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Italy make sure of place in Euro 2016 with victory in Azerbaijan

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A dominant Italy beat Azerbaijan 3-1 in Baku on Saturday evening to seal their qualification for Euro 2016.

The Azzurri went into the game at the new Baku Olympic stadium unbeaten in their previous 48 qualifiers and knowing a win in their penultimate Group H qualifier would earn them a ticket for next year's tournament in France.

Eder put the Italians ahead in the 11th minute only for Dimitrij Nazarov to equalise in the 31st minute.

Stephan El Shaarawy scored his first Azzurri goal since November 2012 when he put his team back in front two minutes before the interval.

Italy extended their lead in the 65th minute with Matteo Darmian's shot from outside the area.

The hosts ended the game with 10 men after defender Badavi Huseynov was shown a straight red card with two minutes remaining.

The outcome in Baku lifted Italy two points clear of Norway at the top of the pool -- the two teams will battle it out in Rome on Tuesday to see who tops the group.

Azerbaijan went into the contest at their new 60,000-seater stadium in fifth place and out of contention but looking to extend their four-match unbeaten run.

Italy are guaranteed a place in Euro 2016.

Italy, without injured strikers Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi, played with a 4-4-2 formation with coach Antonio Conte selecting Eder alongside El Shaarawy in attack.

The Azzurri dominated possession but the hosts that had the first shot on goal when Ruslan Gurbanov tried his luck from long range and saw his right-foot effort saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Italy went ahead soon after as Marco Verratti spotted an unmarked Eder in the area and he struck a low right-footed shot past Azerbaijan goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev.

The Azzurri almost doubled their lead five minutes later when Graziano Pelle chested down Eder's pass in the area and struck a right-footed volley that forced Aghayev to palm over the crossbar.

The hosts equalised in the 31st minute after both Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci failed to clear a dangerous ball in Italy's area, leaving Nazarov to drill the loose ball low past Buffon.

The Azzurri reacted, with El Shaarawy's powerfully struck half-volley going over before he shot off target following Aghayev's weak punch.

Italy regained the lead before the interval when Antonio Candreva set up El Shaarawy in the box and he struck a 12-yard shot into an empty net.

The Azzurri continued to dominate possession after the restart and almost extended their advantage on the hour.

Eder's touch on Marco Parolo's cross beat Aghayev but Azerbaijan captain Rashad Sadygov was on hand to make a vital goal-line clearance.

Azerbaijan gave away their third four minutes alter when Darmian got behind a loose ball on the edge of the Azerbaijan area and struck a right-footed bullet strike out of Aghayev's reach and into the left corner for his first Italy goal.

The hosts' slim hopes of a comeback were dashed when Huseynov was dismissed for a last-man challenge on substitute Sebastian Giovinco, who hit the bar with the free-kick.

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