A big weight was lifted off the broad shoulders of Luca Toni as the Italian striker finally scored in the World Cup to help the Azzurri beat Ukraine.
Fiorentina's record goalscorer had struggled to find the net since the end of the Serie A season but Toni struck twice after Gianluca Zambrotta's opener as Italy won 3-0.
'I really hoped that this was my night,' Toni told PA Sport.
'I was saddened because in the past few days, I had received a lot of criticism.'
Toni struck 31 league goals this campaign to lead Fiorentina to Champions League qualification but has yet to find the net in Germany.
The Azzurri fans had high expectations that Toni, who finished as top scorer in Serie A and in his national team's World Cup qualifiers, would shine in Germany.
The tall forward was a starter in Italy's first two group games against Ghana and the United States but failure to find the target saw him dropped for the crucial clash against the Czech Republic.
He did return to play in the Azzurri's narrow victory against Australia.
'I felt attacked for certain things that I didn't think were right,' he said.
'I have tried to work very hard in training and I always try to be ready. Today I have finally taken a big weight off my shoulders.'
Italy will now face Germany in the semi-finals.
It has been an agonising week for the players, many of whom are uncertain about their club futures due to the match-fixing scandal in Italy.
Toni's club, Fiorentina, are among the sides under scrutiny and punishment could see them relegated to Serie B.
The 29-year-old was emotional after the game.
'I dedicate my goals to those who have always been close to me even in the most difficult times of my career,' he said.
'I think it has been the night of Italy, of a good group, of a team that wants to go far.
'Today we have taken a big step forward and we are now just one game away from the final.
'We now have to play against Germany and it's going to be a big battle but we will wait and see.'