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Spain 1-0 Italy analysis: Fabio Capello and Ioan Lupescu pinpoint Rodri's role in La Roja's dominant victory

Technical observers Fabio Capello and Ioan Lupescu offer their insight into La Roja's victory in Gelsenkirchen.

Spain captain Rodri applauds the fans after the 1-0 win over Italy
Spain captain Rodri applauds the fans after the 1-0 win over Italy DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente described it as the most "complete performance" of his reign. Italy coach Luciano Spalletti admitted there was a "gulf" between the sides. The scoreline was 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen, but the control that Spain asserted against Italy earned rich praise from the UEFA Technical Observer Panel.

Spain 1-0 Italy as it happened

According to UEFA observers Fabio Capello and Ioan Lupescu, there were several outstanding performers in the Spain side, including Vivo Player of the Match Nico Williams and attacking midfielder Pedri. Yet the chief focus of this analysis is Rodri, the holding midfielder in their 4-3-3 set-up, who was pivotal to Spain's dominance with his ability to find the space to run the game.

This is highlighted at the start of the video sequence below as we see the way Rodri finds space and takes up the perfect position, behind the ball, to receive the pass. As the telestration displays, before the pass reaches him, he is scanning the space both behind him and over to his left. Indeed, for the UEFA performance analysis unit, he offers a perfect example – from a technical viewpoint – of how to receive the ball: on his back foot, with shoulders opened up and facing forward. This means he is ready to play forward straight away.

Tactical analysis: Rodri key to Spain's control

As the sequence unfolds, we see Rodri then deliver a line-breaking pass to Pedri (one of 95 successful passes from a total of 97 attempted). Overall, the Spain No16 produced 17 forward passes, with Pedri receiving seven of them. As such, the latter's movement and link-up play with Rodri were a significant feature of Spain's attacking work. "Pedri did very well between the lines," Capello and Lupescu observed. "He was always free there, which was a big problem for Italy. That's why they changed Jorginho at half-time."

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From an Italian perspective, coach Spalletti admitted that his team were "never able to squeeze the gaps between the various units", while winger Bryan Cristante said they "couldn't get going" as Spain kept pinning the Azzurri deep in their own half – and here Spain's rest defence was a factor. This is illustrated as the video concludes when, thanks to their excellent balance behind the ball, Spain are able to sustain their attack by winning the ball back quickly after Pedri's pass is intercepted.

Fabián Ruiz alone produced 14 regains – the most on the night, with left-back Marc Cucurella second with seven. "We struggled with their counter-press but we also made some simple mistakes on some simple passes," added Spalletti. As for De La Fuente, he concluded: "We knew when to push, when to play vertically, when to control the ball. I thought that, defensively, we were terrific."

Fabián Ruiz produced 14 regains against Italy
Fabián Ruiz produced 14 regains against ItalyUEFA via Getty Images

One final aspect worthy of note was the performance of winger Williams, who excelled on the left with the support of Cucurella and earned the Player of the Match award. "Williams was excellent in his one-v-one play and created chances, including the goal," concluded Capello and Lupescu. The data underlines the impression he created on the pitch, as his total number of take-ons (12, with four successful) was the most by any player yet at EURO 2024.

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