It was far from pretty, but the ever-pragmatic Italians got the job done in typical fashion, edging out the already-eliminated Republic of Ireland side 2-0 at Stadion Miejski to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Euro 2012. They were denied the top spot in Group C after Spain scored late in their fixture against Croatia, but goals from Antonio Cassano and substitute Mario Balotelli ensured that the Azzurri upheld their hopes of claiming their first major trophy since the 2006 World Cup.
Knowing that they needed a big win to stand a chance of qualifying, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli made large-scale alterations to his rearguard for the encounter, shifting from a three-man defence to a back four in order to cope with Ireland's Anglo-Saxon, physical style of football. Out went Leonardo Bonucci, with Andrea Barzagli replacing him to partner Giorgio Chiellini at centre-half. Federico Balzaretti and Ignazio Abate were new entrants to the starting eleven as well, the duo starting in the full-back positions. Daniele de Rossi was promoted to his natural central midfield position alongside Claudio Marchisio, while vetaran man Andrea Pirlo was used as a deep-lying playmaker for the Azzurri. Thiago Motta lined up as the most attacking of Italy's four midfielders, supporting namesakes Antonio Cassano and Antonio di Natale in attack, the latter beating Mario Balotelli to a spot in the side.