The Italians came into Euro 2012 as overlooked and overshadowed by their Group C opponent Spain, but the Azzurri will be the ones to emerge as the champions of their group.
Italy entered the battle for Europe with rumors of Serie A games being fixed and a poor performance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but those factors don't affect the talent that coach Cesare Prandelli has.
The Azzurri came out with a fire similar to their 2006 World Cup championship performance against the Spaniards. Forwards Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale proving difficult for David Silva and company to handle. Their three-man defense shut down arguably the most talented attacking front in the tournament.
It was an impressive outing by one of Euro 2012's best kept secrets that can grab hold of the Group C steering wheel with a win over equally overlooked Croatia in their second match of the tournament.
Prandelli caught up with the Daily Mail and discussed the upcoming fixture, stating:
The game against Croatia will be the crucial game of the group, I expect a very complicated game. Croatia is more dangerous than Spain because it is unpredictable.
It won't be an easy match for the Italians to emerge victorious from, but the important thing is they realize that.
Prandelli will not allow his team to become overconfident due to their draw with the World Cup champions, especially considering the Croats are the only squad with three points to their name in this group.
Croatia defeated Ireland by a score of 3-1, which shows Slaven Bilic's team is not to be overlooked. The Irish will be looking to redeem themselves against Andres Iniesta and company that could prove problematic for the tournament favorites.
Italy will defeat Croatia, which will put them in prime position to take the No. 1 spot in Group C, especially if Spain loses or logs their second draw after playing Ireland.
Even if Spain does defeat the Irish and both units are deadlocked with four points apiece, Italy has the easier final match against what would be an already eliminated Ireland squad. Spain would be forced to outlast Croatia in order to secure a bid to the knockout round.
What was once thought of as improbable before the tournament will become reality by next Monday when Group C continues play in Euro 2012. Italy will become the champions of Group C in due time, ensuring they will face the weaker of two nations that emerge from Group D.