Euro 2024: Spain completes perfect group stage to send Albania out

Spain offered further evidence of its Euro 2024 title credentials as Ferran Torres’s goal ensured its 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 made 10 changes to the side that began the victory over reigning champions Italy.

Several players gave De La Fuente food for thought as the business end of the tournament looms, not least man-of-the-match Torres, whose clinically taken 13th-minute goal settled the contest.

While Spain matched its feat of 2008 when it also won every group game on the way to the title, Albania’s hopes of a first venture into the knockout rounds were crushed.

It finished bottom of the group with one point.

Spain topped the group with nine points with Italy second on four after it snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw with Croatia which ended in third place with two points.

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

Centre back Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player retained as De La Fuente flexed his squad players.

Albania may have sensed an opportunity to create history and its thousands of fans — decked out in red and black — created a fever pitch atmosphere as kickoff approached on a sultry summer evening alongside the River Rhine.

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

Dani Olmo split the Albanian defence with a slide-rule pass and Torres, in for rested 16-year-old Lamine Yamal on the right wing, sent a left-foot finish in off the post.

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Spain, wearing a pastel-yellow second strip, controlled the tempo of the opening period to such an extent that Albania, for all their energy, were unable to give their fans anything to feed off.

It took Albania 45 minutes to force David Raya into a save and it was a decent one as the Arsenal keeper sprang to his left to keep out a well-struck shot by Kristjan Asllani.

Sauntering Spain briefly upped the pace at the start of the second half with Joselu showing great agility to hook a volley over the bar from Alejandro Grimaldo’s cross.

Albanians found their voices again with the arrival of Armando Broja off the bench on the hour mark 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.

Albania finished strongly with Spain coming off the throttle but they could make little impact.

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