Euro Flashback: Italy scupper Spain’s Euro treble hopes
Throughout Euro 2020, LiveScore have been turning back the clock and diving into classic games from European Championships gone by. Today, we look back at the last meeting between Italy and Spain.
Building a dynasty
Spain became the first country to win back-to-back European Championships when they lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2012 — and they went into their Euro 2016 last-16 tie with Italy hoping to make it an unprecedented three in a row.
The opening decade of the new millennium had already been a glorious period for La Roja, who headed to France having tasted success at three of the last four major tournaments.
But after losing their World Cup crown to Germany two years earlier, Vicente del Bosque’s men were keen to get back to winning ways once again.
A shaky start
Hopes of Spanish success were not boosted by their performances in the group stage.
It took until the 87th minute for La Roja to edge past an unfancied Czech Republic side in the opening match of Group D, before a convincing 3-0 victory over Turkey went some way to restoring a sense of optimism.
That was swiftly shattered when a late Ivan Perisic goal handed Croatia a 3-2 win in the final group game, consigning Spain to a second-place finish.
Their last-16 opponents Italy made lighter work of a Group E containing Belgium, Ireland and Sweden.
Defeat to Martin O'Neill’s Irish outfit was the only blemish on the Azzurri’s copybook — and that was only after they had secured safe passage to the knockout rounds with two victories in their first two matches.
Italy’s superior group stage performance proved to be a premonition of things to come when the two sides met in Paris.
The Stade de France witnessed a wing-back masterclass from Alessandro Florenzi and particularly Mattia de Sciglio, who dismantled Spain’s defence with aplomb.
Setting up in a 3-5-2, Antonio Conte’s team combined a defensively resolute performance with swift attacking transitions on the flanks, blowing Spain away with relative ease.
De Gea keeps the score down
Despite Italy’s dominance, it took until stoppage time for them to put the game out of sight.
Giorgio Chiellini made it 1-0 to the Azzurri on 33 minutes, when he poked home after David de Gea’s parried save from an Eder free-kick.
But the Spanish custodian pulled off a host of stops throughout the match, including a sprawling save when Eder went through one-on-one.
Ultimately it was not enough — Graziano Pelle powerfully finished a deflected Matteo Darmian cross in the 91st minute to ensure Italy’s route to the quarter-finals
The Italians' joy at knocking out Spain was short-lived, as they exited the competition in the next round after a 6–5 penalty shootout defeat to Germany
And it was to get even worse for Italy in the years to come as they suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, having previously played in every edition of the tournament since 1962.
For Spain, newspaper Marca’s post-match headline — ‘The End’ — proved to be apt.
La Roja’s glorious reign was over and they lost to hosts Russia on penalties in the round of 16 at the last World Cup.
But both these teams are back with a vengeance at Euro 2020 and a return to the top could well be on the cards for the winner of tonight’s semi-final.