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Spain insists on Italy self-scores a goal after a sustained push in the game.

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Italy down, an own goal seals a deserved defeat against Spain.
Italy down, an own goal seals a deserved defeat against Spain.

Spain insists on Italy self-scores a goal after a sustained push in the game.

Sexy soccer stars captivate, swarm, and assert dominance, but can't score a goal. It's infuriating until an Italian blunderly sends one into their own net. In the crucial group match for top placement, the Spaniards outplay their rivals and sneak into the elimination stage thanks to Gianluigi Donnarumma's heroics. The continental championship titans secured their passage to the round of 16 following a 1-0 (0-0) victory over the Azzurri in King Felipe VI's presence.

Spain's promising young aristocrats charmed their sovereign, surged into the final 16, and were immune to Italy's EURO champion Gianluigi Donnarumma during their maiden encounter at the Euro. Thanks to an own goal, the team managed by coach Luciano Spalletti claimed victory against the current champions and became the second team, after the home team Germany, to qualify for the elimination stage.

For an extended period, the odds-on favorite was stymied by Donnarumma, who had thwarted the championship-winning penalty three years earlier and was the last defense for the Spanish team in the semi-final. Donnarumma foiled numerous risky opportunities, but his own defender, Riccardo Calafiori, scored an own goal (55'). The team under Spalletti still has a good opportunity, as a draw against Croatia on Monday (9 PM) would be enough for them to advance.

At the "second living room" of their legend Raul at Schalke, the Spaniards controlled the game, but repeatedly failed against Donnarumma. The 25-year-old was tested as early as 90 seconds, when he saved a header from Pedri with a strong reflex. Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz also failed to score against him (24., 25.).

"We will stay true to our style, play elegantly, but also dig in if needed," Spalletti had declared and showered praise on the opposition: "They should not be underestimated." He had warned his team primarily about the "force and intensity" of the Spanish team while attacking. With the same starting lineup as in the 2-1 against Albania, the Azzurri were defensive from the outset. Spanish coach Luis de la Fuente referred to the encounter as the "Clasico of Europe" and anticipated two similarly aggressive teams from the eight Euro encounters between the titans. He made one substitution: For Nacho, Aymeric Laporte replaced him.

Indeed, the systems were a reflection. The difference being the Spanish team could combine more freely with the ball and attack more aggressively than the Italians. "Long live Spain," chanted the 10,000 fans of the Furia Roja, while the almost 30,000 Italian fans grew increasingly silent. Only after the goal did the title defenders become more offensive, but Spain continued to create the better opportunities: Nico Williams struck the post (70%). In stoppage time, Donnarumma saved twice against Ayoze Perez.

Contrary to the first English match against Serbia (1-0), where there was severe criticism of the host city Gelsenkirchen and especially the public transportation in the social networks, the atmosphere was superb before the game: Both fan bases celebrated extravagantly in the city, which the police described as "peaceful and joyful".

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In preparation for the European Football Championship 2024, both Spain and Italy are expected to bring their A-game, aiming to secure a spot in the competition's later stages. Despite a strong performance by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy suffered a setback in their match against Spain, with Riccardo Calafiori inadvertently scoring an own goal (55'). With this victory, Spain joined Germany as the second team to qualify for the elimination stage.