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Cassano and Balotelli seal quarter-final spot for Italy

Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli sealed Italy's place in the quarter-finals as Group C runners-up.

Italy attacked from the off and Daniele De Rossi fired a long range shot wide, then there were a couple of moments of panic in the Ireland box from an Italy corner before the Irish managed to clear their lines.

Federico Balzaretti had a half chance for Italy but could only blaze a shot over the bar, then a Balzaretti cross from the left found Antonio Di Natale in the box, only for his goalbound shot to be blocked by Sean St Ledger.

Di Natale's shot from a tight angle was blocked on the line, before Italy took the lead in the 36th minute. Shay Given spilled Cassano's shot and from the resulting corner, Andrea Pirlo's near post centre was headed home by Cassano (pictured).

Italy went close to grabbing a second goal early in the second half, but St Ledger blocked Di Natale's effort, then Cassano's shot from a Balzaretti cross was blocked by Richard Dunne.

Pirlo curled a free-kick over the wall and the bar, but Ireland had a chance of an equaliser when a Keith Andrews shot from 25 yards was sent straight at Gianluigi Buffon.

Andrews was sent off for a second booking late on, before Balotelli wrapped up victory when he met a corner from the right with a well struck volley.

Italy: Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Marchisio, Thiago Motta, De Rossi, Di Natale, Cassano. Subs: Sirigu, Maggio, Ogbonna Obienza, Balotelli, Giaccherni, Borini, Montolivo, Bonucci, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Rep of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, Dunne, St. Ledger, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Doyle. Subs: Westwood, Kelly, McShane, Walters, Gibson, Hunt, O'Dea, Long, Cox, Green, McClean, Forde.

By Mark Roach

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