By Ladislav Josef
Italy claimed the eighth and last berth in the finals of next year's UEFA European Women's Championship as goals from Ilaria Pasqui, Patrizia Panico and Elisa Camporese earned a 3-0 success against the Czech Republic in the second leg of the play-offs to complete a 5-1 overall triumph.
Leading 2-1 after the first leg in Crotone, the visitors were quickly into their stride at the FC Zenit Cáslav stadium and strengthened their grip on the tie as early as the sixth minute, Pasqui rounding off a swift counterattack. Despite the absence of three key players through injury - defender Dagmar Urbancova, who was sent off in the first leg, Pavlína Scasna, who scored the Czechs' goal in Italy and Alexandra Mouchova - the home side rallied well and created a number of opportunities to draw level.
However, Gabriela Chlumecká was unable to take the best of those chances, while Katerina Dosková's free-kick rebounded off the crossbar in the 23rd minute. Despite the wintry weather and a frozen pitch, Italy coped admirably with the conditions, and clinched the victory, and their place in the last eight of the competition, in the final ten minutes.
With the home side throwing more players forward, Panico effectively killed off the tie with nine minutes left as Panico scored a second, before Camporese added a third shortly before the final whistle. The Italians therefore maintain their record of qualifying for all nine finals in the competition, and will join Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Finland, Norway and hosts England in next summer's tournament.
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