Italy have all but booked their place at UEFA EURO 2012 after an 11th-minute goal by Antonio Cassano gave the Group C leaders a 1-0 win against the Faroe Islands.
The Azzurri had to work hard in Torshavn despite taking an early lead and they survived a pair of scares as Súni Olsen struck the post in the first half and Christian Lamhauge Holst the crossbar in the second. With Slovenia losing to Estonia, Italy are eight points clear in the section and know that victory against the Slovenians in Florence on Tuesday will secure their passage to Poland and Ukraine with two games still to play.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli fielded the same starting XI which defeated world champions Spain 2-1 last month and they began at a high tempo, creating three scoring opportunities in as many minutes from the kick-off with René Tórgard denying Riccardo Montolivo and Cassano before Giorgio Chiellini sent a dangerous header just wide. They still got their goal soon enough, however, AC Milan forward Cassano eluding the offside trap and chesting down Andrea Pirlo's precise pass before rounding Tórgard and slotting into the empty net.
By the midway point of the first half, the Faroe Islands had found their bearings and after Jóan Edmundsson had shot just over, Olsen beat Gianluigi Buffon with a shot from outside the box that rebounded to safety off a post. Italy also tried their luck from distance but Tórgard was equal to efforts by Daniele De Rossi and Domenico Criscito.
Tórgard kept up the good work in the second half, keeping out a close-range Giuseppe Rossi shot with his foot, then diving to palm away a dangerous shot by De Rossi after 70 minutes. Five minutes later, however, the hosts were unfortunate as Holst hit the bar with a left-footed shot from a cross by Hjalgrím Elttør. Brian Kerr's side will hope for better luck when they visit Serbia on Tuesday.