UEFA EURO 2016 Round of 16
Italy vs Spain (2-0)
Italy progresses to the quarter-finals
Gerard Pique admitted that Spain no longer have the standard that won them two consecutive European Championships (2008, 2012) and the 2010 World Cup.
La Roja’s domination in major championships were shaky since their group stage exit in the 2014 World Cup, but their defeat at the hands of Italy marks a definitive end to their tournament winning form.
It was easy to say that Italy looked the stronger team in the match. Not only were they able to suppress the tiki-taka style that had been the backbone of Spain’s dominance for so long, they were also convincing in offence. If not for the lack of a superior finisher up front and David De Gea’s miraculous saves, the Azzurri could have ended the match a lot earlier.
Just after the half-hour mark, Pique fouled Graziano Pelle near the edge of the area. The resulting free-kick caught De Gea and the entire Spanish defense unawares, and although the Spanish No. 1 managed to keep it out he could not hold on to it.
Sensing vulnerability, the Italians were quick to pounce on the rebound – and after a brief struggle against the United keeper, Giorgio Chiellini slots it home.
After warding off a much stronger Spanish offense in the second half, Pelle volleyed in Italy’s second in the dying minutes of the game to seal his team’s victory.
Pique issued the need for a “big reflection” following Spain’s defeat.
“I think it’s lots of things, not just the level of the players. I think [there is] the style of football, even though we’re doing the same thing,” he said.
“We are not as effective as we were in the way we thought we had to play. It’s a bit of everything,” he added. “I think we have to undertake a big reflection, both in terms of style and level, and face up to the next two years.”
“Obviously, the first thing is that we have to qualify [for the 2018 World Cup], but we have to raise our level if we want to have a chance of winning big competitions.”