Italy vs Spain - Tactical Report

The pace with which Italy - playing 3-5-2 - transitioned from defence to attack and made the most of wide areas was something its opponent could not contend with.

Antonio Conte's Italy produced a tactical masterclass to end Spain's quest for a third consecutive European Championship title and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final tie against world champion Germany.

Using wing-backs Mattia de Sciglio and Alessandro Florenzi to great effect, the Azzuri was sharp throughout the match and would have probably scored more had it not been for the heroics of Spain.

Giorgio Chiellini scored the game's opening goal, bundling home from close range after David de Gea had parried an Eder free-kick. Southampton striker Graziano Pelle sealed victory in injury time, volleying home from eight yards after an assist from Matteo Darmian (see picture).



End of an era?



The pace with which Italy - playing 3-5-2 - transitioned from defence to attack and made the most of wide areas was something its opponent could not contend with. Spain lacked natural width in the midfield with Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Sergio Busquests all natural central midfielders.

Interestingly, the match was testimony to how football teams are going back to playing two strikers up-front. Pelle linked up excellently with Eder throughout the match but more importantly put pressure on the central defenders and goalkeeper when not in possession.

Spain looked toothless in attack and had to throw in Artiz Aduriz as a secondary striker to add pressure to Italy's defensive line marshalled by the phenomenal Leonardo Bonucci.

More teams are switching back to a traditional 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2 to counter the possession game by the big sides. Italy's match against world champion Germany, which plays a 4-2-3-1 with Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira as double anchors, will further throw light on this change that is taking over football.

Spain could not pass its way through a superbly organised Italian side and did not have the speed to get around the wings - something which the Germans have in Julian Draxler.



Can do without Candreva



Much of the pre-match discussion was about how Italy will miss the services of Antonio Candreva but Florenzi on the right and Sciglio on the left more than made up for it. But what won the Italians the game was undoubtedly their ability to execute Conte's gameplan to perfection - contain and score on the counter.

The European champion's reign was ended by a team that swarmed all over the side and seemed to have a hunger and desire no longer present in its opponent. This Spain needs an injection of freshness. Is Del Bosque the man to do it though?