Euro 2024: Spain reach last 16 after narrow victory against Italy

Spain will finish top of Group B of Euro 2024 regardless of outcome of their last match in opening phase against Albania on Monday

By Web Desk
June 21, 2024
Italy's defender #05 Riccardo Calafiori (R) kicks the ball and fails to score during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Italy at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen on June 20, 2024. — AFP

GELSENKIRCHEN: Spain secured a place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a 1-0 victory over Italy on Thursday. Riccardo Calafiori's own goal nine minutes after half-time proved fatal and decisive in the biggest match so far at the tournament in Germany.

Calafiori's unfortunate mistake came from a cross by Nico Williams, the standout performer. Spain dominated the game with ball possession.

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Despite the slim margin, it was a statement performance from Luis de la Fuente's team. They should have sealed the win by half-time, similar to their dominant opening round against Croatia. Spain have now amassed six points and will face Albania on Monday, already assured of their knockout stage spot and looking every bit like potential champions.

Italy, on the other hand, experienced a wake-up call. The Azzurri, who did not register a single shot on target, were continuously thwarted by Spain's vibrant attack and the brilliant Gianluigi Donnarumma, who made several crucial saves to keep the score respectable.

The performance brought back memories of Spain's crushing 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 final. However, not all hope is lost for Luciano Spalletti's side. They remain second in the group with three points and need a draw against Croatia on Monday to secure their qualification.

Spain could have been ahead early on, but Pedri and Williams missed clear chances. Pedri's header was saved by Donnarumma, and Williams, after a dazzling run, headed wide from Alvaro Morata's cross. Donnarumma continued to deny Spain, making key saves against Morata and Fabian Ruiz.

Italy's only first-half attempt came from Federico Chiesa, who blazed over from a difficult position. The second half followed the same pattern, with Pedri missing another opportunity before Williams’ cross led to Calafiori's own goal.

Spain nearly doubled their lead through Morata and Lamine Yamal, and Williams hit the crossbar. Italy tried to push for an equaliser with late substitutions, but Donnarumma had to make further saves to stop Ayoze Perez from increasing Spain's lead.

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