NEWS
Monday June 18 2012
Italy player ratings v Ireland

That's how the cookie crumbles...after all the 'biscotto' controversy bad boys Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli sent the Azzurri to the quarters. But were there any eejits against the Irish in Poznan?

Gigi Buffon: 7

The custodian will have been tempted to update his Facebook page, so untroubled has he been for the majority of this tournament, but 'Superman' flew to the rescue with a terrific parry from Keith Andrews’ free kick just when things were getting very nervy indeed. Steadfast.

Ignazio Abate: 7

Boundless energy. Always willing to support the attack, but it was in defence where he impressed most. Aggressive when he needed to be aggressive, calm when he needed to be calm. Attentive.

Andrea Barzagli: 6

Thrown into a fierce battle with Kevin Doyle after two weeks out nursing a calf injury. One or two clumsy moments, but largely acquitted himself well in the air and on the ground. Sturdy.

Giorgio Chiellini: 6

Like Barzagli suffered a few nervy moments when the Irish attackers ran at him, but had gone a long way to redeeming himself for his blunder against Croatia when his hamstring went early in the second half. Unlucky.

Federico Balzaretti: 8

At the heart of most of Italy's best chances and a constant threat down the left. Faced with UFC style defending from the Irish, Balzac didn't get a petted lip, but did get a burst one, courtesy of John O’Shea's elbow. Defiant.

Claudio Marchisio: 5

The most ineffective we've seen him in Poland. Didn't seem to relish his new role on the right side of the midfield three and his only attacking contribution was a volley skewed wide. Muted.

Andrea Pirlo: 6.5

By no means a vintage Pirlo showing - he gifted the Irish a goalscoring opportunity after less than 10 seconds – but it seems the man can't help but be decisive, setting up Cassano's opener with a wicked in-swinging corner. Significant.

Daniele De Rossi: 7.5

Tenacious DDR. Like Balzaretti he relished the physical challenge the Boys in Green posed, launching himself into tackles and blocking shots, but also showed his cultured side with some excellent long passes. The Azzurri benefited from his return to midfield. Indomitable.

Thiago Motta: 5.5

Neat and tidy with his passing, decent work rate, but if he's a trequartista then Pirlo's a rugged centre half. At risk.

Antonio Cassano: 6.5

The man who was reduced to tears by the last 'biscotto' incident at Euro 2004 helped make sure there was no repeat with a rare headed goal. The odd flash of genius, but relinquished possession too readily. Mixed.

Antonio Di Natale: 7

Good players make good strike partnerships and despite having a combined height of about four feet Di Natale and Cassano struck up an intelligent and effective pairing. If not for last ditch Irish defending he would have had a hat trick. Canny.

Leonardo Bonucci: 7

Unfortunate to be dropped for Barzagli after his performance v Croatia and proved that point after replacing the injured Chiellini. Thwarted Irish attacks with his feet and perhaps more significantly thwarted a Super Mario meltdown with his hands. Responsible.

Alessandro Diamanti: 5.5

A rumoured starter, the maverick midfielder ended up coming off the bench to collect his second cap. Won some free kicks but otherwise struggled to assert himself. Frustrated.

Mario Balotelli: 8

Sealed Italy's qualification with a simply sensational overhead kick in the 90th minute but did a lot of other good work in his 15 minute cameo by running at the Irish defence. Better as an impact sub, it seems. Spectacular.

Ratings by: Scott Fleming

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