UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine
Group C
Italy vs Republic of Ireland-  Match Preview



Group C
                             Euro 2012                                    Third round of fixtures

Monday 18th June-                          Croatia vs Spain                              KO 7:45pm                  BBC1/HD
                                              Italy vs Republic of Ireland                   KO 7:45pm                  BBC3/HD

Italy results so far:       Spain 1-1 Italy           Italy 1-1 Croatia

Republic of Ireland results so far:     Republic of Ireland 1-3 Croatia           Spain 4-0 Republic of Ireland



Mario Balotelli's participation in Italy's final Group C game against Republic of Ireland on Monday is in doubt after he limped of with a knee problem during a training session on Saturday.

Italy's medical staff assessed the Manchester City striker's fitness on Sunday with Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale likely to replace him if he fails to recover in time to play in the match in Poznan, Poland. Napoli forward Di Natale came on for Balotelli in the second half of Italy's opening two matches while the 34-year-old scored within three minutes of entering the fray against world champions Spain in their first Euro 2012 game. Cesare Prandelli's Italy must beat the already eliminated Republic of Ireland to stand a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has praised his opposite number Cesare Prandelli ahead of the sides' Group C encounter in Poznan. The 73-year-old, who confirmed that the Boys in Green will start with the same line-up against the Italians as in their opener against Croatia of Given, O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady, Keane and Doyle, feels that Prandelli has brought a sense of professionalism and respect to the Azzurri saying at the pre-match press conference: "Prandelli's done a very good job. He's given the squad a sense of professionalism, of respect. Italy qualified in excellent fashion. He's demonstrated he's very wise, shown by how he's dealt with the players, and I had great respect for him as a player, and now as a coach."

Trapattoni then went on to stress that Ireland won't be pushovers against his home nation, as they aim to leave Euro 2012 on a high adding: "We've had two difficult matches with early goals. Now we must go in with the same mentality and attitude as in the qualifying campaign. We play for our honour of the nation against Italy. We all have a duty to do the best we can. Obviously we don't want to go home with another defeat."

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli believes that a victory over Republic of Ireland will be enough to see his side through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 because he is supremely confident that Spain will beat Croatia in the other Group C fixture.

The Azzurri will bow out of the tournament if their two qualification rivals draw 2-2 or higher in Gdansk, a scenario which has brought back many painful memories for the Nazionale, who were eliminated in that very manner in Portugal eight years ago. However, Prandelli is ignoring all of the talk of a potential fix, arguing that their legacy is at stake.

"We must not give in to the culture of suspicion," he told reporters at a press conference on Friday. "We are thinking only of beating Ireland, which is the main thing. I believe that Spain will win against Croatia. I do not think that they want to throw away ten years of spectacular football. They will not do us any favours and we must not look for excuses, but we must continue to believe that we can qualify for the quarters."

After throwing away leads in both of their opening two fixtures at Euro 2012, against Vicente del Bosque's men and Croatia, it has been suggested that Italy should revert back to a 4-4-2 from the 3-5-2 that has been utilised. It has also been claimed that there is a fitness issue, but while Prandelli admits that the side is in need of freshening up, he insists that their problems are mental, and not tactical or physical.

"I am not thinking about changing the formation because even the guys want a three-man defence," the former Fiorentina boss explained. "I am, however, going to make three or four changes because we need a fresh team. My choices will depend not only on my own feelings, but also the medical exams. All of the players have told me that they're feeling good but [Saturday] we will have the last physical tests, which were already planned. But we just need to play football without thinking about the result. As long as we keep the ball, we are a real team, but if we start trying to defend the result, fear takes over. This is a mental question, not physical. The way forward for us has been highlighted by Juventus, by the way of proactive football."

