Spain’s run in the European Championship came to a sorry end as they were comprehensively beaten 2-0 by Italy in the Euro 2016 Round of 16 on Monday.
La Roja were unchanged for the fourth game running for the first time ever as th Azzurri drafted in Mattia De Sciglio to replace the injured Antonio Candreva.
From the first whistle at Stade de France, Italy rendered their recent record against Spain futile. La Roja had not lost to their opponents at major tournament since the 1994 World Cup, which included a 4-0 win in the final of Euro 2012.
Yet inside the opening few minutes, an Italian free kick was curled towards the far post and onto Graziano Pelle, who outmuscled Sergio Busquets in the air, but his header was pushed away by De Gea.
Emanuele Giacccherini then unleashed an overhead kick near Spain’s penalty spot, which was deflected onto De Gea’s right-hand post, but Spain could’ve been awarded a penalty, had referee Cuneyt Cakir blew for Chiellini’s shirt-pull on Sergio Ramos.
La Roja were badly exposed in the air again as De Sciglio’s pinpoint cross for Marco Parolo saw the midfielder climb above Alba in a mis-match, though the Lazio man could only guide the ball a yard wide of De Gea.
Spain’s defensive organisation was found wanting throughout the first half, and a low cross was completely sliced by Ramos, who somehow fired the ball just over De Gea’s goal, despite standing in the opposite direction.
Andres Iniesta, marked out of the game, let fly from 20 yards out but had his shot seen all the way by Buffon, and that was soon followed by Italy breaking the deadlock, De Gea spilling a free kick directly in front of Chiellini, who simply mopped up the rebound.
Spain’s afternoon would come De Gea’s palm away from worsening as Emanuele Giaccherini cut inside and blasted a shot at the goalkeeper. La Roja would trudge off for the break inferior in every aspect.
Del Bosque’s proposed solution was to replace Nolito with Aritz Aduriz and switch to a two-striker system, and it almost paid off as Morata should’ve done better from a free header, his attempt only finding Gianluigi Buffon.
Spain began to throw caution to the wind, but they failed to sustain such intensity, even when Italy’s midfield enforcer Daniele De Rossi was replaced early in the second half.
Instead, Italy came a whisker away from scoring a second goal, when Eder broke clear of the Spanish defence, which had moved ever higher, but could only shoot straight at Buffon.
At the other end, Aduriz sent a header over and curled a shot in the Italy D just wide of the target, but the substitute was forced off in the latter stages after he failed to recover from an awkward landing when vying for the former.
Lucas Vazquez was thrown on for the final 20 minutes, and the winger nearly made an instant impact by hitting the post, although he was a yard offside when he met Aduriz’s through ball in the Italy box.
Spain managed to regain their urgency towards the end of the match, but they would be denied by Buffon, who tipped over Iniesta’s first-time volley from some way out and made a match-saving stop to push away Gerard Pique’s close-range, sliding finish at the death.
Nonetheless, it was too little too late for La Roja as De Gea’s save from an explosive Lorenzo Insigne shot after the Napoli star bamboozled his marker was followed by Graziano Pelle smashing a volley home in the penalty area to wrap up both a last-ditch counterattack and an Italian victory.
Italy 2-0 Spain
Chiellini 33, Pelle 90
Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi (Darmian 84), Parolo, De Rossi (Motta 52), Giaccherini, De Sciglio; Pelle, Eder (Insigne 82)
Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Cesc, Iniesta; Silva, Morata (Vazquez 70), Nolito (Aduriz 46, Pedro 81)
Referee: Cakir [TUR]