Euro 2012: Italy versatile and dangerous
The Azzurri are unbeaten in competitive fixtures under Cesare Prandelli
Michael Lintorn now sees Italy as a serious obstacle for Group D winners in Euro 2012.
For the majority of the second half on Group C's finale, it looked like Italy, rather than being victims of a Croatia-Spain conspiracy, would wind up as unlikely group winners, really complicating the plans of Group D's sides ahead of their games.
As it was, Jesus Navas' late decider as Croatia piled bodies forward in search of the goal required to send them through ensured that Spain stole top spot.
The Azzurri are unbeaten in competitive fixtures under Cesare Prandelli, a run now stretching to a dozen completed matches, and they are the only team in the tournament besides Germany yet to trail in a game.
In fact, you have to wade all the way back to their opening qualifier against Estonia in September 2010 to find the last time that they were losing in a non-friendly environment.
Their squad isn't as star-studded as the four ahead of them in the betting - not that many nations would snub Gianluigi Buffon or Andrea Pirlo - but it is arguably the most versatile, which is why they have been through two vastly different formations and used 18 of their 20 outfield players already.
They were the more impressive team for large periods of their clashes with Spain and Croatia and, though their performance against Republic of Ireland was their least accomplished so far as they struggled under intensive pressure against a side playing without fear, it was a significant success.
Most importantly, it saw Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli score their first goals at Euro 2012 to ease that concern, yet it was also noticeable how relieved and refreshed the whole camp looked once their qualification was confirmed.
Their minimum requirement has been fulfilled, allowing them to go out and enjoy the experience again, as they did when last cast as underdogs in their opener against Spain.
Having followed three of their last five quarter-final appearances at major tournaments with a run to the final, now may be time that the fun begins.
Germany @ Betfair odds of (3.35)
Spain @ Betfair odds of (3.5)
Portugal @ Betfair odds of (9.0)
France @ Betfair odds of (9.2)
Italy @ Betfair odds of (11.0)
England @ Betfair odds of (13.5)