Coming into Monday, Italy fans around the world were worried. Worried about facing Spain, worried about Antonio Conte's side letting themselves down, worried about falling out of Euro 2016 early. By the end of Monday, those same fans were doing nothing but celebrate after Italy's huge 2-0 win in which they absolutely dominated and humbled Spain -- and earned a huge measure of revenge for their loss in the Euro 2012 final.
Italy took control of the match early and never let go, with Conte's 3-5-2 leaving Spain's attempts at controlling possession in midfield utterly worthless and leaving their efforts to get forward toothless at best. Spain still held the majority of possession on the day, but were so often forced into sideways or backwards passes with no effective options to move up the field and create a genuine threat to Italy's defense.
And on the rare occasions that Spain actually did get up the pitch, they got buzzsawed by Italy's defense. They got shots off aplenty, but from bad angles or from long ranges or without a clean chance to get a good finish. Spain were so frustrated and inefficient in the final third that they resorted to playing a physical long ball style in the second half out of desperation -- a style that suits them so poorly that they didn't do any better with it, especially once Andrea Barzagli put Aritz Aduriz firmly in his back pocket.
Italy, on the other hand, played with ease and confidence all match long, constantly able to move the ball at will thanks in large part to excellent play from their wingbacks, Mattia De Sciglio and Alessandro Florenzi. Graziano Pelle and Eder had perhaps their best ever match as Italy's attacking pair, with Pelle beating Sergio Ramos into a fine paste and Eder running rings around a frustrated Gerard Pique. It was a dominant performance the likes of which we've rarely seen from Italy, and it was so, so wonderful to witness.
The first goal came from Giorgio Chiellini just over half an hour in, a scrambled effort off a rebound from a set piece. He reacted well to the loose ball while Spain's defenders were rushing to find the ball and clear it away, and hammered it come into an open goal before David de Gea could recover from his first save of the sequence.
The second goal came in the dying moments of the match, on the heels of a massive Gianluigi Buffon save -- and it started with an absolutely stunning cross-field switching ball from Lorenzo Insigne, who had entered the match in the 82nd minute to give Italy some extra attacking spark late in the match. He picked out Matteo Darmian perfectly, and Darmian in turn found Pelle making a run to get behind Spain's disorganized defense and set him up to finish with ease past De Gea.
It was an excellent way to cap off the match, with Italy extending their lead after withstanding Spain's best run of attacking pressure all night. It added insult to the injury of the loss, and it finally gave Italy the vengeance they've been seeking for four years, sweet revenge for their loss to Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
Now they're set to battle a dominant German side who have been battering everyone they face of late -- but Italy will be buoyed by knowing that they've never yet lost to Germany in a competitive match. They're going to have to turn their level of play up another notch still, but they showed on Monday that they're capable of beating even a team in hot form like Spain -- if they can keep up this momentum, anything can happen.