Cesare Prandelli's side are on the verge of the finals next summer after they held on to a single-goal lead against Brian Kerr's plucky hosts on Friday eveningAn unconvincing Italy moved to within a win of Euro 2012 qualification with a 1-0 victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn.
Antonio Cassano's 11th-minute goal proved enough for Cesare Prandelli's side to take another great leap towards the finals in Poland and Ukraine next summer, but it was far from plain sailing for the 1968 champions, with Suni Olsen hitting the post as the Italians held on.
The four-time World Cup winners kept an unchanged side from that which beat Spain in a friendly in Bari last month, but had plenty of trouble breaking down the stubborn minnows, who largely looked to sit tight and hit them on the break.
Antonio Cassano opened the scoring in the 11th minute when he raced onto Andrea Pirlo’s chipped pass to chest down and somehow smuggle the ball past Rene Torgard before tapping home.
A second looked on the cards when Cassano combined well with Domenico Criscito down the left, and the Zenit St. Petersburg full-back was only thwarted by a late block as he charged towards the six-yard box.
It was the Faroes who came closest next though as first Joan Edmundsson’s deflected effort just cleared the bar, then Suni Olsen’s excellent low drive came back off the foot of the far post with Gianluigi Buffon seemingly beaten.
Long-range efforts from Daniele De Rossi either side of half-time kept Torgard honest, as the Italians continued to boss possession without punishing their hosts.
The arrival of Giampaolo Pazzini for the underwhelming Giuseppe Rossi did little to change Italy’s fortunes, and Christian Holst almost made them pay when he got in behind Giorgio Chiellini from Hjalgrim Elttor’s superb cross but his effort bounced back off Buffon’s bar.
The victory, however narrow, means that a victory for the Azzurri against Slovenia in Florence on Tuesday evening will be enough for them to qualify for the finals with two games to spare.
For Brian Kerr’s side, the performance will provide another boost of morale in a qualifying campaign which has exceeded expectations, despite Estonia’s result meaning they are sure to finish at the bottom of Group C.