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Italy Advances To Euros Quarter-Finals

With a goal in each half, first by Cassano, and then the substitute Balotelli, and no repeat of the farce in 2004, saw Italy qualify for the quarter-finals after finishing in second place in their group.

The victory ended a five-match winless streak for Italy, which began the tournament with 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia following three friendly losses.

There were no tears for Antonio Cassano this time, just joy.

Seven months after a scary episode of stroke-like symptoms, Cassano headed in with his back to the goal by the near post following a corner kick in the 35th minute on a warm and muggy night at the Municipal Stadium Poznan.

Cassano wept on the pitch uncontrollably after that game eight years ago, despite being awarded man of the match. He received the award again after this game, this time with a smile.

Cassano fell ill with stroke-like symptoms on AC Milan’s team plane in October and then required minor heart surgery. He was out for five months and has said repeatedly that he thought he might never recover.

Cassano also stood out for Italy at Euro 2004, but he has was left out of the Azzurri’s last two World Cup squads by former coach Marcello Lippi.

Lippi was worried about Cassano’s temper. There’s never been any question over Cassano’s talent, though.

Balotelli’s goal was a work of art. The 21-year-old striker acrobatically wrapped his shot around defender John O’Shea in midair as he met a corner kick from Alessandro Diamanti. Having started Italy’s opening two matches, Balotelli replaced Antonio Di Natale in the 74th.

Italy will meet the Group D winner Sunday in Kiev – with France, England and co-host Ukraine the possible opponents.