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Italy peg back Armenia to finish unbeaten

Italy 2-2 Armenia
The visitors' slim hopes of making the play-offs were scuppered in Naples as the Azzurri twice came from behind to deny them the win.

Alessandro Florenzi celebrates his first goal in the blue of Italy
Alessandro Florenzi celebrates his first goal in the blue of Italy ©AFP/Getty Images

Group B winners Italy ensured they finished 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying unbeaten but were twice forced to come from behind to draw with Armenia in Naples.

Armenia needed a victory to keep alive their slim chance of making the play-offs – though Denmark's defeat of Malta was to make that academic – and did everything they could to prevail against Cesare Prandelli's men, going ahead twice through Yura Movsisyan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. However, the hosts were able to respond on both occasions through Alessandro Florenzi and Mario Balotelli, ending Armenian hopes and maintaining their undefeated record.

Already qualified for next summer's finals, the Azzurri had a nightmare start at the Stadio San Paolo as Vardan Minasyan's side surged into a fifth-minute lead. After almost punishing a Davide Astori error, Movsisyan then intercepted another poor pass by Alberto Aquilani and beat Federico Marchetti with a low shot that tucked itself inside the far post.

Playing in his home stadium, SSC Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne was the inspiration for Italy and threatened when his low strike from the edge of the area cracked against a post. The diminutive forward then chipped a cross for Florenzi who nodded his first international goal at the near post.

Insigne continued to pull the strings and came close twice more with spectacular attempts, but with 70 minutes on the clock Mkhitaryan sneaked in front of Marchetti to head in Gevorg Ghazaryan's corner and restore Armenia's advantage. However, six minutes later Andrea Pirlo's superb pass allowed Balotelli to beat goalkeeper Roman Berezovski with a right-foot drive. The forward almost conjured a winner in added time but his effort, following a wonderful solo run, flashed narrowly wide.