Italy beat Czech Republic 2-1 to qualify
Italy beat Czech Republic 2-1 to qualify for the World Cup next year which will be held in Brazil.
The Azzurri came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin tonight and qualify for the World Cup finals.
Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak put the visitors ahead in the 19th minute before Giorgio Chiellini equalised shortly after the re-start.
Mario Balotelli scored the winner from the penalty spot in the 54th minute after he was brought down by Gebre Selassie in the box.
Despite the hosts having the better of the opening exchanges, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock as Kozak fired home in the 19th minute following a swift counterattack. The Aston Villa striker escaped the attentions of the Italian defense to meet Petr Jiracek’s cross and guide the ball past Buffon.
Italy should have equalized six minutes later, but Balotelli missed two fantastic chances from inside the penalty area. His first struck the crossbar after a good strike from Emmanuele Giaccherini’s cross, and he blazed his second over the bar after Cech had spilled a shot from the edge of the box.
When Andrea Pirlo floated a perfect cross towards the 23-year-old, he could only head straight at the Czech goalkeeper, who pushed the ball away.
Cesare Prandelli's side leveled six minutes into the second half through Chiellini. Cech missed his punch from a Pirlo corner and the Juventus defender rose unmarked to head into the empty goal.
And on their next attack, the Italians moved ahead as Balotelli was brought down in the penalty area by Gebre Selassie. He picked himself up to calmly fire past Cech, sending the Chelsea goalkeeper the wrong way.
Italy had the visitors firmly under control. When substitute Daniel Kolar received a second yellow card for a poor challenge on Balotelli, the party was able to start.
Italy saw out the closing moments of the match comfortably to secure top place and seal qualification with two games remaining.
It was also a special game for goalkeeper Buffon, as he equalled the record of 136 international appearances set by former Azzurri defender Fabio Cannavaro.