Italy v Republic of Ireland
Thursday June 23, 5:00am
Italy’s late winner against Sweden secured not only their progression through to the Last 16 but also guaranteed them top-spot in Group F as after points obtained the positions are determined on head-to-head records between the tied teams. The only other side that can reach six points are Belgium who Italy beat 2-0 in their opener. Ireland could benefit from the squad rotation that Antonio Conte will surely employ ahead of this fixture.
10 of Italy’s 11 Finals Group Stage matches this decade have had Under 2.5 Goals – the only exception was their 2-1 win over England in Brazil 2014. Italy are now unbeaten in 12 competitive fixtures since their early departure from that World Cup which has included wins in all of their last six.
Their 1-0 win over Sweden – who we have ranked one place above Ireland in our rankings – marked their 32nd consecutive unbeaten match against a team ranked 21-40 so even though we expect a second string Italian side it would be difficult to tip an Irish victory.
Ireland have won just one match at Finals this millennium and they’ve picked up only one point from their five this decade. Since 2010, they have faced higher-ranked teams 37 times in all matches and they’ve won just six times as 21 of the fixtures have had Under 2.5 Goals.
Ireland were thrashed by Belgium in the end but they managed to hold them out until the second half. That was the fourth game in their last five that has been goalless at the break.
These two sides have been regular competitors in recent years. They’ve played each other five times since 2010 including Italy’s 2-0 win in Euro 2014. The spoils have been shared in the matches as the Irish have one win also while the other three ended level.
Four points will almost certainly be enough to qualify as one of the four highest third placed sides but two won’t be, so Ireland need to win this. To have the best chance of victory you’d expect they would have to sit back and grab a goal on the counter and win narrowly. 12 of their last 16 wins against teams in the top-30 in the world have been by exactly one goal.
With so many uncertainties around the Italy XI it’s probably unwise to get too involved here but the Irish tactics look clear. Our favoured approach is to go for a goalless opening 45 minutes at 2.50. 12 of the 24 games in the first two rounds of France 2016 have been 0-0 at half-time.
BACK – HT Score 0-0 2.50