ROME • Italy punched their ticket to next year's Euros with a 2-0 win over Greece in Rome on Saturday to turn the page on their failure to qualify for the last World Cup.
Decked out in green, a colour they had worn just once before at the Stadio Olimpico back in 1954, Roberto Mancini's new-look Azzurri extended their perfect run in Group J to seven victories in as many games.
Despite being pegged back by the Greeks for over an hour, the Italians overcame their opponents through Jorginho's penalty and a strike from Federico Bernardeschi.
Reflecting on their 100 per cent record, Italy coach Mancini, whose side cannot be overtaken at the top by second-placed Finland despite three group games to be played, told reporters he was "happy and proud to have helped this team get out of a complicated situation".
The Azzurri were in the doldrums following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
But, since taking over in May last year, the former Manchester City boss has restored confidence and freshened up the team with young blood.
He said: "We've managed to create a team in a short space of time. It wasn't easy but we have to thank the players who quickly adapted to each other.
"It's a team with character, who play with pride, never give up and fight until the end, but who still need to improve.
"We have a lot of work, but we're not far off the best European teams."
On the Euros and the Stadio Olimpico scheduled to stage the opening match, Mancini was also hopeful the fans would turn out in numbers to relive the "magical nights" of the 1990 World Cup, before promising "that in June, it (the team) will be even more beautiful".
He added: "We'll go to the Euros, to put on a good show and to go all the way because it's been a long time that the Euro is missing from the Italy trophy cabinet (their only title was in 1968)."
In Oslo, Sergio Ramos overtook Iker Casillas to set the all-time appearance record for Spain after he skippered his side in their 1-1 Group F draw against Norway.
While the Real Madrid captain called his 168th cap bittersweet as he "would have happily traded this for a victory" - Joshua King's spot kick in added time cancelled out Saul Niguez's opener - the 33-year-old promised La Roja fans that he had no plans to hang up his international boots.
"This record is a great reward after so many years and it's a great source of huge pride," Ramos said. "I am emotional every time I put on this shirt.
"That will not change and I hope to continue doing so for many years."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS