Italy on course to qualify for Euro 2012 after Estonia stroll

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Italy are on the brink of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine after maintaining their grip on Group C with a 3-0 win over Estonia here on Friday.

Italy stayed five points clear of Slovenia, 2-0 winners in the Faroe Islands, with a game in hand, and need only win two of their last four matches to guarantee progress to the finals.

Forwards Giuseppe Rossi, Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini scored one each in what was a walk in the park for the Azzurri against poor opponents.

Although coach Cesare Prandlli had claimed before the game that he expected it to be tougher than their meeting in Tallinn in September — where Italy scraped a 2-1 success — this was anything but competitive.

On seven minutes Cassano pounced on a defender’s slip but his chipped finish was easy for goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko.

Martin Vunk had a speculative crack from distance for the visitors but dragged it wide.

On 14 minutes Rossi played a great pass down the inside right channel for Cassano but he shot straight at Pareiko, who saved with his legs.

From Pirlo’s resulting corner Rossi’s flicked header had Pareiko scrambling it clear at his near post.

Rossi was causing all sorts of problems and he managed to skip inside Tavvi Rahn but Pareiko came out well to block his shot.

Estonia could only take pot shots from outside the box and Tarmo Kink had a whack that flew wide.

Italy got the goal their dominance deserved on 21 minutes as a Rahn mistake handed the ball to Cassano, who slipped it to Rossi.

The Villarreal man beat two defenders but seemed to have gone too wide until he fired a rasper across Pareiko into the bottom far corner.

Cassano then took a quick free-kick and Rossi used excellent balance to bundle past two defenders before crashing a shot against the post.

More poor defending led to the second on 40 minutes as Cassano received the ball in the box from a throw-in and fired across Pareiko into the far corner.

The second half was a tame affair by comparison but Pirlo curled a low free-kick against the base of the post on 65 minutes.

That seemed to spark Italy into life and Antonio Nocerino’s volley from distance forced a diving Pareiko to scramble it behind.

Riccardo Montolivo then chipped the backline allowing substitute Pazzini to run on and finish low past Pareiko.

Estonia substitute Jarmo Ahjupera almost gave Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon a nervous moment late on but his deflected shot sailed wide with the Juventus stopper wrong-footed.

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