GDANSK, Poland — Spain needed a late goal from substitute Jesus Navas to ensure its passage to the European Championship quarterfinals, beating Croatia 1-0 on Monday to finish first in Group C.
Spain finally broke open the Croatia defense after wasting a number of late chances as Cesc Fabregas lobbed a through ball for Andres Iniesta. The Barcelona midfielder controlled the ball before flicking a short pass over to Navas, who put his shot into an empty net in the 88th minute.
“We played to the end and we deserved the win,” said Navas, who scored his second career goal for the world champions.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas made a pair of clutch saves in the second half.
The defending champions, who are trying to win their third consecutive major title, will face the second-place team in Group D on Saturday in Donetsk, Ukraine.
ITALY 2, IRELAND 0
In Poznan, Poland, Italy qualified for the quarterfinals after Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored in each half of a tense victory over Ireland.
Cassano headed in with his back to the goal by the near post after a corner kick in the 35th minute.
Balotelli came on as a substitute and scored in the 90th, a minute after Ireland was reduced to 10 men with Keith Andrews picking up his second yellow card.
Still, Italy had to wait a few moments after the final whistle to celebrate after receiving word that Spain beat Croatia in the other Group C match.
Italy will meet the Group D winner Sunday in Kiev – with France, England and co-host Ukraine among the possible opponents.
Spain won the group with seven points, Italy finished second with five, Croatia was next with four and Ireland exited its first major tournament in 10 years with none.
DENMARK: Forward Nicklas Bendtner was banned for one 2014 World Cup qualifying match for revealing an unofficial sponsor’s name on his underwear while celebrating a goal at the European Championship.
UEFA said its disciplinary panel found the 24-year-old guilty of “improper conduct” and fined him $126,000.