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Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

Spain secured their place in the Euro 2024 round of 16 with a match to spare on Thursday by defeating defending champions Italy 1-0 in a commanding performance that ensured they top Group B.

The decisive moment came nine minutes into the second half when Riccardo Calafiori inadvertently scored an own goal, following a dominant display from Spain in Gelsenkirchen. Despite the narrow scoreline, Spain’s performance was assertive, as they controlled the game against Italy, replicating their commanding victory over Croatia in the opening round.

Nico Williams was instrumental for Spain, causing constant problems for Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo on the right flank and providing the cross that led to Calafiori’s own goal. Spain captain Alvaro Morata expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance, stating, “We created several excellent chances. We demonstrated that we are a strong team capable of neutralizing any opponent.”

With a perfect six points from two matches, Luis de la Fuente’s team sits comfortably atop Group B and will face Albania next, already assured of progressing to the knockout stages and showcasing championship potential.

Italy, on the other hand, faced a reality check with this deserved defeat, as they struggled to match Spain’s intensity throughout the match. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who made eight saves, lamented Italy’s errors, saying, “We made too many mistakes in our passing and lacked quality. Against such opposition, mistakes are costly.”

Despite the setback, Italy remains in contention, holding second place with three points. A draw against Croatia in their final group match will secure their spot in the round of 16 behind Spain.

The match echoed Spain’s dominant performance over Italy in the Euro 2012 final, where they triumphed 4-0. However, Italy coach Luciano Spalletti remained optimistic, acknowledging Spain’s superiority, “They deserved the victory. We had some chances to equalize, but they were clearly the better team today.”

Throughout the game, Spain’s control was evident as they repeatedly tested Donnarumma’s goal. Early opportunities were missed, including two close-range headers within the first 10 minutes. Donnarumma’s heroics kept Italy in the game, denying Morata and Fabian Ruiz with crucial saves.

Spain’s relentless pressure paid off when Williams, continuing his exceptional performance, outpaced Di Lorenzo on the left and delivered a cross that Calafiori inadvertently redirected into his own net.

Spain nearly extended their lead with Morata and Lamine Yamal both testing Donnarumma, while Williams struck the crossbar with a powerful effort in the 71st minute.

Italy made late efforts to find an equalizer with substitutions, but Donnarumma’s late saves denied Ayoze Perez, ensuring the scoreline reflected Spain’s dominance in what was a one-sided contest.

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