Defending champions Spain and Italy have qualified for the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, with victories over Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in Group C on Thursday.

Vicente del Bosque's side, aiming to be the first nation to retain the European crown, ensured top spot in the group when Jesus Navas scored after 88 minutes to give them a 1-0 win over Croatia in Gdansk. Meanwhile, goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli in Poznan guided the Azzurri to a 2-0 victory over the Republic and ensured their progress to the knockout stage.

Spain fielded an unchanged line-up from the 4-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, with two-goal hero Fernando Torres continuing as the striker and Cesc Fabregas on the bench. Meanwhile, Croatia made two changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Italy, with Domagoj Vida and Danijel Pranjic coming in for Nikica Jelavic and Ivan Perisic.

Neither team seemed interested to grab the lead throughout the game, with the champions' famous tiki-taka football failing to get past the well-organised defensive guard of Slaven Bilic's side. And with the game seemingly heading towards a stalemate end, Navas - who came on for Torres - put the ball in the back of the Croatian net from Andres Iniesta's cut-back, with two minutes remaining on the clock, to give Spain the top spot and knocking Croatia out.

Meanwhile, in Poznan, Italy were in control for the majority of the first period and a header from Antonio Cassano from an Andrea Pirlo corner in the 35th minute gave Cesare Prandelli's men a deserved lead against the Irish. Substitute Balotelli sealed the victory with an acrobatic bicycle kick from just outside the six-yard box in the last minute. Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews was sent off in the 88th minute after receiving his second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration.

Italy will now face the winners of Group D, while Spain will meet the runners-up. Both the spots in the group are still up for grabs with England, France and Ukraine battling to earn them.

Jesus Navas and Andres Iniesta celebrate the goal that confirmed Spain's place in the last eight as Group C winnersReuters
Mario Balotelli celebrates his goal that confirmed Italy's place in the quarterfinalsReuters