Italy coach Pierluigi Casiraghi praised his side for their bravery after beating hosts Sweden 2-1 in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Helsingborg despite playing for nearly an hour with just ten men.
The result puts Italy in a commanding position ahead of their final Group A game against Belarus on Tuesday for a spot in the semi-finals.
"It was a very hard game even before the sending-off, then it became harder still," Casiraghi, who saw Mario Balotelli dismissed just before the break, said. "My team played a great game.
"I did not see Balotelli's foul, I need to watch it again. He can be a cross on our shoulders but he is also inspirational because he scored a wonderful goal and then made a big mistake."
The Inter youngster will be suspended for the final group game and UEFA may decide to extend the suspension when the Disciplinary Committee meets on Monday, meaning star man Sebastian Giovinco will be important to the Azzurrini's progress.
"Giovinco is an important player with lots of quality and is very important for us. He did some excellent things today.
"He is growing up and improving and now that Balotelli is suspended he will have an even more important part to play.
"Our tactics and experience were crucial after the sending-off and even in that difficult situation my players were very brave and intelligent and understood what to do."
The five-time European champions only need a draw against Belarus to reach the last four.
[UEFA Euro U21 Championships 2009]