Nigel Worthington's final game in charge of Northern Ireland ended in defeat by Italy in Pescara.
Antonio Cassano scored the first with a stunning right-foot volley in the 21st minute while Ryan McGivern headed wide from a Steve Davis free-kick.
Cassano sidefooted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner after 53 minutes and Warren Feeney blazed over when he should have found the net.
Gareth McAuley scored an own goal to end a dismal Euro qualifying campaign.
Northern Ireland ended fifth of the six teams in Pool C, with two wins, three draws and five defeats from their 10 games.
Italy had the first chance of the game in the sixth minute but Sebastian Giovinco's shot from outside the area was well saved by Maik Taylor.
A poor backpass from an Italian defender almost allowed David Healy in on goal but Gianluigi Buffon was off his line quickly to clear.
Giorgio Chiellini missed a wonderful opportunity to score in the 19th minute when he headed wide from two yards out after a corner.
Italy continued to have more of the play and Cassano broke the deadlock when he allowed a pinpoint Daniele De Rossi pass to travel over his shoulder before striking a right-foot volley past Taylor.
Northern Ireland went close to an equaliser six minutes later when Ryan McGivern's glancing header from Steve Davis's corner was pushed round the post by Buffon.
Before the break, Giovinco fired over the bar and had another effort saved by Taylor.
The Italians increased their lead when AC Milan forward Cassano sidefooted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net after running onto a fine pass by impressive midfielder Aquilani.
Aquilani managed a long-range shot on target himself in the 63rd minute but Taylor saved comfortably.
Nigel Worthington's side still battled hard and substitute Warren Feeney squandered a wonderful chance when he blazed over from close range after meeting Johnny Gorman's swinging cross from the left.
Taylor had to be at full stretch to save Riccardo Montolivo's drilled shot from outside the area as Italy piled on the pressure.
The unfortunate McAuley then turned the ball into his own net after Federico Balzaretti squared the ball across goal after Andrea Pirlo had executed an exquisite pass into the area.
Taylor distinguished himself again with a save from Giovinco's volley from five yards out as the Italians relentlessly pursued a fourth.
Italy: Buffon, Cassani, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti, Montolivo, De Rossi, Pirlo, Aquilani, Giovinco, Cassano.
Subs: De Sanctis, Maggio, Cigarini, Osvaldo, Astori, Rossi, Nocerino.
Northern Ireland: Taylor, Hodson, Baird, McAuley, McGivern, Little, Norwood, Evans, Gorman, Davis, Healy.
Subs: Mannus, McLaughlin, Feeney, McCourt, McGinn.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Valencia)