Italy entered the match having already secured top spot in Group E, and it’s no surprise eight changes were made to the side that beat Sweden 1-0.While the former Juventus boss made it clear he expected a strong showing from the players brought in, that failed to materialise as Robbie Brady’s late header proved the difference.The goal means Ireland will play in the round of 16, while Italy know they will face reigning champions Spain in Paris on Monday regardless of the defeat.
Ireland pressed the issue out of the gate and were the more impressive of the two sides over the course of the opening 45 minutes.Jeff Hendrick’s shot from distance went just wide of the mark, while Salvatore Sirigu – in for Gianluigi Buffon – tipped Daryl Murphy’s header over the bar.Shane Duffy continued the trend by heading off target, while Italy’s only real chance came from Ciro Immobile in the 43rd minute.The Azzurri striker turned and fired wide from distance, but the half ended with penalty appeals from Ireland. Although there was contact between Federico Bernardeschi and James McClean, the referee waved play on.
Things didn’t really improve for Italy after the restart as Ireland continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides.After Simone Zaza fired off the bar, panic ensued in the Azzurri box as Sirigu was force to punch away Murphy’s cross. Thiago Motta’s poor clearance went right to Seamus Coleman, but his shot was blocked by an alert Angelo Ogbonna.Despite Ireland’s best attempts, they failed to really carve out clear chances. In fact, it was Italy who nearly opened the scoring when Insigne fired a great strike from outside the area that was only denied by the post.With their hopes quickly fading, Wes Hoolahan was stopped point blank by Sirigu, but it only proved a matter of time before the scoreline changed.Hoolahan’s cross found the head of Brady as he got past Leonardo Bonucci, and he fired home to send the Ireland fans into delirium and into the round of 16.- Fact sheet:0 – Italy: Sirigu; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Bernardeschi (Darmian, m.61), Sturaro, Thiago Motta, Florenzi, De Sciglio (El Shaarawy, m.82); Zaza, Immobile (Insigne, m.75)1 – Republic Of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Duffy, Keogh, Ward; McClean, McCarthy (Hoolahan, m.77); Hendrick, Murphy (McGready m.70), Brady; Long.Goal: 0-1, 85′: BradyReferee: Ovidio Hategan (Romania).Yellow cards: Sirigu, Barzagli, Insigne, Long, Ward.Pierre Mouroy (Lille): 50.000