That is what happened, but neither Spain or Italy were convincing in their third group match and Croatia has to consider itself really unlucky to be heading home today.
Goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli helped Italy beat the Republic of Ireland, but this was a poor and nervy Italian performance. Ireland was probably the worst side at the Euros and they carved the Italian defence open time and time again, especially in the opening 20 minutes. Whoever wins Group D and faces the Italians in the quarter-finals will have to feel confident that they can get past them and progress to the semis.
In the other group match, Spain beat Croatia 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Jesus Navas, but it was a goal that but not did not come until the 88th minute and when it did arrive it contained hints of both offside and handball.
i dont’t know whether it is tiredness from a long domestic season, but Spain does not look as sharp as they have in previous tournaments.
The loss of the aging Carles Puyol has really unsettled the Spanish defence. Sergio Ramos has been forced to move into the middle from his usual right-back position, and he has struggled at times against quality strikers.
Add in the problems that Spain are having scoring goals, Torres lasted only 60 minutes against Croatia, and we have a Spanish side that whoever finishes second in Group D will not fear facing as much as they would have 12-18 months ago.