Nico Williams Accelerates Spain Against Italy

Nico Williams Accelerates Spain Against Italy
Nico Williams (Credit: Getty Images)

The European classic, which has seen the birth of so many changes in trends, which has left so many frustrations, so many pending accounts, took place in the heart of the Ruhr basin like a monologue from Spain, which rode on an exhibition of a runaway Nico Williams, Yeah. And yet, with Italy in front and a short score, he always fears a last blow, a blow in extremis. Hence the final relief, after the game was headed to die in a corner against which Donnarumma tried to finish. But this Spain has taken shape and has also escaped the suggestion of that old threat. The performance did not last long, and La Roja, still missing a match on Monday against Albania, qualified as first in the group for the round of 16, which they will play on Sunday, June 30 in Cologne against a third party. Like a year ago in the Nations, the frustration was felt by Italy, the winner of the last Euro Cup.

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Spalletti had announced that he had set out to provide his team with a solid identity and that that identity was beginning to be built from behind, pass by pass. A couple of days ago he had his players for almost an hour returning over and over again to the automatisms of the ball’s release from their area. He intended that, when they faced the pressure he expected from De la Fuente’s battalion, they had the maps of the escape routes memorized. But Spain built an even more solid defensive structure in Gelsenkirchen than the one that disabled Croatia in the first half in Berlin. It is difficult to build an identity around the ball if you barely taste the ball.

Spain’s team looked tense in all its areas, from the tireless Morata to the center-back pair, this time Le Normand and Laporte, who appeared in the eleven instead of Nacho, with muscle discomfort, according to the federation. The Al Nassr player, a hidden mystery during the first days of the concentration in Donaueschingen, looked sharp. And with him, Le Normand, who steps more confidently next to who was his first partner when he debuted with the national team a year ago in the Nations semifinal, also against Italy. That day, they punished their backs. This time Scamacca could barely find a way to breathe.

The central deactivated the assaults on their domains. A little further on, on the left wing, Cucurella unnerved Chiesa. The Chelsea full-back cut off the flow with each attack on that wing, which Spalletti had pointed out as the main escape route from the pressure. La Roja pressed in front, pressed behind, but above all, they controlled the center of the field with Rodri and Fabian. The PSG player, imperial, once again showed the most expansive version of himself: he stole, created the space and time to start playing, found the last pass, and threatened with the shot, after his goal against Croatia. Donnarumma tapped one of his long shots just over the crossbar.

The solidity of De la Fuente’s structure, and the level of attention of his footballers, provided many phases of monologue, with the combination of the old model of touch and control and the fresh blood of the vertigo of the extremes. It’s not even necessary for both to work. At the Berlin Olympics, Lamine Yamal was agitated and disorganized on the right wing, while Nico Williams could not finish threading a single needle on the left. At Schalke’s stadium, they tilted the field the other way. The Athletic player arrived with late hunger.

With the first ball, he went for Di Lorenzo, who suffered a night of torment. The Navarrese player escaped and they both knew that an intense dance session was announced. Nico reached the baseline, looked up, and put the ball on Pedri’s head. The canary, with more and more presence, finer, more daring in the boiling areas, forced Donnarumma’s first effort. And barely two minutes had passed.

Nico went, and then he went again, and Di Lorenzo cried out to find a partner to help him with his overflowing imagination. But the winger slipped between two, or between three, he stepped into the area and left the ball behind. His footsteps were a constant shock.

After the break, Spalletti, desperate to have seen his team watching the ball come and go, intervened in the center of the field, territory occupied by Fabián and Rodri. He withdrew Jorginho and Frattesi and introduced Cambiasso and Cristante. The changes barely affected Spain’s performance, which continued doing its thing, controlling the tempo and unleashing attacks from Nico Williams. He had also begun to show Lamine on the other side, although this time it was more damaging when he started a little further away from the band. In one of those, he linked three dribbles, stepped into the area, and gave it to Morata, who ran into Donnarumma’s right knee.

The captain played a very complete game, with a lot of fighting with Bastoni and Calafiori, a lot of hand-to-hand combat, and a lot of blind movement to open spaces for the arrival of Pedri and Fabián. Also stepping into the area, and long shots. When De la Fuente replaced him with Oyarzabal, the corner of the red-tinted stands bid him farewell with a standing ovation, given to an often misunderstood guy, who had emptied himself in a very scratchy clash.

But first, he had his part in the goal with which the team finally found a reward for its performance. The play started with Nico. Again. One more episode of his recital. He left Di Lorenzo behind again, reached the bottom, and aimed at the head of Morata, who was entering the near post. He hit it glancingly, and without facing the door, Donnarumma slapped him, the clearance bounced off Calafiori’s knee, and ended up in the net. After everything that Spain had built, the goal was scored by Italy accidentally. The fifth goal of this Euro Cup. It was perhaps Nico’s only frustration: the goal he created was not clean, and then he saw how the squad spit a formidable long shot at him.

Spalletti’s team threatened with a rebellion, but Rodri and Fabián stopped the uprising by stealing the ball from them again. And when Nico got tired, Ayoze appeared, who finished off Di Lorenzo and Italia with two shots that took away all hope.

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