Ciaran Bonass talks us through the match highlights Monday evening’s Group C match which finished Italy 2 Rerpublic of Ireland 0.
The final games and standings may have proved unpredictable elsewhere but not so in Group C, where both fancied teams, Spain and Italy, progressed to the quarter-finals as expected.
A relatively straightforward, if highly unremarkable, 2-0 win for Italy over Ireland saw them safely through in Poznan with both goals coming from set-pieces to again expose the glaring weaknesses the Irish have displayed in each group game.
A relatively straightforward, if highly unremarkable, 2-0 win for Italy over Ireland saw them safely through in Poznan with both goals coming from set-pieces to again expose the glaring weaknesses the Irish have displayed in each group game. They had given a better account of themselves here than in their disastrous prior outings but Antonio Cassano and substitute Mario Balotelli exposed a lack of concentration at the back from Giovanni Trapattoni’s troubled side to score at the end of either half for the Azzurri in a game they never really looked like losing. The frustrations which had snowballed throughout a tournament that went from bad to worse for Ireland were perfectly illustrated when Keith Andrews was sent off for a second bookable offence in the last minute of the match and he lashed a ball into the stands as he left the pitch before being led to the stands.
Trapattoni had returned to his tried and trusted starting eleven with Kevin Doyle coming back in at the expense of Simon Cox but Cesare Prandelli’s decision to go like for like against his counterpart and revert to the 4-4-2 formation which was so familiar in qualifying but had yet to feature in Poland highlighted their necessity for a victory, although it was Ireland who began the brighter as Italy struggled to settle into their rhythm in the opening exchanges.
Four of the seven goals Ireland conceded in the tournament to that point had been scored in the opening four minutes of each half they had played before this game, and their determination to avoid a similar fate here was clear to see as they pressurized the ball from the off and Doyle briefly looked to have been clean through on goal within the first sixty seconds before a blue sea converged around the Wolves striker. Italy had earned four corners inside the opening ten minutes but it was Ireland who had looked to have more purpose in their play in the first 30 minutes with Aiden McGeady’s direct approach giving the Italian defense some problems but once they had seen out the early pressure they were under there had always looked to be only one winner here and the lack of a clear cut opening for Ireland over the course of the game was a damning indictment of the dearth of creativity in their ranks.
A poor ball played by Glenn Whelan had led to a goal line clearance from Sean St Ledger at first and then an unconvincing fumble from Shay Given from Antonio Cassno’s shot to give Italy the corner that would see them take the lead spoke volumes of the individual errors that have dogged Ireland at Euro 2012. Andrea Pirlo’s delivery from that set play in the 35th minute was, as ever, a good one, but hardly undefendable, and Cassano met it beyond two sets of Irish players at the near post to power a header past the best efforts of Given and Damien Duff, whose attempted clearance came after the ball had crossed the line.
This was Duff’s 100th cap for his country, he deserved more from the occasion but it was clear nothing was forthcoming in the second half as Italy threatened to stretch their lead three times in the first ten minutes and were comfortable aside from speculative efforts from distance at the other end. They had to wait until injury time for Balotelli to swivel and smash a fine volley in from another poorly defended corner to confirm the victory and their quarter-final berth, but it was rarely in doubt and Prandelli’s flexible tactical approach should serve them well in the knockout stages.