Italy breaks jinx to end Spain's long European reign
By Patrick Vignal
PARIS (Reuters) - Italy broke a 22-year hoodoo to end Spain's bid for a record third successive European title with a deserved 2-0 win over familiar foes in an absorbing last 16 clash between the two heavyweights at Euro 2016 on Monday.
Italy triumphed with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle and will face Germany in the quarter-finals on Saturday in Bordeaux in another battle between a couple of powerhouses in European football.
The Italians, who had not won a competitive match against Spain since the 1994 World Cup and were humiliated 4-0 by their old rivals in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev, were the better side on a damp evening, especially in the first half.
Italy, better organised and more aggressive before the break, had wasted several chances when defender Chiellini put them ahead after 33 minutes, following up to tap in after goalkeeper David De Gea failed to block Eder's free kick.
The Italians suffered in the second half and had been resisting sustained Spanish pressure when striker Pelle connected with a Matteo Darmian cross to volley home from close range, doubling their advantage in added time.
"The players have something important inside them, out of the ordinary", said Italy coach Antonio Conte, who was in the starting lineup when Italy beat Spain 2-1 in a fiery quarter-final at the 1994 World Cup.
"We have proved that Italy is not just catenaccio", Conte added, using the Italian word to describe the team's traditional, defensive-minded playing style.