Spain rules the day, but not final result

Falls to Italy in Euro semifinal on penalty kicks, but look scary good for future runs

Illustration: Getty Images

Spain did just about everything they wanted against Italy. They suffocated Jorginho out of the game, denying all routes to him from the defense and keeping Italy’s attack at bay through a pretty aggressive high press. They kept the ball for most of the game, and didn’t do that usual Spanish thing of just keeping the ball to keep the ball. They had some thrust and verve. Whenever Italy tried to press them, they were able to pass through it in a way that Italy couldn’t on them. But of their 16 shots, they only managed to get four on target, the same amount Italy did with only seven total shots. It was thought Spain’s forward line would turn the last part of any move — and the most important one which is the finish — into an open mic comedy act. And for most of Tuesday’s semifinal match, they did.


When they didn’t have the time to set up their press, Spain was vulnerable, which Italy exploited with just two passes to score their only goal:

Still, this Spain team is more dangerous than the previous few iterations because it can also go straight up the field when required — and Italy’s weakness is that the midfield can get plodding and defensively wayward. Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata put that on a chalkboard:

But this is Morata, which means he’s going to turn into Morata before too long, and that came too soon for Spain in the penalty shootout, when he had his test fart of a penalty saved — Spain thereby losing 4-2 in penalty kicks after both teams played to a 1-1 tie. Spain looks poised to be a scary out in tournaments to come, especially Pedri, but Italy is the scary out in this one. It’s only one step from not being out at all, as it will meet England or Denmark — who play today in the tournament’s second semifinal — for the Euro Cup title on Sunday.