Ireland need first win over Italy in 22 years to advance

To stay in the European Championship, Ireland must do something it hasn’t done in more than two decades beat Italy in a competitive match. (RESULTS | STANDINGS). Any other result in Wednesday’s final Group E game at Stade Pierre Mauroy will send the Irish home. And even a win doesn’t guarantee advancement following a 1-1 draw with Sweden and a 3-0 loss to Belgium. No such worries for Italy, though, as coach Antonio Conte led his team to two straight wins to secure first place in the group. Belgium could also finish with six points by defeating Sweden, but UEFA rules would still rank Italy higher based on its 2-0 win over the Belgians last week. Apart from the top two teams in each group, the four best third-place teams will also advance. In the last 16, Italy will face the runner-up from Group D, likely Croatia or the Czech Republic, in Saint-Denis next Monday. Participating in a European Championship for the third time after 1988 and 2012, Ireland has yet to make it past the group stage. Four years ago, Ireland also faced Italy in its final group match but, with zero points from two games, it had already been left without a chance of advancing. Italy won 2-0 and went on to reach the Euro 2012 final. There is a lot more at stake for Ireland when they face the Azzuri again on Wednesday. “We’ve got to win this game now against Italy,” Ireland coach Martin O’Neill said after the loss to Belgium. “We feel that if we freshen ourselves up again that we are ready to go.” Ireland’s last win over Italy in a major competition came at the 1994 World Cup, when an early Ray Houghton goal gave them a 1-0 victory.

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