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Rediff.com  » Sports » PHOTOS: Spain, Italy secure quarter-finals berths

PHOTOS: Spain, Italy secure quarter-finals berths

Last updated on: June 19, 2012 03:05 IST

Spain, Italy secure quarter-finals berths

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Holders Spain and former champions Italy made it through to the last eight of Euro 2012 in contrasting fashion on Monday. 

Spain had to rely on a late goal by substitute Jesus Navas to get past a resilient Croatia side while Italy scored a comprehensive win over Ireland, courtesy goals by Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. 

Navas tapped home two minutes from time to snatch a 1-0 victory over Croatia and send holders Spain through to the last eight of Euro 2012 as Group C winners.

Croatia, who battled hard against the world and European champions, went out as Italy finished second thanks to a 2-0 win over Ireland. Spain will now face the runners-up in a Group D featuring France, England, Ukraine and eliminated Sweden.

Spain topped the group on seven points, with Italy on five and Croatia on four, while Ireland <http://uk.reuters.com/places/ireland> finished with zero.



Image: Spain's Jesus Navas (L) celebrates with his team mate Sergio Ramos after scoring a goal against Croatia during their Group C match at the PGE Arena in Gdansk
Photographs: REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen

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Italy finished second with five points

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Italy, who will play the Group D winners in the last eight in Kiev on Sunday, finished runners-up on five points, behind group winners Spain on seven.

Ireland, already eliminated after defeats by Croatia and Spain, threatened sporadically with their best moment coming when keeper Gianluigi Buffon parried a fierce drive from Keith Andrews who was sent off on 89 minutes.



Image: Italy's Antonio Cassano (3R) celebrates his goal with team mates during their Group C match against Ireland at the city stadium in Poznan
Photographs: REUTERS/Petr Josek

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Spain's late winner was tough on Croatia

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Spain's late winner was tough on Croatia and they probably had the best chance of the game before Spain's goal when Iker Casillas brilliantly blocked Ivan Rakitic's close-range header in the 59th minute.

However, as the game opened up in the latter stages, Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas and fellow midfielder Andres Iniesta were able to carve open the Croatian defence and Iniesta squared the ball for Navas to slid home into an empty net.

On a warm and breezy night at Gdansk's amber-coloured PGE Arena, Spain quickly seized control of possession in the first competitive meeting between the two sides.


Image: Spain's Jesus Navas (L) shoots to score a goal past Croatia's goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa during their Group C match
Photographs: REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen

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Spain struggled to create any clear chances

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The Croats, with in-form Mario Mandzukic operating as a lone target man up front, looked to catch Spain on the break but had to wait until the 25th minute for their first goal attempt.

Playing in unfamiliar light-blue shirts, Spain struggled to create any clear chances and centre backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique had probably their best two efforts of the first half with long-range strikes.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque fielded an unchanged side from last week's 4-0 drubbing of Ireland, with Fernando Torres leading the line and Iniesta and David Silva operating on either flank.

Torres had a quiet game and was replaced by Fabregas, who operated as a roving forward in Spain's 1-1 draw with Italy and had netted the equaliser.


Image: Croatia's Darijo Srna (L) and Spain's Andres Iniesta fight for the ball during their Group C match in Gdansk
Photographs: REUTERS/Juan Medina

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'Today we knew that heart mattered more than quality'

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Antonio Cassano's first-half header and Mario Balotelli's spectacular late volley gave Italy a 2-0 win over Ireland which took them into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals as Group C runners-up.

Cassano, who missed half the season with AC Milan after undergoing a minor heart operation, headed home 10 minutes before the break and Balotelli brilliantly hooked the ball home in the final minute to leave Italy second with five points behind Spain.

"It has been a very difficult match, we came up against a team that made us suffer," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said.

"Today we knew that heart mattered more than quality. Tonight we created a lot, I hope it will be like this also in the next match."



Image: Italy's Antonio Cassano celebrates his goal against Ireland during their Group C match in Poznan
Photographs: REUTERS/Petr Josek

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