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Ireland v Italy - Euro 2012
Ireland began the third match in Group C at the Euro 2012 finals against Italy with nothing to play for, except pride, perhaps. Following comprehensive defeats by both Croatia and Spain in the first two Group C matches the Irish could not make the knockout stages of Euro 2012.
The match was notable for a number of reasons including
2) The Irish players were given permission by UEFA to were to wear black armbands to commemorate a sectarian attack in Northern Ireland on football supporters in the rural village of Loughinisland as they watched that Ireland V Italy match in 1994;
3) Damien Duff won his 100th cap. He wasonly the fifth Irish player to have reached that milestone at the time. Duff had been made captain for the match, Ireland's second of Euro 2012 in Poznan.
Trapattoni Refuses to Experiment with Irish Team
Irish football manager Giovanni Trapattoni chose to go with his usual starting line-up for the match despite the fact that there was nothing to lose, in terms of qualification for the knockout stages, by giving a run-out to some of the other Euro 2012 Irish squad members.
It is true that there was a financial incentive, of the not inconsiderable sum of €2m, if Ireland beat the Italians however many people hoped to see greater use of some fringe players in advance of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Trapattoni explained his refusal to try out other players or different tactics by saying that he owed his first team players a debt of loyalty and also that it was only fair to the other Group C teams, Croatia and Spain, for him to do his best to try to beat Italy. An admirable, if a not very pragmatic, approach from the manager that would lead Ireland through the next Irish qualification campaign.
Improved Performance from Ireland but Still Lose
Lead by captain Duff the Irish team took to the pitch with squad numbers 1 to 11. As with the earlier Group C matches there was a huge contingent of Irish support in the ground and they certainly made their presence felt. The Fields of Athenry got yet another airing or ten. The Irish got off to a better start than in the previous two matches. The players closed the Italians down high up the pitch and showed a real hunger for the ball. It also helped that, unlike the matches against Croatia and Spain, Ireland didn't concede a goal within the first five minutes of the kick-off.
Ireland played well for the first thirty minutes and were more constructive on the ball than at any other time during the the Euro 2012 tournament. As the half wore on however, the Italians became more composed and retained greater possession of the ball. In the 35th minute Cassano flashed a powerful header from a Pirlo corner off the underside of the crossbar, via Shay Given's hand, down and over the line. 1-0 to Italy and a third goal conceded by the Irish from a corner kick in the group matches.
During the second half the Italians continued to dominate possession and generally looked more threatening. Despite a couple of long range strikes from Keith Andrews Ireland's lack of creativity in front of goal would prove costly, as was the case in the earlier matches. Ireland had a mere six attempts on goal compared to 27 from the Italians. Both Italian managers rang the changes in the second half but it would be Cesare Prandelli's substitutions that would prove more effective.
Once again Trapattoni's substitutions were conservative and somewhat baffling. When it appeared that the Irish needed some greater creativity on the ball to create some clear-cut goal chances Trapattoni took off McGeady and sent on Shane Long. Jon Walters replaced the tireless Kevin Doyle, and Simon Cox came on for the visibly tiring Robbie Keane. Impact players such as James McClean and Stephen Hunt were left warming the bench.
Prandelli's decision to send on the enigmatic Manchester City striker Mario Ballotelli proved to be decisive. In the 90th minute the muscular striker held off John O'Shea to send a powerful overhead strike past the hapless Given. Yet another goal conceded from a corner kick. Just prior tp the goal Keith Andrews was sent off having received a second yellow card in the match for man-handling the peerless Pirlo into touch.
It was an improved performance from Ireland but just the same outcome as inthe other group matches. The victory by Italy, allied to a 1-0 win by Spain over Croatia, meant that the Italians progressed to the knockout stages. Ireland finished the group with no wins, no points and a minus-eight goal difference. The worst performance by any Irish team at a major championship.
Euro 2012 - Republic of Ireland V Italy Statistics
Irish & Italian Teams
Republic of Ireland Team
Date: 18 June 2012. Venue: Municipal Stadium, Poznan, Poland. Attendance 44,416. Referee: Cüneyt Çakir (TUR).
2012 Euro Group C Table After Third Round of Matches
Ireland & 1990 World Cup Finals - Irish Squad World Cup 1990