The way Groups A and B played out at the Euro 2012, it seemed that we’d be in for a surprising conclusion to Group C play. Instead, we saw the two teams predicted to move on do just that, although it didn’t come as easy as many thought.
Spain and Italy are moving on to the quarterfinals after disposing of rivals Croatia and Ireland, respectively.
The Spanish team had to sweat out a valiant effort from the Croats, securing their place in the final eight after substitute Jesus Navas booted the winner in the 88th minute, giving La Furia Roja the 1-0 win.
It wasn’t the kind of dominating performance that we’ve come to expect from Spain, but hey, a win’s a win. The defending champs had to withstand a number of furious scoring opportunities from Croatia and none on the Spanish squad was bigger than goalie Iker Casillas. The all-world net-minder had to make a couple of clutch saves in the second half, including a reflex save on an Ivan Rakitic header in the 59th minute that would’ve put Croatia ahead.
In the end, Spain took control of Group C and head into the quarters ready to meet the second-place finisher of Group D. They haven’t been on top form throughout the tournament, but if you’re a fan, you’ll take a win any way you can get it.
As for the other Group C match, Italy relied on two goals from Antonio Cassano (35th minute) and Mario Balotelli (90th minute) to join Spain as the Group C representatives in the quarterfinals.
Despite securing the first win in their last six matches, the Azzurri still had to sweat out the final minutes of the Spain-Croatia match as a 2-2 draw would’ve sent them home packing on goal difference. But when the final score from the match read 1-0, the Italians finally had reason to celebrate.
They were through.
Up next for the Azzurri is a match-up against the winner of Group D, which is still very much in play for France, England, and Ukraine.