Goals in either half from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle were enough to see Italy knock out holders Spain of Euro 2016, setting up a quarter-final tie with world champions Germany.
This was a tactical masterpiece from new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte as Italy totally dominated the defending champions and if it was not for Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, Italy could have won by four or five goals.
De Gea saves kept Spain in the match, and it was still only 1-0 late on when Azzurri legend Gianluigi Buffon made two good saves to deny Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique late before Pelle settled Italian nerves by scoring Italy’s second in added time.
Conte got his tactics spot on as Italy totally dominated the first half as Spain could not adjust to his 3-5-2 formation. Right from the start, Italy repeatedly had men over in every attack, and were first to so many balls.
They were getting the ball wide and then flashing it across the box to the point a goal seemed inevitable.
As De Gea made repeated saves, the pick of them coming from one Pelle header and then an Emanuele Giaccherini bicycle kick, the Spanish might have been thinking that they could eventually make Italy pay. You have to be someway sharp to do that, though. Italy were just too on it, too fast for them.
Italy right now look the best unit in the competition. Their brilliant manager has made so much more of their players. They look like they would be worthy champions. They will now play the world champions Germany. The winner of that could well be the winner of the competition.
Italy Euro 2016 Fixtures
Italy v GermanyBordeaux – Buy Euro 2016 Tickets
Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (20:00, July 10, St-Denis) – Buy Euro 2016 Tickets