Spain beat Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts, England thwarted by Denmark

Saturday, Jun 22, 2024

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Spain secured a spot in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 with a 1-0 victory over Italy in their heavyweight clash on Thursday, after England struggled to show their credentials in a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

Three-time winners Spain got the better of reigning champions Italy at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen as Riccardo Calafiori bundled the ball into his own net 10 minutes after half-time to decide the encounter.

A second win in as many matches for Spain is enough for them to secure top spot in Group B with a game to spare, meaning they already know they will play their last-16 tie in Cologne on June 30 against one of the best third-place finishers.

Italy, meanwhile, are not through yet but a point against Croatia in Leipzig on Monday will clinch second place in the group for Luciano Spalletti´s team. The sides were meeting at a fifth consecutive European Championship and Spain should have won by a far greater margin as they sought revenge for a defeat on penalties in the semi-finals at Wembley three years ago.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made several key saves while Lamine Yamal came close from distance in the second half for La Roja and the outstanding Nico Williams smashed a shot off the bar.

“I am delighted and proud not just with the result against a great side but with the way in which we got it,” said Spain coach Luis de la Fuente. “It´s very simple, they were faster than us, compact and were right on top of us,” Spalletti admitted. “We simply weren´t as bright as them.”

Earlier, England could have secured a last-16 spot as well as they took on Denmark in Frankfurt in Group C but produced an underwhelming performance that leaves more questions over their chances of becoming European champions for the first time.

In a rematch of the Euro 2020 semi-final won by England, it was Gareth Southgate´s men who got off to a perfect start when Harry Kane slotted home after Kyle Walker caught Danish defender Victor Kristiansen napping.

Denmark, though, were worthy of at least a point and got it thanks to a spectacular strike by Morten Hjulmand before half-time. Phil Foden hit the post for England and Denmark´s Andreas Christensen came close to a late winner in the second half.

But a share of the spoils leaves all to play for in the final games of Group C next Tuesday. “The challenge is to do something that has never been done before. So it couldn´t be any bigger,” said Southgate of his team´s objective at the competition.

“Clearly we are disappointed with the level of the two performances,” he added after a result which followed their opening 1-0 win against Serbia. The day´s other match in Group C also ended in a 1-1 draw, as Luka Jovic snatched a point for Serbia in the 95th minute to hold Slovenia.

Zan Karnicnik had headed Slovenia in front 21 minutes from time in Munich. But Serbia kept their fate of reaching the last 16 in their own hands when AC Milan striker Jovic headed in a corner with virtually the last action of the game.

England top the group on four points, two clear of Denmark and Slovenia, and just need a draw when they face Slovenia in Cologne to be sure of qualifying. On Friday, France take on the Netherlands in Leipzig in one of the other marquee games of the group stage.

Kylian Mbappe´s participation in the Group D match remains uncertain after the France captain broke his nose in Les Bleus´ opening 1-0 win over Austria. However, Didier Deschamps is hopeful of having Real Madrid´s new signing available after Mbappe trained in a mask inspired by the colours of the French flag on Thursday. “Things are progressing in the right direction enough for us to try to have him available,” said Deschamps.