Giorgio Chiellini was delighted to gain a measure of revenge after he opened the scoring in Italy’s 2-0 Euro 2016 win over holders Spain.
The Juventus man turned in a typically robust defensive display and scrambled home a deserved opener for Italy in the 33rd minute of a superb first-half performance.
Spain came on strong as the clock ticked down, with Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, man-of-the-match Leonardo Bonucci and their club goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon manning the fort before Graziano Pelle struck in stoppage time to spark delirious celebrations.
Italy were knocked out of Euro 2008 on penalties by Spain and were thrashed 4-0 in the final four years later.
A shoot-out loss at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil then followed, leaving the 31-year-old Chiellini with a particular sense of satisfaction after his Stade de France heroics.
Asked for his thoughts on his goal, Chiellini said: “I thought that occasionally fate is like that. If I’m honest, I always thought that 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.”
Chiellini will now focus on a quarter-final against world champions Germany this weekend and he conceded to a little disappointment that he did not get to punish Spain closer to the business end of the tournament.
“This is a small achievement,” he said. “I’d have preferred to meet them further on in the tournament. I would have liked to play them in a more important fixture.
“But fate left a goal in store for me and now we’ll get on board again against Germany.
“Perhaps we had something within us and we had to end this cycle. It started in Vienna and Kiev and continued in Fortaleza – all these defeats against them.
“Now our tournament can begin. We play against the world champions. We have to really recover a great deal and we musn’t stop dreaming.
“We must keep our feet on the ground – aware of our strengths as well as our weaknesses.
“But we need to think about something extraordinary in order to achieve it.”