Republic of Ireland 2-2 Italy
Saturday 10 October 2009, Croke Park
Kick-Off: 20:00 BST
Italy snatched a last-minute draw in Dublin thanks to Gilardino’s cool finish, after if looked as though Sean St Ledger’s 87th-minute goal would keep the Republic in the hunt for top spot in Group Eight.
Glen Whelan had given Ireland an early lead before Mauro Camoranesi equalised after 26 minutes.
Italy can now play their final group game at home to Cyprus knowing they will be able to defend their world crown in South Africa next year, whilst Ireland face the play-offs.
Ireland v Italy Goals
Rep of Ireland 1-0 Italy – Whelan
Rep of Ireland 1-1 Italy – Camoranesi
Rep of Ireland 2-1 Italy – St. Ledger
Rep of Ireland 2-2 Italy – Gilardino
Ireland v Italy Preview
The Republic of Ireland host group leaders Italy at Croke Park on Saturday night, knowing that a win would put them within one point of their opponents with a single qualifying match remaining.
Ireland currently sit second in their group on sixteen points, with four wins and four draws from the eight matches played. Trailing the Italians by four points, the Irish enjoyed a 2-1 away victory over Cyprus in their last World Cup Qualifier fixture.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni will be without Damien Duff, Steven Reid, and Darron Gibson due to injury, which could leave Ireland with a somewhat sparse-looking midfield.
Liam Lawrence is being tipped to start ahead of Stephen Hunt, whilst Richard Dunne should start at the back for Ireland after overcoming an ankle twinge that kept him out of Wednesday’s training session.
Group leaders Italy travel to Ireland fully aware that a draw will be enough to secure qualification for South Africa.
The Italians have 20 points from their eight matches played, with six wins and two draws. A draw against Ireland would be enough to put them four points clear of their upcoming opponents with a single match remaining.
Manager Marcello Lippi is set to again field a side comprised predominantly of Juventus players, with seven Juve players having started for the Azzurri in last month’s 2-0 win over Bulgaria.
Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro will miss the match due to suspension, so Juventus team-mate Nicola Legrottaglie is expected to take up the reins of captaincy.
Fabio Grosso, Gianluigi Buffon, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Mauro Camoranesi are expected to be the other Juventus players filling the Italian side, with Claudio Marchisio doubtful for this Italy – Ireland match with a knee injury.
Daniele De Rossi is expected to start in midfield ahead of the returning Gennaro Gattuso.
The Italy vs Ireland meeting back in April ended in a 1-1 draw, with a goal apiece from Vincenzo Iaquinta and Robbie Keane. In spite of only needing a draw to secure World Cup qualification, Italian manager Lippi has made it clear that his side will be playing for the win.
Ireland, too, would need a win to give them any chance of avoiding the play-off stage necessary to secure a World Cup berth for those not finishing top of their group.
Ireland have so far won two and drawn one at home in Group 8, whilst Italy have won three and drawn one on the road in their campaign. With both teams having everything to play for, expect an entertaining and closely fought match that could easily go anyone’s way.
Republic of Ireland vs Italy Prediction: Ireland 1 – Italy 1
You can watch the Ireland v Italy game live online here.