Group Elimination C: Monday, 18 June 2012 - Poznan - Municipal Stadium
Italian media is obsessed with fears Spain and Croatia will play out a 2-2 draw in the other Group C game and knock out the Azzurri even if they beat the Irish in Poznan. Such is 73-year-old Trapattoni's standing in the game, though, that no one is questioning his loyalties. Ireland have been eliminated after two heavy Group C defeats and Monday's swansong in the final group match could be the last major tournament appearance for the likes of 31-year-old Robbie Keane who will not want to bow out with a whimper.
Trapattoni, who managed Italy at Euro 2004 when they suspected a never-proved fix when Denmark and Sweden drew 2-2 to eliminate them, will make sure his troops are motivated despite only having pride to play for.
"It would not be fair to the other countries in the group if I did not select my best team," said Trapattoni. "With this team, and these players, I am proud." Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is sure Ireland and Spain will be totally professional. "I know we have to believe right until the end. I don't believe in any suspect goings on," Prandelli said. "It all depends on us, we need to deserve the win, it won't be easy."
A victory would be enough for Italy to reach the quarter-finals in second place if Spain or Croatia win the other match. However, an Italy win and a draw in the Spain game makes the situation complicated because all three teams would then be level on five points and head-to-head results come into play. A 'mini-league' between the three would be the deciding factor, with Italy having drawn 1-1 with both.
A 0-0 draw between Spain and Croatia means Italy would go through with a win while a 1-1 draw would bring group goal difference into play. A scoring draw of 2-2 or higher between Spain and Croatia, though, and Italy are out whatever they do against the Irish. Prandelli is set to make changes with forward Mario Balotelli possibly being replaced by Antonio Di Natale and Alessandro Diamanti in the running for a spot in midfield or as a second striker after impressive form in training. Defender Andrea Barzagli is almost fit after a calf problem.
The Italy coach was annoyed that the players sat on their 1-0 halftime lead over Croatia last time out only for Mario Mandzukic to equalise. "It's not a matter of fitness, it's more a mental thing," Prandelli said. "This is the mentality we have to change. We are a good team, we've got to believe it a bit more."
Predictions: Italy 2-0 over Ireland
Ireland winger Damien Duff may wear the captain's armband to mark his 100th cap for his country while normal skipper Keane said the squad were determined to put on a show. "The mindset is we are not going home without any points," Keane told reporters.
Italian striker duo Antonio Cassano’s first-half header and Mario Balotelli’s spectacular late volley and his morbid goal celebration gave Italy a 2-0 win vs Ireland which took them into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals as Group C runners-up behind Spain. The AC Milan striker headed home from Andrea Pirlo’s 35th-minute corner before substitute Balotelli added a second at the death to finally kill off Republic of Ireland’s brave resistance.
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli’s men were on top for the majority of the first half of the game Ireland vs Italy, and a header from Antonio Cassano minutes before half-time gave the squadro azzurra lead to hold on to. Mario Balotelli then stepped up to seal the victory moments before the final whistle with a typically dramatic finish from just outside the six-yard box. Balotelli ‘s goal celebration was as spectacular as the goal itself. He turned toward the Italian bench and began to swear and moving his hands and arms before he was stopped by a teammate and a verbal warning from Italian midfielder Tiago Motta.
Mario Balotelli was dropped from Italy’s starting XI in the Euro 2012 Group C decisive game of Italy vs Ireland after two forgettable matches. To say Balotelli looked ordinary would be giving him too much credit. It put into question his nickname 'Super Mario' with that name being transferred over to Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic, who is Euro’s co-leading scorer. But with Mario Balotelli goal vs Ireland he got his nickname back but with an additional ‘ sick ‘ between Super Mario.
Apparently upset at having lost his nickname (because nicknames are that important to Balotelli, or just to keep this nickname theme going), Balotelli decided to do the most super thing of the tournament thus far. He came in off the bench and scored a peach of a goal. A stupendous goal? A super goal. and what a goal celebration followed that strike. Actually Balotelli’s reaction to his super goal vs Ireland was out of sheer anger and frustration.
Spain’s 1-0 win over Croatia in Gdansk meant the reigning Euro champions topped Group C, but Italy managed to go through the Quarter Finals of Euro 2012 in second place.
EURO 2012: Italy vs Ireland Timeline
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