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As it happened: Ireland v Italy, Euro 2012

Before we packed our bags and headed for home, there was still 90 minutes of football to take care of. Here’s our minute-by-minute of Ireland v Italy.

Image : ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
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This is the end, my friend. We went minute-by-minute for the final games of Group C and, sadly, Ireland’s final game of Euro 2012. We had every kick as the Boys in Green take on Italy in Poznan as well as regular updates from Spain v Croatia in Gdansk.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on tonight’s action. E-mail niall@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Ireland 0-2 Italy // Spain 1-0 Croatia

Tonight should’ve been the big one — a chance for Trap to get one over on his fellow countrymen and Ireland to progress to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 at Italy’s expense. Instead, we’ve got nothing.

But the Boys in Green still have 90 minutes to play before they pack their bags and head for the departures lounge so we might as well make the most of it. After all, considering the way we’ve played in the last two games, it could be another 24 years before we get back to another major championship.

But enough of that negativity, there’s football to be watched. Stick with us for minute-by-minute updates of Ireland v Italy as well as updates from a Group C game that’s actually important, Spain v Croatia.

Before we get started, here’s a quick reminder of how things stand in Group C after the opening two games:

Who needs what to qualify? Well, nothing less than a win will do for Italy. If they fail to beat Ireland tonight, they are out and Spain and Croatia will go through to the quarter-finals in their place.

By now, you’re probably aware that there is a cruel twist of mathematics which could see Italy win and still go out. If Spain v Croatia finishes in a 2-2 draw or higher, that is exactly what will happen. A 1-1 draw might also be enough to see Spain and Croatia through at Italy’s expense, depending on how many goals Italy beat Ireland by.

Confused? Yup, us too.

If you’re looking for some pre-match reading before our 7.45pm kick-offs, how about Miguel Delaney’s Ireland v Italy preview?

For Italy, there are so many dimensions to tonight’s decisive match that you could understand Cesare Prandelli’s head spinning in frustration at yesterday’s fractious press conference.

Consider all this, for starters. There’s basic qualification and elimination; the potential for a repeat of 2004; Giovanni Trapattoni being on the other side of that and, of course, the old master facing his former apprentice in Prandelli.

For Ireland, though, there’s only one dimension: pride.

Read it in full here >

In the comments section, Réada Cronin says:

Fair play to FAI and UEFA for permitting our boys in green to wear black armbands tonight in remembrance of the six men murdered in Loughinisland, Co Down. Today is the 18th anniversary of their murder by UVF while watching Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in their local pub. RIP

COYBIG

With just over ten minutes to go until kick-off, here are the line-ups.

Republic of Ireland: Given, O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Doyle.

Italy: Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Marchisio, Thiago Motta, De Rossi, Di Natale, Cassano.

In the interests of balance, here’s how they’ll line out for that 2-2 draw in Gdansk.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Vida, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Vukojevic, Rakitic, Srna, Modric, Pranjic, Mandzukic.

Spain: Casillas, Alba, Ramos, Pique, Arbeloa, Alonso, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Torres, Silva.

My buddies at UEFA have been playing with Photoshop and this is how they feel the teams will line out.

Surprisingly, Cesare Prandelli chooses tonight to change away from the 3-5-2 that has served them well against Spain and Croatia and reverts back to the 4-1-3-2 that saw them through qualification.

Normally when I hear Amhrán na bhFiann and Il Canto degli Italiani played in quick succession, I expect a fairly handy Irish win, normally featuring a couple of Brian O’Driscoll tries. I reckon we’ll be in for a very different evening here.

KICK-OFF: Here we go. On the occasion of his 100th — and very possibly his last — Irish cap, Damien Duff wins the toss and we’re underway.

End-to-end stuff to start us off. Kevin Doyle almost has a chance after just nine seconds, which is nice for a change, and then it’s almost business as usual when De Rossi whistles a shot past Given’s post down the other end.

EXCELLENT: For the first time at Euro 2012, Ireland have made it beyond the first five minutes of a half without conceding a goal. We’re invincible now.

