A sharper, smarter and newer Italy brought an emphatic end to Spain’s eight-year reign as European champions and avenged their 4-0 defeat in the final four years ago, as goals by Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pellè earned them quarter-final clash with Germany on Saturday in Euro 2016.
Chiellini opened the scoring on 33 minutes. De Gea kept out Éder’s free-kick but Emanuele Giaccherini’s immediate follow-up enabled the centre-back to tap in.
Italy had dominated the match from the start. De Gea was at his agile best to repel Pellè’s early header and again to turn Giaccherini’s overhead kick on to a post, although a foul had been given.
Marco Parolo nodded wide and Sergio Ramos shanked one over the bar from Mattia De Sciglio’s menacing low cross.
Spain mixed things up after the break as Andrés Iniesta grew in influence, but still there were chances for Italy.
Álvaro Morata, Ramos and Iniesta threatened Italy with stinging volleys, though it was Pellè who had the final say, finishing from close range after a fluid Italy counterattack involving Lorenzo Insigne.
With five clearances and four interceptions, man of the match Leonardo Bonucci was outstanding through out the match. The Juventus centre-half produced stunning performance to keep his old team-mate Morata so quiet he was eventually replaced.
Spain’s character has also been important, with observers insisting the mood and spirit has been very good during their stay in France. They have been desperate to rid themselves of that feeling of defeat they suffered in Brazil, where their World Cup defence was left in tatters. Alas, as a unit they were second best in Saint-Denis and not even the mercurial skills of Iniesta could rouse them.