Spain outclassed defending champions Italy and booked a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 with a 1-0 win on Thursday that was settled by Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal but could have easily ended with a much more emphaticmargin of victory.

La Roja, seeking revenge for their elimination from Euro 2020 by the Italians, pinned the Azzurri back from the kickoff and their 20 attempts on goal contrasted with Italy’s four, their fewest in a Euro or World Cup match since at least 1980.

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente has encouraged his young side to play with an attacking freedom that even the all-conquering Spanish sides of 2008-2012 – when they won the Euros twice and the World Cup – did not dare tp embrace.

After beating Croatia 3-0 in their opening game in Germany, they drove forward at every opportunity against Italy, principally through their irrepressible wingers Nico Williams and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal.

Pedri’s second-minute header from a Williams cross was tipped over by Gianluigi Donnarumma and eight minutes later Williams flashed a header wide, setting the tone for a contest which only Donnarumma’s agility, the woodwork and errant finishing stopped from turning into a rout.

“It’s three points and we’re through to the next round,” Spain forward Alvaro Morata said. “We had a lot of clear chances but we are very happy because we showed we are a great team and we suffocate anyone. It’s very difficult to play against us.”

Italy’s usually rock-steady defence was unable to stop the red tide and Donnarumma had to stretch his long frame to tip over a 30-metre rocket from Fabian Ruiz in the 25th minute.

The first Italian attempt did not come until first-half stoppage time and the almost unending pressure on coach Luciano Spalletti’s team resumed immediately after the interval.

The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute when Williams fired in a cross from the left which glanced off Morata’s head and Donnarumma’s outstretched fingers before hitting Calafiori on the knee and going in.

Spain poured forward again with Yamal flashing a shot just wide before Williams curled another effort on to the bar.

Spain will finish top of Group B regardless of the outcome of their last match in the opening phase against Albania on Monday, and will play a third-placed side from another group in the last 16.

Italy must avoid defeat in their last group game against Croatia to guarantee qualification.

Spalletti, who took over as Italy boss in September, took issue before the game with suggestions that Spain were a superior attacking force, but by the time the final whistle blew, he acknowledged the difference.

“They were much stronger than us and the deserved to win,” he told Italian television. “When the legs don’t work, character and personality don’t matter.”