If, like me, you’re struggling a bit with your patriotism this evening, this might help. Eighteen years ago today…

Italy bombarding the Irish goal here. Cassano gets away from St Ledger and swings a cross in to the back post but O’Shea is there to turn it behind. Dunne knocks the resulting corner behind for another and, at the third attempt, McGeady manages to hoof it down the pitch.

Brilliant tackle by Kevin Doyle to dispossess Andrea Pirlo and as Ireland amble forward, the Juventus midfielder stays on the ground clutching his leg until Ireland feel bad and pass the ball out of play. Of course there’s nothing wrong with him — fooled again, dammit.

Balzaretti lines up a speculative shot from all of 30 yards but the man in Row N looking for himself on the big screen is in more danger than Shay Given’s goal.

Whelan dumps a long free-kick into the box which Dunne rises highest to win at the back post, heading it back in to the danger zone, but before play has a chance to develop he’s penalised for a push on Barzagli. It was more like a forceful back-rub if you ask me…

A snifter of a chance for Ireland as McGeady’s cross almost finds Doyle at the back post. Almost.

Something unusual is happening in Poznan as it becomes clear that Ireland are the better of the two teams at this point. There have been a few meaningful breaks but the final ball just hasn’t been there so far. Easily Ireland’s best 25 minutes of the tournament so far.

On the e-mail, Ronan Kealy is wondering about RTÉ’s commentary line-up tonight:

Where is Ger “The Human Thermometer” Canning tonight? I need to know how ‘warm’ and ‘humid’ it is in Poznan!!!

He’s probably still watching Portugal-Holland, reminding people that Nani plays for Manchester United.

Ronnie Whelan attempts to pronouce “Barzagli” but stops at “Bar”. This is a new low.

Big shout by the Italians for a penalty as Cassano’s shot comes back off St Ledger but our referee, Cuneyt Cakir of Turkey, is having none of it. Replays show that it came off St Legend’s shoulder.

A minute before that, Balzaretti picked up the first caution of the evening for sliding in on Aidan McGeady.

GOAL! Ireland 0-1 Italy (Cassano, 35′) Ireland make a series of individual mistakes within the space of a minute and it gifts Italy the lead. Glenn Whelan’s error lets Di Natale in and his shot is cleared off the line by St Ledger before Cassano’s long-ranger is fumbled Packie Bonnar-style by Shay Given who breathes a huge sigh of relief as it rolls behind from a corner.

The respite is brief, however, as Pirlo fires the corner to the front post where Cassano flicks it on between Given’s hands, off the underside of the crossbar and in before Duff can scramble it clear. A definite goal and Ireland trail. Again.

40 mins: Frustration starting to rise now, and Keith Andrews and John O’Shea have both been cautioned since the goal. Five minutes left in this half.

It might not make much difference to our tournament prospects but Cassano’s goal has shaken Group C up a bit. It’s still 0-0 in Gdansk where  as things stand Croatia must score if they want to survive.

Some of your reactions to that Cassano goal.

Liam Byrne: “Shay Given; Ireland’s European Championship Top Scorer!”

Chris McDonnell: “I’m not sure how but its aiden mcgeady fault”

HALF TIME: Ireland 0-1 Italy Small mercies — we didn’t concede a goal within five minutes. But we still find ourselves a goal down at half-time and once again, it’s individual mistakes that have cost us. We’ve been better tonight, but that wouldn’t be hard.

Back in five.

SECOND HALF: We’re back underway for the second half in Poznan. No changes for either side as yet but James McClean and Stephen Hunt are both warming up.

Italy smell blood and they’re going in for the kill — or maybe they’re just trying to make amends for not scoring in the first five minutes of the first half. Balzaretti gets to the byline and pulls the ball back to Cassano but man-mountain Richard Dunne is in the way and sticks his foot out to stop the goal-bound effort.

Kevin Doyle tries a rather ambitious acrobatic effort from the edge of the box but it’s well over Buffon’s bar. That’s a quarter-chance rather than a half-chance but still, they all count.

McGeady hangs a cross up at the back post for Robbie Keane at the back post but his attempt to direct it back across goal goes behind of Chiellini. Richard Dunne wins the header from Duff’s corner but Buffon can wave it by the post without too much concern.

