After a 2-0 victory over Ireland Monday, Cesare Prandelli's Italian squad qualified for the quarterfinals of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.
Both of Italy's goals against Ireland—a header from Antonio Cassano in the 35th minute and an over-the-head hook from Mario Balotelli in the 90th minute after he'd been pulled to the ground—were lucky successes, but they got the final score Italy needed.
Due to the potential three-way tie between Croatia, Italy, and Spain, according to UEFA rules, Italy would have been knocked out of the tournament if Spain and Croatia tied 1-1 and Italy didn't score at least three points while winning by two, or if they tied 2-2, which is how Italy was knocked out of the Euro in 2004.
Italy will go on to play England in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday. If they win, they'll play either Germany or Greece in the semi-finals in Warsaw on the 28th of June and potentially met Spain, France, Portugal, or the Czech Republic at the finals on the first of July in Kiev.
Spain, the tournament favourite, beat Croatia Monday 1-0 with a nearly offsides goal in the 88th minute to secure their passage to the quarterfinals and win Group C. But in their match against Spain on the 10th, the Italians ended the Iberians 14-game winning streak, questioning their ability to defend the Euro Cup title and make history by winning three major championships in a row.
Italy kept the Spanish keeper busy throughout the first half and Antonio Di Natale sunk a smooth goal after subbing in for Balotelli at the hour mark. Spain quickly retaliated, with Cesc Fabregas landing a low shot, and the game ended in a draw.
Last Thursday against Croatia, the Azzurri deftly controlled the game in the first half, culminating in a goal off a free kick—the first scored at Euro 2012—at 39 minutes from Andrea Pirlo. The Croatians changed their strategy in the second half, leading to increased ball time for them and a goal to tie the match in the 72nd minute.
The Croatian football association was also fined nearly 20.000 euros for throwing fireworks on the pitch and chanting racist comments against Italy's tempestuous forward Balotelli, who is of African descent, during their game against Italy.