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De la Fuente hails Spain squad as world´s best after Italy win

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Jun 2024

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Spain coach Luis de la Fuente believes he is working with the best group of players in world football after La Roja clinched their place in the Euro 2024 knockout rounds by beating Italy.

Spain were drawn into what many believed to be the toughest group at the tournament but have made light work of some difficult opponents, thrashing Croatia 3-0 before overcoming Italy 1-0 on Thursday.

They have clinched top spot in Group B with a game to spare, with Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal handing them their deserved victory over the reigning champions.

Spain fired off 20 shots to Italy’s four in Gelsenkirchen, also creating 1.9 expected goals (xG) to the Azzurri’s 0.18 and enjoying 57.2 per cent of the possession.

This is just the second time La Roja have started a European Championships tournament by winning their first two games to nil, after they beat Czechia 1-0 and Turkiye 3-0 in 2016.

The likes of Nico Williams, Lamine Yamal and Pedri all dazzled against Italy, leaving De la Fuente convinced he is in charge of the most talent squad at the Euros.

“I think we’re the best in the world in terms of interpreting various match situations,” De la Fuente said at his post-match press conference.

“Of course, that is really reinforced and strengthened when you win silverware.

“But I think it’s important to really underline the quality of this generation of players, the players that have broken into this squad. I think the Spanish players are the best in the world.”

While De la Fuente now has the luxury of being able to rest players against Albania on matchday three, he knows there can be no room for complacency in the last 16.

“I think we were superior across the board from a footballing perspective,” he added. “Perhaps it even seemed that Italy played badly, but that’s because we played very well.

“Italy won the Euros three years ago. We’re still a long way off winning the European Championship. We haven’t yet achieved anything. Okay, we’ve won some important matches. We have wonderful prospects.

“But football can also be very cruel. So we need to be cautious. We need to be humble. We need to show respect.”

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