Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli hailed his side's fighting spirit as they fought their way to a 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland.
Antonio Cassano's first-half header and Mario Balotelli's spectacular late volley took the Azzurri into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals as Group C runners-up.
Cassano, who missed half the season with AC Milan after undergoing a minor heart operation, headed home 10 minutes before the break and Balotelli brilliantly hooked the ball home in the final minute to send Italy through behind group winners Spain.
"It has been a very difficult match, we came up against a team that made us suffer," Prandelli said.
"Today we knew that heart mattered more than quality. Tonight we created a lot, I hope it will be like this also in the next match."
Italy will meet the Group D winners on Sunday in Kiev with France, England and co-hosts Ukraine among the possible opponents.
"No difference to us (who we play) we have already played Spain who are reigning world and European champions," Prandelli added. "If we play well we can take on anyone."
Meanwhile, goalscorer Cassano admitted he couldn't wait for the final whistle to blow in the Spain-Croatia match.
"The victory was something we struggled for but the most important thing was to get through the group," Cassano said.
"I couldn't wait for them to blow the whistle in the other game and for it to finish.
"We Italians are used to suffering but we always give our best."