Tue, June 19, 2012
Sports > Soccer > 2012 European Championship

Italy down Ireland to reach quarter-finals

2012-06-19 01:46:31 GMT2012-06-19 09:46:31(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (C) celebrates with teammates after the Euro 2012 football championships match Italy vs Republic of Ireland on June 18, 2012 at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan. Italy won 2-0. Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored the goals as Italy beat 10-man Ireland 2-0 at the Municipal Stadium here on Monday to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)

Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored the goals as Italy beat 10-man Ireland 2-0 at the Municipal Stadium to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

Spain's 1-0 win over Croatia meant Italy finished second in Group C and will play the Group D winners in the last eight while Ireland finish bottom with three defeats.

While Italy were worthy winners, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni will have been bemused to see his side concede both goals from corners.

But Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will also have been concerned by his side's dip in physical condition in the final 20 minutes, just as it did in their previous two games.

Prandelli admitted they had been taken a little by surprise early on.

"We had some difficulties in the first minutes, they decided to play the ball on the ground and we messed up in centre midfield," he said.

"Normally we're more careful and wouldn't let them get so far up the pitch but once we found our feet, especially in midfield, we did some good things."

Ireland, who showed much willing but little quality, finished the game a man down after Keith Andrews was sent off late on by referee Cuneyt Cakir.

Having had their gameplan thrown into disarray by conceding early goals in their previous two matches, Ireland at least seemed fired up from the off.

Several times Ireland broke at pace and had the Italian defence back-pedalling but they spurned their own chances through either a wayward pass, poor decision-making or running down a blind alley.

Even so, Trapattoni said he was proud of his players.

"We played much better this evening than we did against Spain and Croatia, we played with more personality and respected what we had said about credibility and commitment," he said.

"This evening we made some little mistakes from two corners and we're not used to these little mistakes but I'm proud of our commitment because although Italy beat us, we gave them our honour."

Italy soon took command although Daniele De Rossi's left-foot volley from outside the box was a touch over-ambitious.

Selected ahead of Balotelli, Antonio Di Natale found space in the box three times only to see his shots blocked by Irish centre-backs Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger.

Di Natale was giving Italy what Prandelli had asked for as he got in behind the defence to latch onto Cassano's through ball before rounding goalkeeper Shay Given and shooting goalwards, only to see St Ledger recover to hack the ball off the line.

Moments later Cassano set his sights from distance and although Given had his body behind the ball, he spilled it and was relieved to see it bounce behind for a corner.

That proved a costly blunder, though, as Cassano ran across Andrews to get a flicked-header on Andrea Pirlo's corner that squeezed past Given and over the line.

Italy kept the pressure on at the start of the second half as St Ledger and Dunne were called upon to block shots from Di Natale and Cassano respectively.

Ireland created a couple of half chances and Andrews had a sight of goal but from 25 yards his volley dipped straight into goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's arms.

As they had done in the previous two games, Italy's stamina dipped in the final 20 minutes and Ireland started really coming into the game with Andrews having a crack from a free-kick that Buffon could only parry.

Prandelli made a couple of substitutions and switched to a 4-5-1 formation with Balotelli as the loan frontman.

Late on he did brilliantly to hold off John O'Shea, who had a fistful of his blue shirt, to meet Alessandro Diamanti's corner with an acrobatic volley to kill the game and put the seal on victory.

The temperamental star seemed angry and started to say something before Leonardo Bonucci covered his mouth to prevent the Manchester City forward creating any controversy.

(Agencies)

Related:

Spain top Group C, struggle to beat Croatia 1-0

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