that left the current Barcelona coach with a bloody nose but went unpunished. This time there could be no complaints from the beaten side.

Ramos disaster

If Sergio Ramos had not missed a penalty in Spain’s final group game against Croatia, Vicente del Bosque’s side would have avoided facing Italy in the last 16. It had already been a difficult tournament for the Real Madrid stopper and Spain skipper before he endured a torrid time against the Italian attack at the Stade de France. Eder and Pelle were outstanding in blue and the latter thoroughly merited his goal when it arrived at the death.

White kit jinx

Spain don’t much enjoy playing in their white change kit. As master statistician @2010MisterChip pointed out on Twitter at the beginning of the evening, La Roja had lost their previous five matches at a major tournament while wearing white. That run started with their 2-1 defeat to Italy at the 1994 World Cup and continued all the way up to their 2-1 loss to Croatia in Bordeaux last week that condemned them to second place in Group D and the clash with the Italians. In between there were losses to Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup, to Portugal at Euro 2004 and to the Netherlands at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Here was another loss to add to the painful list.

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