Euro 2012 preview: Italy v Republic of Ireland

Is Giovanni Trapattoni a bad omen for the Italians or the Irish? Group C, Poznan, kick-off 7:45pm (coverage starts 7:30pm BBC3)

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As tonight’s Group C matches kick-off, the Republic of Ireland are propping up the table, having lost both their previous games, while Italy are very much in third after two draws. But while Ireland can’t change their fate, Italy have lots to play for. A win for them, and for either Spain or Croatia, would see the Italians through, but if the other game is a 2-2 draw or higher, the Italians are out – even if they do beat Ireland.

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Not that an Italy victory is guaranteed. This match constitutes a decider between the Azzurri and the men in green – they’ve each won one of their two previous meetings at major tournaments, and history could be on the side of the Irish…

ON THIS DAY…: 18 June 2012 is, to the very day, the 18th anniversary of Ray Houghton’s 1994 World Cup winner against Italy. It’s also a less auspicious anniversary – the men in green will be wearing black armbands in memory of the Loughinisland massacre in which six Catholic men were killed by gunmen while watching the game. Perhaps the Irish can end their competition on a high by marking both anniversaries with a win.

SECRET WEAPON: Giovanni Trapattoni. Eight years ago, the Italians found themselves in exactly the same position as they do tonight – and a 2-2 draw in the opposite fixture sent them home. Their coach in Euro 2004? Giovanni Trapattoni, now in charge of Ireland. Whether his presence is a bad omen for the Italians, or the team he currently manages, is at this stage unclear…

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PREDICTION: It’s the last chance for many of Ireland’s veteran players to enjoy football on the world stage, but Italy will be desperate for three points: Italy to win 2-1 and scrape through to the knock-out stages…