Italy took a revenge in the Euro 2016 Round of 16 on Monday to send defending champions Spain packing with a 2-0 win.
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when Inter Milan striker Eder stepped up to rifle a bullet free-kick at goal. Spain keeper David de Gea blocked the shot but Chiellini dashed into the goalmouth melee to pounce home on the rebound.
Chiellini had ever said before the duel, “Spain have been our nemesis since 2008. I like the word ‘revenge,’ but we need to put it into practice.”
Southampton forward Graziano Pelle sealed the win in the 92nd minute when Italy caught Spain on a counter-attack with substitute Matteo Darmian making his way deep down the wing before smashing a deflected cross into the box through Spain captain Sergio Ramos’ legs. Pelle volleyed home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Chiellini said after the duel, “We deserved it and frankly made it too anxious in the final 15 minutes, as we should’ve finished it off a lot earlier. We wanted it more.”
Italy had another great chance to extend the lead in the 56th minute when Eder broke Spain’s defence with a bursting dribble into the box, one-on-one with the Manchester United goalie. But it was de Gea who made himself big with a brilliant block.
In the 62nd minute, the Italians moved forward with pace on a counter attack. Eder eventually slipped a neat pass into the box for Emanuele Giaccherini, who fired a superb, low ball along the six-yard box, but there were no takers for the Italians.
Italy coach Antonio Conte said, “I am pleased we played a great game against one of the best team in the world. We are very organized defensively we are also very organized pushing forward.”
“As for the match, we prepare every game in very detail fashion. I want to adapt a few problem both in defense and offense,” Conte added.
Veteran goalie Gianluigi Buffon also played a key part in Italy’ s win with a string of wondrous saves to deny the scoring chances from David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Alvaro Morata, in the second half in particular. Buffon tipped out Gerard Pique’s close-range tap in the last minute of normal time to smash Spain’s hope totally.
Iniesta admitted Italy had been “more effective in key moments”.
“In the second half we went for the game, it was different. You can lose, but during the first half we were mistaken in being too concerned with them, it’s very disappointing,” added the Barca midfielder.
Spain coach Vincente del Bosque said, “We didn’t play with enough bravery. The second half took a lot of risks. We tried to equal but failed. Italy is a strong team.”
“We tried till the end. I don’t think its’s about tiredness. Our team is not a physical team, and we are tactical,” Bosque added.
As to his personal future, Bosque said, “I’ll talk to the (Spanish Football Association) president and think it over for a moment.”
The Italians, known as defending experts, showcased stronger will to win in the duel with faster pace and penetrating attacks.
Without the brilliant “Tikki-Takka” style, Spain could not dominate the game and luck was not on their side neither.
The two old rivalries featured against each other in the final of the last Euros back in 2012. On that night in Kiev four years ago, David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres, and Juan Mata were on target in a 4-0 win to seal the trophy for Spain.
The two teams had met eight times at major tournaments, with Italy having the upper hand until Spain beat them on penalties on their way to winning UEFA EURO 2008.