Italy must defeat Ireland in their final group game of Group C at 20.45 CEST, in Poznan, Poland. Follow the action as Swide tweets live updates on the two matches as the drama unfolds and join in the conversation at @euroswide.
Italy face down the Republic of Ireland in what manager Cesare Prandelli had described as the ‘most important game’ Italy have had since he took over as manager at the start of the campaign. Not only do Italy need to win, but they will depend on results in the other Group C game between Croatia and Spain to their way.
The Italians love a good conspiracy theory and most of the pre match build up in the Italian media has focused on the ‘biscotto’ or a draw of convenience between the Spanish and Croats that would send the Italians packing. A 2-2 draw in that game would be enough to secure places in the knock-out stages for both teams.
Again Pirlo will be key as the Italians look to go forward and break a structured Irish defence
To add to an already rich stew of conspiracy and intrigue, the manager of the Republic of Ireland Giovanni Trapattoni lost his job as manager of Italy in 2004 when his Italian side were dumped out at the group stage when Sweden drew with Denmark. The Irish are currently bottom of the group and are playing for pride.
Prandelli has been insisting all week that he is not taking the Irish challenge lightly and although they currently sit bottom of the group, they came to the tournament on a run of 14 games unbeaten. Victory for the Irish would send them to third place above Italy and salvage what has to date been their worst showing at an international tournament.
Trapattoni is reverting to his tried and trusted 4-4-2 with Kevin Doyle recalled to the starting line up after an experimental formation proved ineffectual against the Spanish. Italy will face a side schooled in the art of Catenaccio as the impetus is on them to go forward for goals. Prandelli is holding his cards close to his chest and we will have to wait til just before kick off to see what shape the Italians will take but the likelihood is a return to the 4-3-1-2 formation that saw the Azzurri qualify so convincingly, with De Rossi pushing into midfield and with Cassano partnering De Natale, who depending on the fitness of Mario Balotelli, will start in the two-man attack.
This is a precarious situation for the Italians and Prandelli, who played under Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus from 1979 to 1985, said when the draw was made that he did not want to face his old ‘Mister’s’ team. Italy should win if they play with the intensity they did against Spain or in the first half against Croatia, but that comes with a caveat. Ireland have not lost to Italy while under Tapattoni, if anyone can engineer their downfall it would be the whiley Milanese.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty