UEFA Euro 2016
Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, France
The Republic of Ireland progressed into the knock-out stages of the European Championships for the first time in their history after defeating Italy 1-0 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.
A late strike, five minutes from time by Robbie Brady helped the ‘Boys in Green’ accomplish one of the greatest escapes in European Championship history to climb out of the so-called ‘Group of Death’.
The Republic of Ireland started their campaign with a point against Sweden before a humbling 3-0 defeat to Belgium meant that their chances of qualifying into the last-16 were on the ropes.
However, the Republic of Ireland started very well and asserted immediate pressure on the 1968 Champions and went close in the ninth minute when Jeff Hendrick cut inside before he fired an effort that drifted inches wide of the far-post.
In the 20th minute, the Boys in Green went close again when Daryl Murphy met a corner with a header that forced Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu into a fine save, with the keeper having to tip the ball over the bar.
On the half-hour mark, the Republic of Ireland had a good chance when Shane Duffy met a Republic of Ireland corner but he headed off-target under-pressure.
Twelve minutes later, Italy went close to taking the lead when James McCarthy tried to intercept a pass but instead he inadvertently gave the ball to Ciro Immobile who cut inside before he curled an effort just wide of the post.
A minute later, the Republic of Ireland thought they should have had a penalty when James McClean went down under a challenge from behind for Federico Bernardeschi just as the Irish man was about to pull the trigger, but the referee was unmoved. It did look like it was stonewall.
After the break, Italy went close to taking the lead when Simone Zaza met a Mattia De Sciglio cross on the volley, but he volleyed inches over the bar.
In the 76th minute, Italy very nearly took the lead when substitute Lorenzo Insigne beat a couple of players before curling an effort that clipped the post, with the woodwork coming to the Republic of Ireland’s rescue.
Seven minutes later, the Republic of Ireland were given a fantastic opportunity when Leonardo Bonucci lost possession. Substitute Wes Hoolahan seized the loose ball and had just Sirigu to beat but his effort lacked conviction and was straight at Sirigu who gathered the ball at the second-attempt.
Seconds later, Italy looked to punish the Republic of Ireland when substitute Stephan El Shaarawy exchanged a nice give-and-go before curling an effort that Darren Randolph did well to save.
Two minutes later, the Republic of Ireland went ahead. A fine defence-splitting cross from Hoolahan was headed home by Brady past the on-rushing Sirigu.
That was the last action of the match as the Republic of Ireland held on to progress into the knock-out stages of the European Championships for the first time.
The result meant that the Republic of Ireland joined Italy and Belgium into the Round of 16. Italy already secured top-spot with six points. Belgium finished second also in six points, but are behind the Italians on head-to-head. The Republic of Ireland progress into the Round of 16 as a result of being one of the four best third-placed teams with four points, whilst Sweden bow out on one point.