- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ROME (AP) - With some help from Italy, Croatia qualified for its fourth consecutive European Championship after a 1-0 win at Malta on Tuesday.

Croatia claimed second place in Group H after Italy came from behind to beat Norway 2-1.

Alessandro Florenzi scored one goal and set up another for Graziano Pelle as the Azzurri overturned a 1-0 halftime deficit in Rome.

Ghana-born midfielder Alexander Tettey scored with Norway’s only shot of the first half.

“We did what we had to do,” Italy coach Antonio Conte said. “We didn’t deserve to lose. I always want this intensity and this nastiness. We’re on the right road. It’s important to have this approach, whether you win or lose.”

In Ta’Qali, Ivan Perisic scored midway through the first half for Croatia.

Italy won the group with 24 points and Croatia -which had a point deducted for a swastika that was painted on the pitch before a match against Italy - finished second with 20.

Norway took third place with 19 points, sending the Scandinavian squad to the playoffs.

“They were much better than us in the 90 minutes and they of course deserved to win,” Norway coach Per-Mathias Hogmo said.

Croatia’s best performance at the Euros was reaching the quarterfinals in 1996 and 2008. Coach Ante Cacic, who was hired last month, has several strong forwards to choose from with Perisic, Mario Mandzukic - who is currently injured - and Nikola Kalinic, who recently scored a hat trick for Serie A leader Fiorentina against Inter Milan.

Italy stretched its unbeaten streak in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers to 50 matches, extending back to a 3-1 loss to France in September, 2006.

Conte was without several key midfielders, with Daniele De Rossi suspended and injuries to Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti.

Still, the Azzurri were able to take control and create several chances before Tettey, who plays for Norwich City, gave Norway the lead.

Tettey used one touch to drive a powerful effort from the edge of the area past outstretched goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

A header from Graziano Pelle just a few meters (yards) out went wide in the 35th for Italy’s best chance of the half.

Roberto Soriano then had a long shot pushed wide by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.

A superb Nyland also negated efforts from Pelle and Florenzi late in the second half, before Florenzi’s equalizer arrived in the 73rd.

Substitute Sebastian Giovinco crossed from the left and Haitam Aleesami attempted to stop the cross with his chest, leaving it for Florenzi to poke in.

Less than 10 minutes later, Giovinco was again involved as Pelle finished off a counterattack following a cross from Florenzi.

Norway ended with only one shot on target - Tettey’s goal.

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(An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the Norway scorer. The correct spelling is Tettey)

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf


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