Friday, July 12, 2024

Spain 1-0 Italy: Calafiori own goal wins Group B for brilliant Roja

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Jun 2024

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Spain clinched top spot in Group B at Euro 2024 with Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal handing them a thoroughly deserved 1-0 win over defending champions Italy.

Four days on from their statement 3-0 victory over Croatia, Luis de la Fuente’s team produced another dominant display and should have won by a far greater margin in Gelsenkirchen.

Some excellent goalkeeping from Gianluigi Donnarumma and wasteful finishing from Pedri kept Italy level until early in the second half, when Calafiori put through his own net.

Luciano Spalletti’s side hardly laid a glove on their opponents after that, and they now need to avoid defeat against Croatia on Monday to be certain of their place in the last 16.

Spain, meanwhile, have the luxury of being able to rotate against Albania on matchday three, ahead of facing a third-place finisher in the last 16.

Nico Williams teed up Pedri for an early shot that was brilliantly saved by Donnarumma before somehow heading wide when picked out unmarked by Alvaro Morata.

La Roja kept the pressure on, but they found Donnarumma in inspired form.

The goalkeeper stood firm to keep out Morata’s near-post strike before getting a fingertip to Fabian Ruiz’s rasping drive to turn it over the crossbar.

Seven minutes into the second half, Spain created their best chance yet as Marc Cucurella got forward on the underlap to square for Pedri, who failed to sort his feet out and side-footed wide from eight yards out.

They finally made the breakthrough three minutes later, but it came via an Azzurri player as Donnarumma tipped Morata’s header against the unfortunate Calafiori.

Lamine Yamal went close with a curling effort from outside the area, then Williams almost scored one of the goals of the tournament, a mazy run down the left ending with a thunderous strike that left the crossbar shaking.

Spain held Italy at arm’s length in the closing stages and should have added a second goal in stoppage time, only for Donnarumma to deny Ayoze Perez with a fine one-on-one save.

Azzurri fall well short

Many expected to see Italy go toe-to-toe with Spain in a battle of two high-pressing, possession-focused sides. Instead, La Roja made it one of the most one-sided games of the tournament to date.

Italy’s first shot of any kind came via Federico Chiesa in first-half stoppage time, with their only attempt on target arriving when Bryan Cristante headed straight at Unai Simon four minutes from full-time.

Overall, they attempted just four shots worth 0.22 expected goals (xG), with Spain registering 1.9 xG from 20 attempts.

Italy’s woes were compounded when Calafiori put through his own net, becoming the first Italian to score an own goal at the Euros and just the second to do so at a major tournament, after Cristian Zaccardo against the United States in the 2006 World Cup.

The Azzurri, of course, won that tournament on German soil 18 years ago, but they looked a long way off Spain, who have now benefitted from four own goals from opposition players at the Euros, the joint most in the competition’s history, alongside France.

Williams the catalyst for Spain

It was Yamal who took the headlines for Spain in their win over Croatia, the 16-year-old becoming the youngest player to feature in a Euros match and marking the occasion with an assist.

On Wednesday, it was his opposite winger Williams who did the damage.

When the in-demand 21-year-old was substituted in the 78th minute, he led all players on the pitch for chances created (four), dribbles attempted (11) and completed (four, alongside Yamal) and touches in the opposition area (eight).

Williams was also heavily involved in the build-up to the goal and was desperately unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself when he rattled the woodwork.

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