Damien Duff will captain the side to mark his 100th international cap. The 33-year-old has been handed the armband by usual skipper Robbie Keane to mark the achievement of becoming just the fifth man to complete a century for the country. He said: "It's obviously an awfully proud moment, but I would take three points ahead of 100 caps at the minute," said the Fulham winger. "I know how much it means to myself and my family and what have you, but I am not trying to make a big deal out of it. I just want to get on with the game and hopefully do the business. It's something that I will probably look back on maybe next week, maybe next year. It's a feat, but at the minute, I just want to get a good performance and a good result."

The post mortem on Ireland's showing in Poland is already under way and there has been soul-searching within the camp since Thursday night's humbling by world and European champions Spain. Duff said: "What went wrong in this tournament? I don't know, I suppose you can just say we weren't good enough when it came to the crunch. They are two very disappointing results and we are looking to restore a bit of pride."




I think this game is going to be tighter than many expect and than the other matches that the Irish have been involved in so far in the tournament- Italy's defence is strong and it is difficult to get in behind their rearguard. Their defence has tall players who are not barged off the ball easily, they have an experienced goalkeeper and one of the world's best Gianluigi Buffon who dominates his six-yard box and is an important presence in goal for them. They do not concede many goals while the Irish don't score bucket loads themselves which doesn't bode well. Their 3-5-2 system that they had trialled in the warm-up friendlies before Euro 2012 has  worked to an extent whereby all the personnel in the team are fitting well into their positions but their results don't reflect it with two draws in contrasting circumstances. They were overran in terms of possession but put in a decent display against the Spanish while they were the better team against Croatia and couldn't hold onto the lead which is something that England cannot manage either. Balotelli can score when he wants while Cassano and Di Natale are in and out in terms of scoring form. There will be a lot of changes to the Republic of Ireland team from the Spain loss which confirmed the inevitable- they would be going home after this match. In truth, the 3-1 loss against Croatia regarded as their easiest fixture of the group was the one which sealed and ultimately decided their fate. Their defence containing predominantly average Premier League players has been breached far too easily but you can never fault their efforts. I'd like to say it is a meaningless game for the Irish but I think that is a chance to prove a point. They may be out of the tournament but they still have an opportunity to finish third in the group which is an incentive for the fringe players who are going out onto the pitch to do well to earn a more regular place while McClean will be itching to impress. Obviously, Italy still have everything to play for, have the better quality players and will prevail with three points but we will see a spirited Irish side out who perform in every game and will not roll over in this one. I reckon it will be a victory by only one or two goals at best for Cesare Prandelli's men.

Adam predicts Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Alex predicts Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland





Last meeting:-

Tuesday 7th June 2011                                               International Friendly               Italy 0-2 Republic of Ireland                 (Andrews 36, Cox 89)
Venue-  Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liege (Belgium)

An under-strength Republic of Ireland side pulled of an impressive win over Italy in the Belgian capital with goals from Keith Andrews and Simon Cox giving manager Giovanni Trapattoni a friendly victory over his native country. Blackburn midfielder Andrews drilled a shot past Parma goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano shortly before half-time in a match purely dominated by the Italians up until that point- who had predominantly chosen some of their better players including Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and former Manchester United forward Giuseppe Rossi. The Italians had their fair share of chances with Millwall goalkeeper David Forde, making his international debut for the Irish, making one or two fine saves while there were some brave defensive performances from the likes of Kevin Foley and Darren O'Dea. Inter Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini sliced wide from three yards while substitute Alberto Gillardino, of Fiorentina, grazed a post after superb work from AC Milan's Nocerino to get past Paul McShane and send a teasing cutback in his direction. The win was sealed for Trapattoni's men a minute before the end by West Bromwich Albion forward Simon Cox tapped home from a couple of yards after a superb delivery from the left hand side by Wolves winger Stephen Hunt found Cox in acres of space at the far post as he netted his second international goal. It was only Ireland's second ever victory over Italy following a memorable 1994 World Cup win under Jack Charlton in New York while they clinched an impressive fourth clean sheet a row despite making nine changes to the team who had beaten Macedonia by the same scoreline four nights earlier.




