Substitute Pazzini was judged to have used his arm to bundle the ball home with seven minutes remaining, while at the other end Gianluigi Buffon made a fine save from Rafael van der Vaart to mark his 100th cap with a clean sheet. There was bad news for Holland and Arsenal, though, with Dutch striker Robin van Persie leaving the pitch nursing an injury just 16 minutes in.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi has grown weary of answering questions about his policy of not selecting the enigmatic Antonio Cassano in his squad but was again given a very public reminder of the player's committed fan-base early on. After just six minutes a fan ran onto the pitch wearing an Italy shirt with the message 'Cassano in the national team', causing a brief delay.
When play resumed, the Dutch dominated possession but were unable to turn that into goals. The visitors suffered a setback when Arsenal striker Robin van Persie limped off and was replaced by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt had the first opportunity of the game in the 20th minute with his right-footed strike from the edge of the area going wide of the far post. Gli Azzurri reacted with Raffaele Palladino firing a shot from 30-yards that forced Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg to dive to his right to clear.
Italy goalkeeper Buffon, who celebrated a century of appearances for Gli Azzurri tonight, made a stunning save to deflect Van der Vaart's free-kick that had taken a deflection off Palladino's head. On the stroke of half-time, Stekelenburg did well to come off his line, anticipating the run of Candreva, who was ready to head home from Andrea Pirlo's cross.
Lippi made his first substitution early in the second half with Giuseppe Rossi taking Palladino's place in attack. Italy showed more determination up front and on the hour mark, Mauro Camoranesi did well to get past his marker before crossing into the area only for the Dutch defence to clear away the danger.
Shortly afterwards, Fabio Grosso's cross found Camoranesi on the edge of the area but his strike was blocked by a defender. With 10 minutes remaining, substitute Davide Biondini, who was making his senior debut for the world champions, teed up Rossi inside the area but mistimed his shot.
The Italians thought they had broken the deadlock with seven minutes remaining when substitute Pazzini got behind Fabio Cannavaro's header inside the area to bundle the ball home. However, the referee quickly whistled, ruling that the Sampdoria frontman had used his arm to steer the ball in.