Italy have already booked their place at the top of Group E after wins over both Belgium and Sweden they will look to make it a clean sweep this evening with a win over Martin O’Neill’s Republic Of Ireland. While for the boys in green they know that nothing else but a win is required if they are to have any hope of progressing to the Round of 16,.
Italy’s game against Sweden last Friday was seemingly heading for a bore draw but then Eder’s moment of magic with just two minutes to go lit up the game and gave the Italians all three points. That win coupled with Belgium’s win over Ireland 24 hours later meant that Antonio Conte’s side secured qualification to the knockout stages with a game to spare
With Italy already booked up could this play into Ireland’s hands. Will there be a drop off from the Azzurri, with Antonio Conte looking to make impression for his new Chelsea paymasters I can’t imagine him taking this one easy so if the Republic are to do it then they are going to have to do the hard way
For all their impressive attacking guile in the opener against Sweden, there was none of that on offer against Belgium last Saturday as the Republic were far outclassed on the way to a 3-0 defeat. They may have showed resolve to keep Belgium at bay for 45 minutes but they failed to create a single chance on target that afternoon with Shane Long cutting an isolated figure up front
They’ll have to find the kind of performance which took the game to Sweden early on and sustain that for 90 minutes. Not only that but they really are going to have to score goals, conceding that late third from Romelu Lukaku could be the most damaging of all in terms of hoping to be one of the 4 best 3rd place teams. Their goal difference at present isn’t sitting too pretty
A task that would always be an uphill one but with Italy yet to concede and that whole Juventus defensive unit in imperious form then they really are going to be up against it this evening. The Ireland’s fans have been partying throughout this opening fortnight or so but unfortunately for them I think the party will come to and end as Italy exact some revenge for that 1994 World Cup defeat. An Italian win for me and home time for the boys in green.