Manager-  Cesare Prandelli  



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Buffon (C), Sirigu, De Sanctis

Defenders-  Maggio, Chiellini, Ogbonna, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli,

Midfielders-  Thiago Motta, Marchisio, Giaccherini, De Rossi, Montolivo,
                   Pirlo, Diamanti, Nocerino

Forwards-  Balotelli, Cassano, Di Natale, Giovinco, Borini

Likely starting line-up:


Buffon (captain)
De Rossi
Thiago Motta





Manager-  Giovanni Trapattoni  



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Given, Westwood, Forde

Defenders-  O'Shea, Kelly, McShane, O'Dea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward

Midfielders-  Duff, McGeady, Andrews, Whelan, Green, Gibson, McClean,

Forwards-  Keane (C), Doyle, Long, Walters, Cox

Likely starting line-up:


St Ledger
Keane (captain)



Mario Balotelli (Italy) vs Richard Dunne (Republic of Ireland)

Adam's comment:
  "It will be an intriguing battle between the enigmatic, unpredictable and very entertaining Balotelli and the hardman of the Irish that is Richard Dunne. Balotelli's antics have already been brought into question and placed under the microscope in the tournament for the fact he will leave the field if he hears racist remarks or chanting, his miss when clean through against Spain, another booking and being stroppy when being substituted. However, he had a good match against Croatia but we rarely see him have two good games in a row. Despite his behaviour, he is still a top quality player who can still punish you if you underestimate him and he will fancy his chances against a wounded although experienced Irish backline with Richard Dunne probably the one that Trapattoni has instructed to keep tabs on him throughout. Dunne is a brave defender, very strong and is rarely ushered off the ball easily. Like you expect from centre-back, he will throw his body in the way of everything and will not give Mario a free ride in this game. Balotelli is due an Italy goal and after missing one or two chances against the Croatians, he should be extra determined to get one in this game especially with the added significance it may have whereby he could make himself a hero by scoring the goal that takes the team through to the quarter-final stage of the tournament. He should forget the matters off-the-field and focus on what is happening on it, he is paid to play football for club and country not to act as a media guinea pig or anything else- so that is precisely what he should be doing. Playing for your nation is a privelege and honour- there are players on the bench that are just as good if not better than him who are not getting an opportunity in the team so his best form needs to come sooner rather than later. He has the attributes to be a world-class centre-forward, he is still young and we saw Torres get a lot of joy up against Dunne, who couldn't handle the pace and movement of the Spanish players in and around him, in the previous game so lets wait and see what Balotelli can do."




Both sides come into the game on the back of a relatively poor run of form- Italy haven't won any of their last five games losing three while drawing the first two matches of the tournament against Spain and Croatia.

Italy are six games without a win at major tournaments which is the worst ever run in their history while their head coach Cesar Prandelli is still yet to lose a competitive match in charge after twelve matches so far- he is recorded eight wins and four draws. Italy have failed to beat the Republic of Ireland in any of their last three meetings with the last being in a friendly in June 2011 which Giovanni Trapattoni's men won 2-0.

The two sides met in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals with both matches drawn. In April 2009 in Dublin, Republic of Ireland twice led thanks to goals from Glenn Whelan and Sean St Ledger however were pegged back twice with goals from Camronaesi and Gilardino. They then drew 1-1 in Bari (Italy) in October with Iaquinta giving the Italians a tenth minute lead which was cancelled out with two minutes remaining by Irish captain Robbie Keane.

Italy forward Sebastian Giovinco is the shortest player in height at Euro 2012 at just 1.64 metres tall. The Italians have drawn 1-1 in both Euro 2012 games so far- taking the lead in both before conceding a second half equaliser in both.

Republic of Ireland head coach Giovanni Trapattoni takes on his native Italy- whom he managed at Euro 2004 and was knocked out of the tournament at the group stages despite not losing a game (winning one and drawing two). He resigned as boss afterwards to become the manager of Benfica.

