Italy are through to the quarter finals of the 2016 European Championship after outclassing reigning champions, Spain 2-0 in their last 16 clash in at the Stade de France.
In a repeat of the final from four years ago, the Azzurri turned the tables on the back-to-back defending champions, producing a tactical masterclass to send them home.
Antonio Conte’s fluid 3-5-2 formation denied Vincent del Bosque’s side the time and space in which to weave their intricate patterns with Giorgio Chiellini marshalling the defence and Gianluigi Buffon as commanding as ever in the Italian goal.
It was Chiellini who sent Italy on their way, prodding home from close range after David de Gea failed to divert Eder’s swerving free-kick away from danger.
The Manchester United goalkeeper turned in another less than convincing display although he did pull off a remarkable save moments earlier.
Spain did push hard for an equaliser after the break but their passing lacked the tempo which may have stretched their opponent’s defence and their lack of a plan B meant Italy were rarely rattled.
Alvaro Morata had Spain’s best chance in the second period but he headed tamely at Buffon from point blank range.
Italy remained a threat on the counter and it paid dividends in stoppage time when Graziano Pelle drove home a second to wrap up a deserved victory.
Italy now meet tournament favourites Germany next Saturday while the trophy-laden era for Spain looks at an end as they go home early from a tournament for the second time running following their group elimination at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.