At the risk of repeating myself for the third match in row, Shay Given really really doesn’t look fit out there tonight. He’s made another uncharacteristic blunder, spilling Di Natale’s front-post effort. The mess is cleared up without any further damage, thankfully.

57 minutes: Italy make the first change of the evening as Bonucci comes in for the injured Chiellini. No sign of any Irish changes yet.

For the first time tonight, Ireland draw a save from Buffon. Kevin Doyle holds the ball up and flicks it to Keith Andrews as he charges on in support but the midfielder’s effort is straight at the keeper.

That’s Ireland’s first shot on target, for the record.

A quick update on the Group C standings with a half-hour to play. It’s still 0-0 in Gdansk so as things stand, Italy would go through as group winners and Spain would go through in second. Spain are living dangerously though as a Croatian goal now would send Slaven Bilic’s men through as winners and Italy as runners-up… Spain, the reigning World and European champions would be going home with us.

65 mins: At last, an Irish substitution — Shane Long comes on to replace Aiden McGeady.

Just before that, Italy’s goalscorer Cassano headed off to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Diamanti.

Pirlo lines up a free on the edge of the Irish box, and though you get the feeling that you’ve seen this one before, he skips it over the bar.

Remember all those great pics of Crumlin’s Submarine Bar jam-packed with Irish fans? This is how it looks tonight:

(©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

De Rossi does that infuriating thing where he pretends to be injured so that Ireland will put the ball out of play. They don’t fall for it this time but the referee stops play anyway. Buffon comes out to remonstrate and receives a booking for his troubles.

MARIO WATCH: Balotelli comes on to replace Di Natale for the last 15 minutes or so.

Trapattoni sends Jon Walters on to replace Kevin Doyle. He’ll probably play on the right which is where Doyle has been since Long’s introduction.

Ireland have Buffon’s goal under pressure as Duff puts in a deep cross but Richard Dunne is rightly penalised for a foul on Buffon. Long’s header was over the bar anyway.

There is no justice in the world. Keith Andrews has easily been Ireland’s standout player in this tournament and he’s been denied a goal to go with it by Buffon. Ireland have a free in a central position about 25 yards out which Duff rolls to Andrews. His drilled effort beats the wall but Buffon gets his body behind it.

Much better from Ireland in these last ten minutes.

Eight minutes to play here in Poznan. At this stage, an Irish equaliser would send Italy out. A Croatian goal puts them through at Spain’s expense.

Balotelli wins a free-kick on the edge of the Irish box, amplifying the contact by Keith Andrews a thousand-fold as he collapses to the ground. Eventually — after Sean St Ledger is booked and then slapped in the face behind the referee’s back — the free comes back off the Irish wall.

GOAL! Croatia 0-1 Spain (Navas, 84′) JESUS SAVES SPAIN! Or something like that. Fabregas chips the ball behind the Croatian defence, Iniesta beats the offside trap and squares it to Navas who absolutely WALLOPS it into the net. Spain are going through as group winners.

KEITH ANDREWS SENT OFF! A disappointing end to the tournament for the man who has easily been Ireland’s best player. He’s shown a second yellow card and, as he storms off the pitch, shows his frustration by booting a water bottle.

GOAL! Ireland 0-2 Italy (Balotelli, 90′) And so it ends the way it all began eight days ago — with a soft goal. Balotelli gets his body in front of John O’Shea at a corner and pulls off a lovely scissor kick which beats Shay Given. Brilliantly taken by Mad Mario who looked like he wanted to send a message out to Cesare Prandelli with that, but O’Shea shouldn’t be beaten so easily.

And so the journey comes to a close as the band strikes up another chorus of “The Fields of Athenry”. Spain go through as Group C winners with Italy in second place. Ireland, with one goal scored and nine conceded, are going home.

As Billo and the lads pick through the carcass of Ireland’s campaign, word filters through Antonio Cassano has been named man of the match.

That’s it from me for this evening but we’ll have more reaction and analysis once people start to get their heads around the last eight days. It hasn’t been easy, not one little bit.

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

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