Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli celebrates his goal that confirmed Italy's place in the quarterfinals Reuters

Italy reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 with a 2-0 victory over an already-eliminated Ireland in Poznan. Combined with Spain's victory over Croatia, the result sends the Italians through as runners-up in Group C.

There had been fears of collusion between Spain and Croatia leading to a 2-2 score line that would have sent Italy out, regardless of what transpired against Ireland. But, with that never looking on the cards, Italy simply had to take care of business by getting the three points.

Though there were a few scares along the way, Cesare Prandelli's side were good value for their win that came courtesy of a goal in each half from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli.

Italy had an early shout for a penalty as Antonio Di Natale, starting in place of Balotelli, hit a shot on the turn that appeared to strike Sean St Ledger on the right arm. But with there being no movement toward the ball, the referee correctly turned down the vociferous penalty appeals.

Antonio Cassano came close to breaking the deadlock right before his goal as his swerving shot from long-range almost deceived Shay Given, forcing the Ireland keeper to spoon the ball wide.

From the resulting corner, Andrea Pirlo was the architect for Italy once again in this tournament with another fine set piece. Pirlo whipped the ball into the near post where Cassano met the ball with a header that struck the underside of the bar and crossed the line before Damien Duff could hook it away.

With just over 10 minutes to go, Keith Andrews came close to producing a dramatic equalizer with a powerful drive off of a short free-kick that forced Gianluigi Buffon into an excellent save diving low to his right.

Andrews' evening didn't get any better as he was shown his second yellow card and dismissed in the last minute of normal time.

And Italy made them pay just seconds later. Fellow substitute Alesandro Diamanti swung in the corner from the right and Balotelli produced a fine improvised finish to hook the ball into the net with his back to goal.

Italy 1-0 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2012 - Group C)

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Italy 2-0 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2012 - Group C)

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