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Having drawn their tournament opener with Spain, the Azzurri know that a victory over Slaven Bilic's troops could very well be enough to earn them a place in the last eight

 Mark Doyle
 Italy Expert
When the draw for Euro 2012 was made, the Italian press paid very little attention to the presence of Croatia in Group C, which was understandable given Spain's status as the defending champions and the fact that Republic of Ireland are coached by a certain Giovanni Trapattoni. However, the clash with the Croats was always going to be crucial as it was it was never likely that Italy would defeat Spain in their tournament opener. Sunday's draw with was a most welcome surprise but it will count for little if Italy do not defeat Slaven Bilic's side. The last thing Italy want is to be going into their final fixture against Trap's Ireland needing a win to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Italy midfielder Thiago Motta believes that the importance of Thursday's Euro 2012 Group C clash with Croatia cannot be overstated, arguing that the victors will have one foot in the quarter-finals.

The Azzurri picked up a surprise point from their tournament opener against defending champions Spain, while Croatia kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 victory over Republic of Ireland.

As a result, the 29-year-old Motta believes that the meeting with Slaven Bilic's men in Poznan will go a long way towards determining who goes through to the last eight.

"The game against Croatia will be decisive because whoever wins will have taken a very important step towards qualification," the Paris Saint-Germain ace told reporters.

"But we're feeling good and have prepared with great care for the game."

Motta is expected to continue in the Azzurri midfield, having been recalled to the starting line-up as a consequence of Daniele De Rossi's switch to the heart of the defence.

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