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Italy 2-0 Spain: Five reasons why Azzurri triumphed

Spain's 2,920-day reign as EURO champions is over but how did Italy do it? Effort, cohesion, movement, the element of surprise – not to mention the sweet taste of revenge.

Gianluigi Buffon with his trademark celebration
Gianluigi Buffon with his trademark celebration ©AFP/Getty Images

Italy's 2-0 last-16 victory over Spain may have been a surprise to many, but following the team on a day-to-day basis here in France, I cannot say I did not expect it.

That they won with such demonstrable superiority – even I could not see that coming. Here are five ways Italy managed to break Spain's 2,920-day grasp on the EURO trophy in Saint-Denis on Monday.

Surprise tactics
The element of surprise can mask many insufficiencies and while Italy coach Antonio Conte stated on the eve of the game that he had not planned any risky gambles, he delivered one with a magnificent show of attacking diligence which few anticipated.

"Today we showed everyone that Italy are not just 'Catenaccio'," Conte said. "Let me repeat it, because this team plays football. We're well-organised, both in attack and defence. Often people think Italy are only about defence, but that's not true. I am not a counterattacking coach."

All for one and one for all
Much has been made of Italy's team spirit at UEFA EURO 2016 and they illustrated that once again. Comparisons have been drawn by the elder squad members with their 2006 FIFA World Cup triumph, and they are not merely casual observations either.

The way the whole bench raced onto the field to celebrate Graziano Pellè's 91st-minute strike that sealed Italy's passage to the last eight confirmed once again that every single member of the group is pulling in the same direction.

Bonucci: We can’t wait to face Germany
Bonucci: We can’t wait to face Germany

Going the extra mile
Italy had covered the most ground in a single game at this EURO so far, going a collective 119.7km in their opening match against Belgium. Their performance against Spain was not far behind at 117.8km, a full 7.8km further than Spain.

And that is just those on the field. "Our physical trainer proposed I put the GPS system on myself to gauge how many kilometres I run and also how intensely," said Conte, whose own touchline antics give added energy to his team.

Movement in attack
It was not only in midfield where Italy outran their opponents, because the work rate of the two forwards Pellè and Éder was remarkable. Graft is allied to craft too: witness the neat back-heeled pass from Pellè to set up Éder for a clear run on goal.

That move also exemplified the understanding the duo have forged over the past month working together, and David de Gea had a busy game. Italy are no longer just about defence, with this extra dimension causing La Roja real trouble.

Chiellini: ‘Destiny’ for me to score
Chiellini: ‘Destiny’ for me to score

Extra motivation
The Squadra Azzurra felt they had a score to settle after their crushing 4-0 defeat in the final four years ago. This collective and individual motivation took Italy onto another level, above their opponents.

Goalscorer Giorgio Chiellini told EURO2016.com: "Honestly, I have always thought that before my international career ended, I deserved to get revenge against Spain, a team who have really made me suffer – today I got a little satisfaction.

"Maybe we had something inside of us, having lost so many matches to them. We had to put an end to this cycle, which started in Vienna, then in Kyiv and most recently in Fortaleza. Destiny gave me a goal."