Italy v Ireland
Confirmed group winners Italy will take on the Republic of Ireland in their final group match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. The two sides met at the same stage in 2012 with Italy winning 2-0.
Italy sealed their passage into the Round of 16 with a late 1-0 win over Sweden, putting them on maximum points. They were confirmed as group winners the following day after Belgium beat the Republic 3-0.
Antonio Conte’s men looked to be heading for a goalless draw with Sweden, before Eder popped up with a brilliant solo goal in the 88th minute to seal the 3 points. The Azzurri’s win was the first time they have won the second match at a major tournament in 16 years.
Conte praised his side’s achievement after the match. “Above all there should be great satisfaction on the part of everybody because not many people envisaged us qualifying for the last 16 after just two games. Many were even doubting us going through and the fact we’re into the last 16 after two games is really pleasing,” he said.
With the pressure off, Conte may use the match as an opportunity to give some of the squad’s fringe players a run out.
Ireland suffered a 3-0 defeat to Belgium in their second match. The Boys in Green were left powerless to the masterclass from Romelu Lukaku and co. The loss means Ireland, currently on 1 point, need to beat Italy to qualify for the next round.
Head coach Martin O’Neill kept a cool head in the wake of the defeat: “I think the natural thing has been that we’re a bit disappointed with our performance considering how well we played a few days ago against Sweden. Don’t take anything away from Belgium, they’re a very fine side, but we’ve got to win this game now against Italy. We feel as though if we freshen ourselves up again, that we’re ready to go.”
James McCarthy and Ciaran Clark could both be dropped, as they’ve each had a significant hand in the four goals Ireland have conceded in France this summer.
Other big question marks hang over the heads of offensive players Jon Walters and Wes Hoolahan, who are both carrying injury problems.
Ireland predicted line-up
Italy predicted line-up
101 Great Goals prediction: Italy 1 – Ireland 0