Euro 2016: Republic of Ireland Vs Italy (1:0)

تم نشره في Wed 22 June / Jun 2016. 12:00 AM
  • Robbie Brady scores for Republic of Ireland against Italy - (BBC Sport)

Robbie Brady's dramatic late winner sank Italy and sent the Republic of Ireland into the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Martin O'Neill's side knew only a victory would secure a place in the knockout stage in France but had failed to find a way through the Azzurri's defence until Brady headed home Wes Hoolahan's cross in the 85th minute.

That sparked mass celebrations from the Republic players, bench and supporters under the closed roof at Stade Pierre Mauroy, which had largely been taken over by the Boys in Green.

Defeat made little difference to Italy, who already knew they would top Group C and made eight changes ahead of Monday's last-16 match with holders Spain.

But the Republic join them as one of the best third-placed sides - and will face the hosts on Saturday - after one of the most famous wins in their history that started a huge party in Lille.

Euro 2016 is becoming known for its last-gasp goals so it was perhaps predictable there would be some late drama as the group stage came to a conclusion.

The army of Republic fans certainly never gave up hope, although it had seemed their side had, again, run out of ideas.

After managing only one shot on target in their first two group games - Hoolahan's goal against Sweden - O'Neill understandably went for a more ambitious approach on an all-or-nothing night for his side.

But with Jon Walters unfit and veteran striker Robbie Keane only having the legs for cameo appearances these days, the only way he could bolster his attack was by calling on Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy, who is at times prolific in the Championship but has never scored in 20 games for his country.

Yet the Republic did look more dangerous, particularly in the first half when Murphy saw a header tipped over and James McClean could, and probably should, have had a penalty when Federico Bernardeschi barged to the ground inside the box.

After the break, Italy had looked far more in control until the final few minutes.

Hoolahan wasted a golden opportunity when he was gifted the ball on the edge of the box, and it looked like the Republic's last chance in France had come and gone - until Brady proved otherwise.

Monday's encounter with holders Spain in Paris was clearly very much on Italy boss Antonio Conte's mind when he selected his side for this match.

That, plus the much-maligned - and soon to be re-laid - pitch in Lille was supposed to give the Republic extra hope of their first win over the Azzurri since their memorable triumph at the 1994 World Cup.

It soon became clear, however, that this second-choice Italy side were determined to keep their side's third clean sheet of the tournament.

Until the very end of the game they largely kept the Republic at arm's length, and despite showing little inclination to attack, also threatened at the other end when Simone Zaza volleyed over just after half-time and Lorenzo Insigne hit the post late on.

Their tournament gets a lot harder from here, however, starting with that rematch from the final of Euro 2012 that ended with Spain running out 4-0 winners.