Tue, Jun 21, 12:51pm by Roy Skillen
After opening their Euro 2016 campaign with a battling 1-1 draw with Sweden, the Republic of Ireland were picked apart in their second match by a strong Belgium side.
The Irish were meant to give their star-studded opponents a tough ride with their strong organised defence and steely attitude. But it wasn’t to be and they were quickly overpowered by striker Romelu Lukaku who bagged two well-taken goals in a 3-0 win.
Ireland now enter a do-or-die clash with Italy knowing anything other than a win will mean an early start to their summer holidays and let’s be honest if they are planning to set up in the same way, they may as well pack up and head off now.
For many experts the Italians have been the star performers at this year’s tournament. The Azzuri have already booked their place in the next round with a confident 2-0 win over Belgium and a 1-0 win over Sweden and will go in to their final group game as $2.45 favourites with William Hill.
But it seems the online bookmakers have not totally written off an Irish miracle by pricing them slightly behind the Italians at $3.00.
The more astute among you will likely see the reasoning behind this. The Irish have it all to play for while the Italians’ job is done. The problem is that Martin O’Neill’s men have showed little if any attacking intent all tournament. That will have to change in this one and the search for goals could mean that they are left exposed at the back.
People that are expecting the Italians to take it easy don’t know their football history very well. The Italians are ruthless and even if a few stars are rested the boys coming in will sense a possible kill and a chance to cement their place in the starting lineup.
There is no doubt that it’s going to be a tight tense affair for the Irish as they try to break down the strong Italian defence.
Goals will be at a premium and you can capitalise on that with William Hill and Centrebet offering odds of $2.50 for this match to be goalless at half time.
For me the match will finish 1-0, but for which team? I am really not sure. If Ireland can get ahead I can’t see the Italians chasing it too hard to get back into it.
But Italy haven’t really looked like conceding so far and Robbie Keane may well be past his best and unable to break that trend meaning Italy could well nick one as O’Neill throws men forward to get the win.
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