Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo, at 33, could well be the star of the show once more against an already-eliminated Ireland. Reuters

When and where: The Group C match kicks-off from the Stadion Miejski in Poznan, Poland, at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on ESPN3.

Preview: Ever since the last round of games in Group C confirmed that Italy would go into its final match without their fate in their own hands, all of Italy has been preoccupied with fears of a biscotto. The idea of two teams, in this case Spain and Croatia, collaborating to play out a mutually beneficial result.

A scenario that is very much a possibility on Monday given that if Spain and Croatia play out a score draw of 2-2 or more, Italy will be heading home, regardless of their won result. While all the soundings out of the Spanish camp are that they aim to play to win the game, Italy's paranoia is perhaps understandable.

It was eight years ago that Italy were knocked out of the European Championships, despite a 2-1 victory over Bulgaria, courtesy of a 2-2 draw between Sweden and Denmark that appeared to many to be highly dubious.

Only adding to the great storyline ahead of the climax to Group C is that the Italian coach back in 2004 was none other than the man who will sit in the opposition dugout in Poznan, Giovanni Trapattoni.

Although his reputation has taken a knock in recent years, Trapattoni is still highly regarded in his homeland, particularly by current Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. The former Fiorentina boss played under Trapattoni for six years at Juventus and refereed to him ahead of their meeting as a Legend.

Certainly it seems, few in Italy are taking an essential win against Ireland for granted, despite the Irish's two disappointing performances so far in Poland.

Though never expected to be major contenders at these Championships, Ireland will be bitterly disappointed that they never even gave themselves a chance of gaining some momentum. Against both Croatia and Spain, some abject defending led to the side falling behind within the first five minutes. What's more the trick was repeated in the opening to the second-half of both matches.

Their exit may already be confirmed, but Ireland will not want to go home with a whimper and will be desperate to give their fans something to cheer before the long journey home.

In terms of team news, Prandelli is widely expected to dispense with the 3-5-2 formation that served Italy so well against Spain and for the first-half against Croatia. Mario Balotelli, who is carrying a knee injury, is likely to miss out, with Antonio Di Natale getting his first start of the tournament.

Trapattoni has revealed that his side will line up with the same side that took to the field against Croatia.


G: Buffon

D: Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti

M: Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi


F: Di Natale, Cassano


G: Given

D: O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward

M: Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady

F: Keane, Doyle

Prediction: There will be much interest to see how Italy adapt if indeed they do revert to the 4-3-1-2 formation that they utilized during qualification.

Daniele De Rossi has been superb at the heart of a back three, but can perhaps be even more influential in his regular midfield role. Italy's defense should also be strong if Andrea Barzagli returns from injury to partner his Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini at the back.

The key man once again, though, is likely to be Andrea Pirlo. The veteran playmaker ran the show in the first-half against Croatia and if Ireland is to have any chance of getting a result then either Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan will have to keep close tabs on him.

But with Italy's numbers in the middle they should be able to dominate the vital midfield area. Up against a highly-suspect back line, Antonio Cassano could also be poised to get a goal that his play thus far has more than warranted.

It's hard to envisage Italy not fulfilling their end of the bargain, meaning all eyes and ears at the final whistle will be on the result between Spain and Croatia.

Italy 2-0 Ireland