Written By : Bhavdeep Singh
Group E toppers, Italy faced off against The Republic Of Ireland at the Stade Pierre Mauroy for their final match of the group stage. While Italy had already qualified for the round of 16, a win for Ireland would seal one for them and rule out Turkey in the third place standings.
Italy boss Antonio Conte made a total of eight changes to the squad that faced Sweden a few days ago, they kicked off and were looking like the Italy we’re used to seeing, but the coin flipped real quick as the Irish got on the offensive and started pushing very well quite early on in the game.
Italy had their fair share of chances, but they were either too tough or were closed down pretty well by the Irish defenders. Much to everyone’s surprise, Ireland totally dominated the first half, there were a ton of chances that could’ve been finished had it not been for some poor finishing. They often used to choke in and around the box but you must hand it to the Italian defence for reacting to the pressure quite well. However, while the defence was fairly strong. the attacking was pretty bad, I believe Antonio Conte understood that very well, he seemed extremely angry on the side line. Perhaps the Italians got that and were starting to improve right before the break.
This betterment was then boosted in the second half as Ireland kicked it off, perhaps Conte just bashed them as soon as they sat down in the dressing room and it seemed to work, that is another reason why Manchester United vs Chelsea would be very interesting to watch.
The match then became more like a see-saw with the ball roaming around both boxes pretty quick, the half carried on like that for majority of the time, both teams got their chances but none were finished and then came on the sub that made all the difference, Wes Hoolahan was brought on for James McCarthy in the 77th minute. Exactly 8 minutes later, he put a beautiful cross onto Robbie Brady’s head and the ball was shot right into the net. The stadium went crazy, Ireland were about to make history, and this goal was perhaps a motivating factor as we saw a lot of good tackles and defending in the remaining 5-8 minutes. The ref blew the final whistle and that was that.
Ireland beat Italy 1-0 to reach the round of 16, they face France up next while Italy face off against the Spanish
Overall, the Irish dominated the game in general, they were statistically ahead and that gave them the upper hand, they need to work on their passing up front if they want to give the game against France a serious shot, other than that, the midfield battle would be interesting to watch
Cannot say much about the Italians though, they played their second team, the game didn’t matter to them as much, so there were several factors which affected their performance, all I can say is that the back 3 is going to be really tough to beat for the Spanish, it would indeed be interesting to see how the game pans out
Pictures : Twitter (@azzurri, @FAIreland)