Italy and Ireland will square off in a Group C matchup at the Stadion Miejski in Poznan, Poland on Monday in each team's final group stage match at UEFA Euro 2012.
The other two teams in the group, Spain and Croatia, will face each other for their final group game at the same time on Monday.
Both matches for the Italians thus far have ended in a draw, and the winless Irish have not fared very well either.
It has become painfully obvious that Ireland were very unlucky in the group draws. Their best shot came against Croatia in a game where they proved to be inexperienced defensively. Their next game against the mighty Spanish only showed more of the same. Spain dominated every facet of the match and scored early with on a Fernando Torres goal, showing how easy goalkeeper Shay Given can be broken.
Led by the magnificent play of Andrea Pirlo, the Italians have played well considering they have gone up against two of the better teams in the tournament. Italy were fearless in their first match against the reigning world and Euro champs Spain. They kept their composure and stayed disciplined while using a new three-man defensive formation.
Italy dominated the first half of their game with Croatia, but they did not attack as well in the second period. Their discipline faded when Giorgio Chiellini was caught totally out of position, leading to the Croatian's equalizing goal.
Where: Stadion Miejski (Poznan), Poland
When: Monday, June 18, 2:45 p.m. EDT
Live Stream: ESPN3
Italy’s Road So Far
Game 1: Spain 1-1 Draw
Game 2: Croatia 1-1 Draw
Ireland’s Road So Far
Game 1: Croatia 1-3 Loss
Game 2: Spain 0-4 Loss
With two big losses already in the tournament, Ireland have no chance at advancing to the quarterfinals. The only satisfaction the Republic can get is playing spoiler to the Italians. This may be a sweet consolation prize for Ireland’s head coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who is a native of Italy.
Win Big or Go Home
In the event of a high-scoring tie in the Croatia and Spain match, Italy may not be able to advance, even if they do come out on top against Ireland. As it stands right now, Spain have scored five times, Croatia a total of four and Italy only twice. If Italy win and Spain-Croatia ends in a draw, all three teams would share the same record. So in the event of a Spanish-Croatian tie, Italy must outscore whatever Croatia puts on the board by at least three goals in order to win the tiebreaker.
Don’t Be Late
Ireland have allowed a goal in the first five minutes of all four halves they have played in this tournament. Pair this with Italy’s fast-paced attack and it seems some goals will be scored early for the Italians. Knowing they have to put up a big number in this game, Italy will look to attack early and often.
You have to feel for this Ireland squad who worked so hard just to qualify for the tournament. But they are overmatched in this game with Italy. Still, nothing’s over yet. There’s a reason they play the game, and Cinderella stories are nothing if not unpredictable.