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3 things we learned from Italy's 2-0 win over Spain at Euro 2016

Italy pulled off a tactical masterclass as they eliminated Spain in the first knockout round.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Defending champions Spain have been eliminated from the European Championships courtesy of a 2-0 defeat to Italy in Saint-Denis. Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring late in the first half, before Graziano Pellè finished things off in stoppage time at the end of the second. The Azzurri's victory was meticulously planned and masterfully executed, and Spain could have few complaints.

Italy saw off a brief Spanish skirmish in the opening exchanges, and created the game's first opportunity after just eight minutes. An Alessandro Florenzi free kick was met in the area by Pellè, whose header drew a superb reflex save from Spain keeper David de Gea. It was the first of two outstanding stops he made in quick succession; an acrobatic Emanuele Giaccherini effort forced the second four minutes later.

Spain managed to steady the ship after a brief scare, though Vicente del Bosque's side always remained on the back foot. Italy's outstanding pressing game never allowed their opponents to settle on the ball, and the result was that the lion's share of pressure came from the men in blue.

It took until past the half-hour mark, but eventually Italy were rewarded for their outstanding organisation. A driven free kick from Éder on the edge of the area was parried by de Gea into a penalty box melee; Chiellini reacted quicker than any of the Spanish defenders, and duly poked the ball into a gaping goal to give the Azzurri a deserved advantage.

By halftime things could have been even worse for the Spaniards, though another excellent de Gea stop snuffed out a curling Giaccherini attempt as the opening period drew to a close. Spain were very much on the back foot, and a second half improvement was needed if they were to claw their way back into the match.

However, Italy couldn't afford to get complacent, as they were reminded early in the second half. A cross from the left was met by Álvaro Morata, though he headed tamely at Gianluigi Buffon from point-blank range. It was an end-to-end restart and Éder could've doubled the Azzurri lead a few minutes later, though he was denied by the superb de Gea in a one-on-one.

Spain certainly applied more pressure in the second half than they had in the first, though without an end product. Italy's superbly organised defence kept Spain from venturing too close to goal, and both Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué were denied by Buffon from distance. It took until the last minute of the regulation 90 for Spain to create a clear-cut chance, though Piqué was denied from close range by a brilliant Buffon stop.

It proved a very costly miss, as just seconds later Italy killed the game off. A brilliant counter attack culminated in Pellè smashing home a Matteo Darmian cross, as Italy wrapped up a comprehensive victory. After a slow start, they may well be growing into this tournament.

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Mattia De Scilgio, Emanuele Giaccherini, Daniele De Rossi (Thiago Motta 54'), Marco Parolo, Alessandro Florenzi (Matteo Darmian 84'); Graziano Pellè, Éder (Lorenzo Insigne 82').

Goals: Chiellini (34'), Pellè (90+1').

Spain: David de Gea; Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Juanfran; Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas (Aritz Aduriz 46' [Pedro 81]); Nolito, Álvaro Morata (Lucas Vázquez 70'), David Silva.

Goals: None.

3 Things

1. Italy's organisation was outstanding

It was once again a triumph of tactics over raw talent, with Italy coach Antonio Conte absolutely nailing his side's gameplan. Unlike in other matches at this tournament, in which the Azzurri were guilty of sitting painfully deep and inviting pressure, in this game they were proactive without the ball and pushed high against the Spain defenders. With Sergio Busquets constantly occupied and the fullbacks constantly marked, de Gea and Spain's centre halves often had to launch the ball long, allowing the Italy back three to gleefully gobble up possession. It was a bold, but undoubtedly intelligent move.

2. David de Gea kept Spain in the contest

Before this match there were some calls for Spain to drop goalkeeper David de Gea, who had failed to impress in the group stages. However, the Manchester United shot stopper was certainly back to his very best in this match, with his catlike reflexes ensuring his side were able to stay in the game for longer than they deserved to. In 38-year-old Gianluigi Buffon, Italy arguably fielded the most legendary goalkeeper the game has ever seen; de Gea, over a decade his counterpart's junior, could one day claim that title as his own.

3. Changes must be in the offing for Spain

This is the second consecutive major tournament disappointment for Spain, who suffered the humiliation of a group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Of course, losing to Italy in the knockouts is nowhere near as embarrassing, but it still looks a wild underperformance for the defending champions. Big changes may result both on the field and in the dugout. It's not difficult to imagine coach Vicente del Bosque standing down after a hugely successful eight years in charge, and his replacement will surely be charged with freshening things up; of Spain's starting lineup here, only de Gea and Álvaro Morata are younger than 27 years old.