SAINT-DENIS, France — Spain’s era of dominance at the European Championship came to an end Monday when Italy beat the two-time defending champion 2-0 in the round of 16.
Italy deserved its victory and was impressive from the start at Stade de France, dominating in all areas of the field and creating several scoring opportunities.
Goals in either half were enough for Italy to avoid its third straight elimination at the European Championship to Spain and secure a quarterfinal clash against another old foe, Germany.
Giorgio Chiellini, a member of Italy’s resilient defense, put his team ahead in the 33rd minute, when he poked the ball across the line after Spain goalkeeper David de Gea couldn’t hold on to a free kick by Eder.
Graziano Pelle sealed the victory — Italy’s first competitive triumph over Spain since the 1994 World Cup — with his second goal of the tournament after a cross by Matteo Darmian in second-half injury time.
Pelle’s goal came just a short while after Spain defender Gerard Pique had Spain’s best chance to equalize, but Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved his close-range shot.
It was Italy’s first win over La Roja at the European Championship since it was defeated comprehensively by the Spaniards 4-0 in the 2012 final. The Italians had also been eliminated by Spain in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals at Euro 2008.
The result spells the end of Spain’s dominance in European football. Two years ago, as world champion, Spain was dumped out of the World Cup in Brazil at the group stage.
Italy arrived in France written off by critics back but it’s now in the hunt to win its first European Championship since 1968. Italy will play Germany in Bordeaux on Saturday in a rematch of the 2012 semifinal, which it won by 2-1.