So it turns out that you can walk the ball into the back of the net.
The great 2-2 conspiracy did not come to pass. That score between Croatia and Spain would have rendered Italy's result against Ireland irrelevant. As it was, Italy worked themselves to a pretty comfortable 2-0 win. Already out of the running, Ireland were pretty poor and ceded the vast majority of possession. They defended slightly better than the previous two games though, hence it took 35 minutes for Italy to find the breakthrough, Andrea Pirlo's corner turned in off Antonio Cassano's shoulder. Ireland did manage a whole two shots on goal in the second half, but still Italy were very comfortable. The crowning turd in Ireland's water pipe came a minute from time when Keith Andrews was sent off, picking up a second booking after kicking the ball away before Mario Balotelli finished wonderfully to seal the win. With his back to goal, he hooked a cross round John O'Shea and beyond Shay Given - a really nice effort.
While it remained goalless between Spain and Croatia, Italy were going through with Spain. But with little real threat in the final third, Spain were living on the edge. Time and again Croatia looked to get them on the break, Luka Modric pulling all the strings and Mario Mandzukic the main outlet. The best opportunity came from such a break with Mandzukic dragging the cover defence to the near post leaving Ivan Rakitic, who had bust a gut to get up in support, alone at the back. Modric's ball was perfect, Rakitic's shot was perfect, but so was Iker Casillas's goalkeeping and 0-0 it remained. Jesus Navas was thrown on to offer something a bit different for Spain, just as he did in the first game against Italy. But his crucial involvement was finishing rather than starting something. Spain are often criticised for trying to walk the ball in rather than actually having a shot. Well it worked here. Three minutes from time, a ball from Cesc Fabregas caught the defence flat-footed and found Andres Iniesta all on his own. He squared it for Navas to stroll it into the unguarded net. At that point, a goal for Croatia would send them through with Spain at Italy's expense and they chucked everything at it, Stipe Pletikosa trotting forward on one occasion, but for all Slaven Bilic's impassioned urging from the sideline they couldn't find a way through. Bilic is probably best avoided for the next few days - he looked a bit angry. Well, angrier than normal.
This evening, it's the final day of the group stage. England take on Ukraine in Donetsk needing a point while France play Sweden.