18th of June 2012 Author: Glo Wood
Italy overcame the Republic of Ireland to claim their place in the last eight. Antonio Cassano bagged the opener in the 35th minute on a corner kick but the Italians were still fearing that a high-scoring draw in the other group match would leave them out of the tournament. JesÃºs Navas scored a late goal for Spain though, and that relaxed the Italians who scored again through substitute Mario Balotelli.
However, it was Ireland who had the first chance seconds after the kick-off but Kevin Doyle was unable to make it count. Then Italy started to show their skills and they nearly got the ball into the back of the net when Cassano set up Antonio Di Natale, who went round Shay Given before seeing his effort cleared off the line by St Ledger. Cassano was by far the most active player. He tested Given with a speculative shot, the Irish goalie diverted behind for a corner but Cassano headed home from Pirlo's delivery. Italy were the group winners at half time, since Spain were held to a goalless draw by Croatia.
Italy nearly doubled their lead after the break when Cassano created another chance but saw his effort blocked by Dunne. Then the Italians pulled back and Ireland were able to create a pair of chances through Keith Andrews and St Ledger. The last few minutes were a lot easier for Italy as Spain had scored in the other match and Ireland were down to 10 men after Andrews had been sent off. Mario Balotelli wrapped things up on the stroke of full time and Ireland go home with three consecutive losses.
Italy finish the group in second place and they will face the winner of Group D in the quarter finals, either France, Ukraine or England.
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