Italy brought to an emphatic end Spain's eight-year reign as European champions and avenged their 4-0 defeat in the final four years ago, as goals by Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pellè earned them a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final meeting with Germany on Saturday.
In doing so, Antonio Conte's team sounded a warning: they will take some stopping on this evidence. But for Spain goalkeeper David de Gea, this could have been a rout, Kyiv in reverse.
As it was, Chiellini's bundled finish opened the scoring on 33 minutes. De Gea kept out Éder's free-kick but Emanuele Giaccherini's immediate follow-up enabled the centre-back to tap in.
Italy had dominated from the off. De Gea was at his agile best to repel Pellè's early header and again to turn Giaccherini's overhead kick on to a post, although a foul had been given.
Marco Parolo nodded wide and Spain skipper Sergio Ramos shanked one over his own bar from Mattia De Sciglio's menacing low cross.
Spain mixed things up after the break as Andrés Iniesta grew in influence. They were not going to surrender their crown easily, Álvaro Morata, Ramos and Iniesta, with a stinging volley, all testing Gianluigi Buffon. The veteran Italian goalkeeper was also called on to expertly tip away a late Gerard Pique effort.
But Italy always looked capable of adding to their lead and, a minute into added time, Pelle finished off a fluid Italy counterattack involving Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Darmian.
So the European champions have been deposed. Next up for Italy, the world champions.
Man of the match: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
With five clearances and four interceptions – not to mention 28 completed passes out of 31 attempted – the Juventus centre-half was oustanding, keeping his old team-mate Morata so quiet he was eventually replaced. Morata, remember, had scored five in his previous four games.
Change as good as a rest
Conte had rested eight of his Italy side against the Republic of Ireland last time out – not a bad call given they had already topped Group E and covered more distance than any other team in beating Belgium. Did they look fresher here? Just a bit, flying out of the blocks, fielding ten of the XI that had started against Belgium on matchday one.
Also, Spain's scouts had said Italy play like a club side, with a shared attitude, belief and work ethic. Italian journalists concur, saying they cannot remember a group so united. Witness the anthems!
Spain's character has also been important, with observers insisting the mood and spirit has been very good during their stay in France. They have been desperate to rid themselves of that feeling of defeat they suffered in Brazil, where their World Cup defence was left in tatters. Alas, as a unit they were second best in Saint-Denis and not even the mercurial skills of Iniesta could rouse them.
Team reporters' views from Stade de France
Ben Gladwell, Italy (@UEFAcomBenG)
An outstanding performance from Italy, who soaked up some pressure in the second half yet almost always looked in control of this match. They did not defend as many expected, but instead covered almost every blade of grass on this Stade de France pitch, thoroughly earning their last-eight place and delivering a warning to perennial rivals Germany that they mean business.
Graham Hunter, Spain (@BumperGraham)
It was a night of change. The handing back of power from Spain to Italy, eight years on from 2008 and La Roja's quarter-final shoot-out scalp of the Azzurri, was signalled by things you'd not expect to see: Daniele De Rossi nutmegging Iniesta – not the norm, not by any means; Sergio Busquets wasting a pass in that urgent last phase of the game; and Spain, who always did the basics right so their talent could soar, constructing a free-kick wall which was miles from fit for purpose. What didn't change was that when the Spanish old guard, Iniesta and Gerard Piqué, tried to force their way back into power, Italy's great, great guardian Gianluigi Buffon was ready. Ready to try to ascend the European throne.
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