Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Ferran Torres;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Ferran Torres</a> scored the only goal of the match as <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Spain;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Spain</a> beat Albania (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)

An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain's second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania on Monday as the three-time champions finished the Euro 2024 group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.

Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.

However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 victory over Italy four days earlier.

Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.

Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.

It is a regression for them from their debut European Championship appearance in 2016, when they also went out in the first round but did manage to win a game.

"I am proud of the players. We competed against three great sides," insisted Albania's Brazilian coach, Sylvinho.

"The experience for us and for the country was amazing. The players gave everything and will remember this for the rest of their lives."

Beating a Spain side who have probably been the most impressive so far in Germany was always going to be a big ask for them.

It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship.

"We are forging our own path," said Torres, scorer of 20 goals in 44 appearances for his country, when asked to compare this Spain team to the side that won the title in 2008.

"We are working very well together. We are like a big family. Now we are through to the last 16 and we are just going one game at a time, but why shouldn't we have big dreams."

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.

Centre-half Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player to keep his place following the Italy game, with key midfielder Rodri suspended and everyone else given a breather.

Goalkeeper David Raya, defender Dani Vivian, left-back Alejandro Grimaldo and midfielder Martin Zubimendi, all largely untested at international level, came in.

There was also a start for Jesus Navas, who was part of the Spain teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and who is now 38.

Even Laporte was removed at half-time, replaced by Robin Le Normand, while Lamine Yamal and Alvaro Morata also appeared in the second half.

Albania, ranked 66th in the world, knew it would be a huge challenge to beat Spain having lost all of their eight previous meetings.

- Torres strike -

Spain first threatened in the 12th minute when Mikel Merino's header was saved by goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, and a minute later they were ahead.

Dani Olmo stepped into the space between the Albanian lines to receive a pass, and then fed a measured ball in behind for Torres to latch onto.

The former Manchester City player timed his run perfectly and finished with precision too, his first-time effort going in off the far post.

Torres has made a habit of scoring at these tournaments, having netted twice at the last Euros and twice at the 2022 World Cup.

It took Albania until the final minute of the half to test Raya, the Arsenal shot-stopper flying to his right to parry a powerful strike by Kristjan Asllani.

Joselu hooked a Grimaldo cross just wide moments after the restart for Spain, before the Albanian fans raised the noise levels in an attempt to spur their team on.

They were very close to equalising when substitute Armando Broja met an Asllani free-kick and tried to lob Raya, but the goalkeeper saved.

Asllani then fizzed an effort just wide, and Broja was again denied by Raya in stoppage time as Albania bowed out with their heads held high.