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Dominant Spain crush Italy 1-0, seal top spot in Group B

Spain booked their place in the Euro 2024 knockout stages with a game to spare after a convincing 1-0 victory over Italy on Thursday.

The match, the biggest played so far in this year’s tournament, saw Spain completely nullify the reigning champions. An own goal by Riccardo Calafiori nine minutes after half-time separated the sides, but the scoreline hardly reflected Spain’s dominance.

Nico Williams was a thorn in Italy’s side all night, tormenting Napoli defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo and supplying the cross that resulted in the winning own goal.

“We had quite a few really good chances, but we’re very happy because we showed that we are a great team and that we can stifle any team,” said Alvaro Morata.

Luis Enrique’s men now sit atop Group B with a perfect six points. They face Albania on Monday, already assured of a place in the next round and playing with the swagger of potential champions.

For Italy, Thursday’s defeat was a wake-up call. Spain repeatedly tested the brilliance of Gianluigi Donnarumma, while the Azzurri failed to register a single shot on target. The performance mirrored the 2012 Euro final, where Spain dismantled Italy 4-0 in what was considered the last hurrah of “tiki-taka” football.

However, all hope is not lost for Luciano Spalletti’s team. Italy are still second on three points, and a draw against Croatia on Monday will be enough to secure qualification behind Spain.

“They were fresher than us, too often we were late to things… they created problems for us with the speed with which they made their decisions,” Spalletti admitted to RAI. “We created some situations with which we could have equalised, but they were much better than us. They deserved to win.”

Spain nearly took the lead twice in the opening ten minutes through headed chances, but Pedri and Williams couldn’t convert. The pattern continued throughout the first half, with Spain controlling possession while Italy struggled to get a foothold in the game.

Donnarumma was Italy’s saving grace in the first half, denying efforts from Morata and Fabian Ruiz. At the other end, Unai Simon in the Spanish goal was a mere spectator, with Italy’s only shot in the half – a wayward effort from Federico Chiesa – coming just before the break.

The second half mirrored the first, with Spain dictating play and Pedri again missing a good chance. The breakthrough finally came through Williams, who tormented Di Lorenzo on the left before whipping in a cross that Calafiori turned into his own net.

Spain continued to press for a bigger lead, with Morata, Lamine Yamal, and Ayoze Perez all going close. Donnarumma stood firm, however, ensuring the scoreline remained 1-0.

Italy pushed for an equalizer late on after bringing on Mattia Zaccagni and Mateo Retegui, but Spain comfortably saw out the win to claim top spot in Group B.

(Source: AFP)

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