The Italians have six players (Balotelli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Maggio, Thiago Motta and Montolivo) who are within one booking away from missing a potential quarter-final place.

Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who netted in their 1-1 draw against Slaven Bilic's Croatia last time out in Poznan, hasn't been on the losing side in any match that he has played in since 18th December 2010 during his AC Milan days. His free-kick against the Croats was the first goal scored at the European Championship finals this year direct from a free-kick.

Republic of Ireland were the first team to be knocked out of Euro 2012 following back-to-back defeats against the Spanish and Croatians which ended an unbeaten run stretching over fourteen matches before the tournament. Ireland have conceded seven goals so far.

Kevin Doyle could make his 50th cap for the Republic of Ireland while if selected, Fulham winger Damien Duff could make his 100th appearance for the country becoming only the fifth Irish player to reach a century of caps-  Shay Given, Robbie Keane, Steve Staunton and Kevin Kilbane being the other four.




Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Cuneyt Cakir is the youngest referee out of the twelve working at Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine at the age of 35 while this is first major tournament as a match official however he travelled to Colombia last summer for the Under 20 European Championship finals. The insurance company worker only began refereeing in 2001 becoming a FIFA Elite Category official in 2007 while joining the full international list a year later. He began officiating European fixtures in 2008-09 in the Europa League where he oversaw seven games during the campaign including Fulham's semi-final second leg win over Hamburg. In September 2010, Cuneyt took charge of his first Champions League match between Rubin Kazan and Barcelona in the group stages of the competition. Last season, Cuneyt took charge of 33 Turkish SuperLiga fixtures including a couple of notoriously combustible derbies- Fenerbache versus Galatassaray and Besiktas versus Fenerbache- though acquitted himself well earning rave reviews for his disciplined style of officiating. He handed out a massive 157 yellow cards and 9 red cards. In addition, he was appointed to eight European and international matches during 2011-12 dishing out a further 38 cards- 37 yellow and 1 red. His season highlights include overseeing finalists Bayern Munich's first Champions League group match against Villarreal in September before taking charge of Manchester United's 2-2 draw with Benfica at Old Trafford in November. In the Autumn, he was the referee for a tempestuous friendly between the Netherlands and Germany which the Germans won 3-0. Cakir was the man in black for Manchester City's Europa League last 32 first leg against FC Porto before handling rivals United for the second time against Atletico Madrid at the San Mames Stadium in the last 16 phase of the competition in March where they crashed out. Cuneyt's biggest match of his fairly short refereeing career was the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp back in April between holders Barcelona and Chelsea where he dismissed Blues captain John Terry for kneeing Alexis Sanchez while gave a controversial penalty to Barca which Lionel Messi hit against the crossbar. The match in Poznan will be the first time that he takes charge of a match involving either Italy or Republic of Ireland while his first match of Euro 2012 was co-hosts Ukraine's 2-1 victory over Sweden in Group D on 11th June.


Cuneyt Cakir sent off Italian forward Mario Balotelli for a high tackle during his club Manchester City's Europa League exit in 2010-11 to Russian giants Dynamo Kiev at the Etihad Stadium.


Match Officials:

Referee-  Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Assistant Referees-  Bahattin Duran (Turkey) & Tarik Ongun (Turkey)

Fourth Official-  Viktor Shvetshov (Ukraine)

Additional Assistant Referees-  Huseyin Gocek (Turkey) & Bulent Yildirim (Turkey)

Reserve Assistant Referee-  Oleksandr Voytyuk (Ukraine)



City Stadium, Poznan (Poland)
(picture taken during the warm-up ahead of a Polish Super Cup match in January 2012)


Fixture Details:

Monday 18th June 2012              KO 7:45pm (BST)            Coverage-  Live on BBC3/HD, BBC Radio 5Live & match highlights on ITV1 at 10:35pm


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