After 22 long years, the Azzurri have broken the Spanish curse that has haunted them for so long. The Italians displayed a total football performance, in a triumphant 2-0 win over Spain.
Italy were full of life from the first whistle, urged on by their flamboyant manager Antonio Conte. The constant press in the first half gave Spain no room to breathe.
After countless early opportunities only denied by the brilliance of a Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea in the prime of his career, Italy finally broke the deadlock.
A free kick from Eder at the half hour mark saw de Gea once again make a crucial save, but this time fate was with the Azzurri as veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini forced the ball over the line.
Chiellini believed it was fate for him to score against their bitter international rivals, and that they mustn’t stop believing.
“We mustn’t stop dreaming. We need to think about something extraordinary to be able to achieve it,” said Chiellini.
The 31 year old believes fate also played a part in the opening goal
“I thought that occasionally fate is like that.
If I’m honest i always thought before ending my career for the national team that i deserved to get my own back against Spain. Against a team that has really made me suffer over the years and this is a smaller achievement today.
Fate also left a goal in store for me and now we will get on board against Germany,” said Chiellini
Rather than sit back after going ahead, the Azzurri continued to press and play beautiful football – something that this tournament has lacked in so many big games.
Italy constantly looked for the switch and to keep the ball moving. Alessandro Florenzi’s electrifying runs down the wing made it difficult for even one of Spain’s best defenders Sergio Ramos to defend.
Spain rarely looked dangerous going forward, and lacked any sort of conviction or delivery when going forward to lone striker Alvaro Morata.
La Roja stepped up a gear in an attempt to grab a late equalizer, but were no match for one of the worlds best goalkeepers in the last decade – Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy were just hanging on, as Buffon single–handedly prevented Spain from scoring. Despite this, Italy refused to sit back and were rewarded with a sealing goal from Graziano Pelle.
Substitution Matteo Darmian whipped in a perfect cross to Pelle, who volleyed home a goal into the Italian end, sending thousands of fans into celebration.
Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque says Italy is one of the candidates to win the tournament and that their style of play is difficult to play against.
Italian coach Antonio Conte believes he is finally proving to the world that Italy aren’t just a ‘defensive’ team.
I also knew the lads had something in them in order to do what they achieved. This is a team that plays football, we are very organized defensively and we are very organized going forward,” said Conte.
They did something fantastic tonight and I am very pleased above all for them. They have always given me everything.
There’s no tomorrow for Spain, there is for us.”
Italy progress to the Quarter Finals against current World Champions Germany.
Can Italy pull off a true ‘Rocky’ like underdog story and go all the way?