Soccer-Spain and their king buzz with confidence after win over Italy


Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group B - Spain v Italy - Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen, Germany - June 20, 2024 King Felipe VI of Spain and president of the Royal Spanish football federation Pedro Rocha are seen in the stands before the match REUTERS/Carmen Jaspersen

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (Reuters) - Spain fans - including King Felipe - purred with a growing belief that their team can go all the way and be crowned Euro 2024 winners after an utterly dominant victory over defending champions Italy.

"Two weeks ago, I thought it was impossible for Spain to win this European Championship. Now I even think it is probable," Inako Díaz-Guerra, sports editor for El Mundo newspaper, said.

Having defeated Croatia 3-0 in their opening match, La Roja beat the Azzurri in their second group game by a narrow 1-0 margin on Thursday with the only goal coming from Italy defender Riccardo Calafiori who put the ball into his own net.

But the scoreline did not do justice to Spain's complete control of the game from start to finish with young wingers Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal cutting through Italy's defence time and again and Italy chasing shadows in every area of the pitch.

Coach Luis de la Fuente's side would have racked up a string of goals were it not for Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and the width of the crossbar which denied Williams what would have been a stunning goal to double Spain's lead.

"Despite the narrow result and the own goal, the dominance was constant, and not that boring kind of dominance of holding the ball during the infamous tiki-taka period, but one of flow and real danger," Diaz-Guerra wrote.

Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup in between in 2010 but their cautious, possession-focused style of football failed to get fans' pulses racing.

Spain’s King Felipe was in Gelsenkirchen's Arena AufSchalke for the game and after the final whistle he told the players that their performance had been spectacular.

"If you keep playing like that, there will be celebrations,” he said to applause and cheers in the changing room.

Spain’s win guaranteed them the top finishing spot in Group B regardless of the outcome of their last match in the opening phase against Albania on Monday.

They will play a third-placed side from another group in the last 16 and fans are already expecting to meet hosts Germany in the quarter-finals.

Spanish newspapers said coach de la Fuente was likely to give many of his first-choice players a rest for the Albania game as they plotted their campaign further ahead in the tournament.

"Spain is pure art," exclaimed a headline in As, a sports daily.

However, Spain fans should remember that La Roja - then under coach Luis Enrique - began the 2022 World Cup with a 7-0 win over Costa Rica which was met with euphoria too, only for them to be defeated by Morocco in the first knockout round.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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