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Co-favorite shoots next team out of the tournament

After only 13 minutes, the Spanish selection was in the lead. There was a constant barrage of fire on the Albanian goal, and then the game turned into a thriller.

Into the round of 16 without losing a point: Top favorite Spain has kept its clean sheet at the European Championships despite a lot of rotation and is starting the knockout phase with a lot of tailwind. Even with ten changes in the starting lineup, national coach Luis de la Fuente's team beat Albania 1-0 (1-0) in Düsseldorf and finished Group B in first place with the maximum yield of nine points. For opponents Albania, however, the European Championship journey is already over after the preliminary round with one point.

After great preparatory work by the strong Leipzig player Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres (13th minute) scored for the three-time European champions, who, after the many substitutions, were unable to build on their previous convincing performances.

In the next round, Spain will face one of the four best third-placed teams in the group, and in the quarter-finals they could face the German national team. The Albanians would have needed at least one point to have a chance of progressing, but, as was the case at their first European Championship appearance in 2016, they failed in the group phase.

With the best football weather on the Rhine, the fans were already getting into the mood for the game many hours before kick-off. The Albanian supporters in particular were spread out all over the city – even the tram driver had swapped her work clothes for a jersey.

But while everything was at stake for Albania in the third game of the tournament, de la Fuente made a lot of rotation. After all, Spain had already secured group victory with convincing victories against Croatia (3-0) and Italy (1-0). The Spanish coach named an almost completely new eleven, with two Bundesliga professionals, Leverkusen's Alejandro Grimaldo and Olmo, playing from the start.

The Albanian fans believed in a sensation against the big favorites, and they clearly set the tone in the stands. Their own team fueled this deafening volume in the first few minutes with a courageous performance on the pitch, putting the opponent under pressure early on. But the Spaniards stayed cool in the heated atmosphere – and were rewarded. After a brilliant pass from Olmo, Torres scored the 1-0 goal with the help of the inside post.

Spain repeatedly tried to play fast combinations forward, but there were no compelling goal-scoring opportunities. And so the match initially petered out a little – until Olmo got the ball in the penalty area, but captain Berat Djimsiti blocked the shot at the last second (36'). Shortly before the break, Albania became dangerous once, but goalkeeper David Raya parried Kristjan Asllani's attempt (45').

After the warning signal, the Spaniards wanted to quickly make it 2-0 at the start of the second half. Again it was Grimaldo who sent a sharp cross into the penalty area, but striker Joselu narrowly missed with an artistic attempt (46th minute). The pressure from Spain was now increasing.

But because the Spaniards continued to fail to create many chances, the Albanians' hopes remained alive – and they themselves suddenly became more offensive. Substitute Armando Broja was again thwarted by Raya (64'), and he tried again in injury time.

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