Italy play Ireland tonight in their final group game, with Italy fighting for their place in the tournament whilst Ireland are playing for pride after two losses in two games. Although the Italian’s qualification does rely on the result in the other final fixture, Spain vs Croatia. The Azzurri need a win to qualify but also need Croatia to lose in order to progress, with the Croats currently on four points and the Italians on two.
Ireland will be hoping that they can save some face after two big losses and a wave of criticism from fomer captian Roy Keane. His words have dominated the Irish headlines since their 4-0 loss to Spain and the players will want a good final showing to prove themselves after Keane raised question marks over the regular first eleven that Giovanni Trapatonni picks.
In their last game, Ireland managed only 22% of the possesion against a Spain team that does tend to dominate the game. They also only managed 5 shots which is in stark contrast to the Spanish who helped themselves to 27 shots – 22 of which were on target. The Irish will be hoping for a game more similar to their first, against Croatia, in which they had 13 attempts on goal.
Italy will be looking to show they can be more clinical in front of goal after only managing 13 of their 26 shots on target and scoring just two goals – one of which from a dead ball situation. Questions have bee raised over the selection of Mario Balotelli after the player failed to capitalize on a number of good chances with Antonio Di Natale being touted as his replacement.
Balotelli is also Italy’s only injury concern having picked up knee injury in training however Cesare Prandelli has suggested that the 22-year-old will be rested anyway. Andrea Barzagli is set to return after missing the opening two fixtures with a calf strain.
Keeping to his traditional form, Trapattoni has named his starting eleven with the main changes being Kevin Doyle back in for Simon Cox and Damien Duff taking the captains armband to mark his 100th cap for his country.
This will be the first time the two sides have met at a major international tournament in 16 years with both having a victory of 1-0 each. The sides have met seven times overall with the Italians taking 3 wins to Ireland’s 2 – sharing the spoils twice. However the most recent fixture between the two sides saw Ireland win 2-0 in Italy last June.
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