Italy beats Northern Ireland 3-0

Antonio Cassano scored twice and Italy defeated Northern Ireland

3-0 Tuesday to conclude its European Championship qualifying

campaign unbeaten.

Cassano put Italy ahead in the eighth minute with a splendid

volley following a long pass from Daniele De Rossi, then doubled

the lead with a well-placed low shot from the edge of the area in

the 53rd.

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley then scored an own goal

in the 74th by redirecting a pass from Federico Balzaretti.

Italy, which had already qualified for next year’s tournament,

finished with 26 points atop Group C.

Northern Ireland, which was already eliminated, finished next to

last in the group with nine points.

”Now we’ve got the Euros and we’ve just got to continue like

this,” said Cassano, who has nine goals for Italy.

Cassano had to apologize after insulting an Italian journalist

during midweek training, and he has been on and off the national

squad for years due to behavior problems.

”I’m stressed out. I would like to have a good European

Championship and a good World Cup and then retire,” the

29-year-old AC Milan forward said. ”It’s 13 years now that

whatever I say doesn’t go over well. So at 33 I’m going to be

finished with football and enjoy my family.”

Nigel Worthington announced on Monday that this would be his

final match as Northern Ireland coach, thus ending his 4 1/2-year

stint with the national team.

Before kickoff, Italy honored its four players with more than

100 caps: current goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was making his

110th appearance; retired goalkeeper Dino Zoff (112), former

defender Paolo Maldini (126) and record-holder Fabio Cannavaro

(136).

Italy will next face Euro 2012 co-host Poland and Copa America

champion Uruguay in friendlies Nov. 11 and 15, while Northern

Ireland isn’t slated to play again until February, giving the Irish

FA plenty of time to find a replacement for Worthington.

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon (Morgan De Sanctis, 77), Giorgio

Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Cassano (Pablo Osvaldo, 56),

Federico Balzaretti, Alberto Aquilani (Antonio Nocerino, 69),

Andrea Barzagli, Mattia Cassani, Riccardo Montolivo, Sebastian

Giovinco, Andrea Pirlo.

Northern Ireland: Maik Taylor, Lee Hodson, Ryan McGivern, Gareth

McAueley, Oliver Norwood (Connor McLaughlin, 74), Chris Baird,

Andrew Little, Steven Davis, David Healy (Warren Feeney, 65), Corry

Evans, Jonny Gorman (Niall McGinn, 77).