Revenge is sweet. After all the doubts surrounding Italy at the beginning of this tournament, the Azzurri have proven everyone wrong once again. Having struggled against Spain in recent times, Italy have finally hit back with an emphatic 2-0 victory that sees them through to the quarter finals of Euro 2016.
Italy started brightly, taking control of the game and keeping possession of the ball in a manner uncharacteristic of most Italian sides. As with the match against Belgium, Italy pressed high up the pitch in an attempt to peg Spain back and it worked. La Roja struggled to deal with Italy's organised attacking play and all round directness. Antonio Conte's 352 system caused endless problems, especially Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia De Sciglio in the wing back positions, enabling Italy to shuffle the ball forward and create opportunities with relative ease.
Spain struggled to impose themselves on the game and Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata was often left isolated up top. Italy crafted several clear cut opportunities and but for David De Gea in goal, Spain could have been down by several goals at half time. First Graziano Pelle's diving header was tipped wide of the post and then Emanuele Giaccherini's overhead kick was sent wide by the goalkeeper too. It took a set piece for Italy to break the deadlock, with Alessandro Florenzi whipping a beautiful ball into the box for Eder who layed it off to Giorgio Chiellini who then bundled it clumsily into the net to put Italy 1-0 up. Giaccherini had a golden opportunity to add to Italy's lead, only for his curling shot to be saved once again by David De Gea.
Italy continued in much the same vein for the rest of the first half and were easily the better side up until the break. The combination play between Pelle and Eder caused numerous problems for the Spanish back line as the two worked tirelessly to create opportunities for one another. Italy began the second half well too, playing with the same intensity that characterised their magnificent first half showing. However, Spain began to take hold of the game and grew into the match as it went on. Italy steadily dropped deeper as the Spanish pressure increased and Daniele De Rossi had to come off early on in the second half after picking up a knock.
Thiago Motta's introduction saw Italy playing on the back foot a bit more as they allowed Spain more time on the ball. Still there was no way though for Spain as they continued to try and play through Italy however they couldn't break the Azzurri down. Despite sitting deep in the second half, Italy still created a few opportunities. Eder beat Pique to go one on one with David De Gea only to have his shot saved. It looked initially as if this miss might prove costly for Italy as the ball fell to Gerard Pique inside the box, however his close range effort was saved heroically by Gianluigi Buffon.
Buffon's save looked like a match winning moment for the Azzurri, however there was to be another late twist in the tale. The late introduction of Lorenzo Insigne went largely unnoticed, but he turned up late on switching the ball to an unmarked Matteo Darmian on the right hand side. Darmian crossed the ball into Pelle who volleyed it into the net with clinical precision to make it 2-0 Italy. It was hard to argue that they didn't deserve it, having been the better team from start to finish. With Spain defeated, Italy look like they could go all the way this time around.