We give you a betting preview of the Group C fixture between a team with all to play for and a team who already have their flights home booked, Italy v Republic of Ireland.
A miserable Irish campaign that was over almost before it had even started comes to an end against Italy this Monday evening. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side have been out fought and out thought and, with the benefit of hindsight, looked doomed since conceding within three minutes of their opening match against Croatia.
The Irish post mortem needs to be both complex and thorough if they are to rid themselves of the ‘plucky losers’ tag going forwards. For many of this squad this could be their final outing in the green jersey, while others, such as James McClean, could be given some invaluable major championship experience.
Whilst this is a dead rubber match in every sense of the meaning for Ireland, Italy still have everything to play for. After 1-1 draws in their opening two matches the Italians need to win, and may need to win well depending on the result in Group C’s other game.
If Italy are to beat Ireland, and Spain and Croatia play out a draw in Gdansk, then all three sides will be tied on five points. The first tie-breaking criteria says that results between the teams will be used to separate them, but as all three games were drawn this is not applicable, nor is criteria two which states that goal difference in the matches played between the teams will be applied.
We then come down to higher number of goals scored in matches played between the three teams, so a score draw of 2-2 or bigger would mean Spain and Croatia go through. But if the Spain-Croatia game were to finish 1-1 then we’d be looking at goal difference across all Group C matches. Spain’s 4-0 win over Ireland stands them in good stead while Croatia’s 3-1 victory over the Irish means that Italy would need to win by 3-0 or better.
The pain and humiliation may not be over for Ireland just yet, despite their prompt exit from the tournament.
Based on what we have seen so far in these championships Italy are justifiably heavy favourites at odds of 2/7, and there could even be an argument to say they should be shorter. But given Italy’s need for a big win, the Italy -1 in the handicap market looks a better bet at odds of 8/11.
Irish fans looking at the bare statistics will take heart from the fact that their team are unbeaten in three meetings between the teams and even won the most recent meeting. But it should be noted that the 2-0 friendly victory in June 2011 came against an experimental Italian side and Italy played for 86 minutes with 10 men in the first of the two draws in qualification for World Cup 2010.
Mario Balotelli looked his typical uninterested-but-often-sublime self in the opening two games and could cause more damage against a now-fragile Irish defence. He is an Even money chance to score past former teammate Shay Given.
Perhaps, however, there is scope to have a couple of quid on both Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci to score each at 7/1. The Irish have looked uncharacteristically poor in defending set pieces making the Italian defenders a particular threat.