Italy sat back and paid for it Thursday in a 1-1 draw with Croatia at the European Championship in Poznan, Poland.
Andrea Pirlo gave Italy the lead with a curving free kick in the 39th minute but Mario Mandzukic was left unmarked to equalize in the 72d.
Italy had numerous other first-half chances from Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Cassano, but the Azzurri lacked finishing quality. Balotelli, in particular, appeared hesitant and missed one opportunity after another. And this time, second-half replacement Antonio Di Natale never really had a chance to score.
“If you can’t finish it off, of course you’re going to have regrets,’’ said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who will likely be questioned for sticking with Balotelli up front.
Having opened with a 3-1 win over Ireland, Croatia has four points in Group C. Italy has two after its opening 1-1 draw with Spain.
“Probably the whole country was not expecting this,’’ Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said. “We have a really good chance of going through.’’
In the final round of group matches on Monday, Italy faces Ireland and Croatia meets world champion Spain.
For his goal, Pirlo placed the ball over Croatia’s three-man wall and just inside the near post. Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa could only get a weak hand on it once the ball was already inside his net.
Italy remains winless against its Mediterranean neighbor in all six meetings since Croatia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The Azzurri are also now winless in their second matches at their last six major tournaments.
Spain 4, Ireland 0 - Fernando Torres scored a goal in each half in Gdansk, Poland, as Spain eliminated the Irish from the tournament.
David Silva and substitute Cesc Fabregas also scored second-half goals as the defending champions improved to four points in Group C, the same as co-leader Croatia.
Spain dominated the tempo and scoring opportunities through its quick combinations, taking 26 shots and putting the team on course for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Torres, who scored in the Euro 2008 final, put Spain ahead early after dispossessing Richard Dunne inside the area and scurrying past Stephen Ward before sending an angled shot over goalkeeper Shay Given in the fourth minute.