MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 July 2024

Euro 2024: Spain show depth to beat Albania and complete perfect group stage

Already assured of a last-16 spot as group winners, Spain coach Luis de la Fuente took the chance to make 10 changes to the side that began the victory over reigning champions Italy

Reuters Dusseldorf Published 25.06.24, 04:41 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Spain offered further evidence of their Euro 2024 title credentials as Ferran Torres' goal ensured a virtual second-string line-up beat Albania 1-0 to make it three wins from three in Group B on Monday.

Already assured of a last-16 spot as group winners, Spain coach Luis de la Fuente took the chance to make 10 changes to the side that began the victory over reigning champions Italy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Spain lacked the slickness of their opening two matches, but several players gave De La Fuente food for thought as the business end of the tournament approaches, not least man-of-the-match Torres, whose clinically taken 13th-minute goal settled a contest that never really sparked into life.

While Spain, yet to concede a goal, matched the feat of their 2008 European champions who also won every group game on their way to the title, Albania's adventure is over as they ended the group in fourth place with one point.

Spain finished on nine points with Italy second on four after they snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw with Croatia, who ended in third place with two points and will be hoping against hope that it is enough for them to scrape through as one of the third-placed finishers.

Albania's defeat also had an impact elsewhere, meaning France, Netherlands and England progressed to the next round before their final group matches.

Centre back Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player retained as De La Fuente flexed his squad players and rested the likes of teenage sensation Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams.

Albania may have sensed an opportunity to create history and reach the knockout rounds of a tournament for the first time and their thousands of fans -- decked out in the nation's red and black -- created a fever-pitch atmosphere as kickoff approached on a sultry summer evening alongside the River Rhine.

The fog of their red flares was still hanging over the pitch, however, when Spain produced a vivid reminder of the immense depth in their squad.

Dani Olmo split the Albanian defence with a slide-rule pass and Torres, in for Yamal on the right wing, measured his left-foot finish to perfection, the ball going in off the inside of the post for his 20th goal in 44 appearances for Spain.

"I'm going to make the most of the opportunities that the coach gives me, with goals, assists, defensive work.... the important thing is the victory," Torres said.

"I've always had it clear, I want to continue making history with Spain. I'm not going to stop until I do."

RECORD BID

Spain, bidding for a record fourth Euros title, will play a third-placed team in the last 16 in Cologne on June 30.

"I don't care (who we face next). We're a great team, we're working hard and the coach has got us all excited," Torres said.

Sporting a pastel-yellow strip, Spain controlled the tempo of the opening period to such an extent that Albania, for all their energy, gave their fans little to feed on.

It took Albania 45 minutes to force David Raya into a save and it was a decent one as the keeper, on loan at Arsenal from Brentford, sprang to keep out Kristjan Asllani's fierce drive.

Spain occasionally engaged top gear and almost doubled their lead just after the interval with Joselu showing great agility to hook a volley over the bar from Alejandro Grimaldo's cross.

Albania's fans found their voices again with the arrival of Armando Broja off the bench and he almost made an immediate impact as he tried to lift a shot over Raya but the keeper stuck out his left arm to claw it away.

With sauntering Spain throttling back, Albania finished strongly and gave Raya further chances to stake his claim for another start with some smart saves.

Ultimately Albania could not avert a ninth defeat from nine meetings with Spain but Sylvinho's side go home with pride intact having held their own in a formidable group.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT