We are less than three weeks away from the 20th anniversary of the stunning Ray Houghton strike at the 1994 World Cup that saw Ireland secure their first ever win over the Italians as they managed to qualify for the last 16 stage of the tournament. Italy later went on to lose the final to Brazil as Italian hero Roberto Baggio blazed over during the shootout, but with them coming into tonight’s match looking for their first win since last September Italy will be desperate to return to winning ways before jetting out to Brazil for the World Cup.
Italy to win – 1.67
Draw – 3.20
Ireland to win – 5.10
(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Italy had a reasonably comfortable time to qualify for the World Cup this summer as they topped Group B of the UEFA qualification section with 22 points from six wins and four draws from their ten matches as they finished six points ahead of Denmark. However, two of those draws came in their final two matches as they limped over the line and their poor form has seen them fail to win since that time. They are without a win in any match since September 2013 and following those two competitive draws the Italians drew 1-1 with Germany and 2-2 with Nigeria to close out their matches for 2013. They had to come from a goal down in each of those matches to secure a point, but they were unable to do this against world champions Spain in Madrid as the game ended 1-0 with a thoroughly dominant performance from the hosts.
Italy will want to boost their confidence in tonight’s match, which is being held at the neutral venue of Fulham’s Craven Cottage in West London, by ending their eight month winless streak before they face Luxembourg in Verona next week and then begin their World Cup campaign against England on June 14th. They should have a good chance against the Irish this evening to end this streak as well.
Ireland are under new management of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane following a disappointing end to their World Cup qualification campaign under Giovanni Trapattoni and things have not been easy for them so far. They have won just one of four matches since the appointment, when they defeated Latvia 3-0 in Dublin, before drawing 0-0 with Poland at the end of November 2013 and both matches this year have seen them defeated. They played Serbia in March and Turkey a week ago, and they lost 2-1 in both matches and are still adjusting to life under their new coaches but they do tend to life their game against Italy so this should be an interesting match.
Ireland have drawn two and won one of their last four meetings with Italy since 2009 and they will be hopeful of ending their 100% losing record in 2014 this evening in London, but with Italy having just two days to trim their provisional squad for the World Cup from 30 to 23 players there will be many players fighting for a place on the plane to Brazil this evening so, in my eyes, they will be the side that wants it more. Ireland are sure to be up for the match though and I can see this being a close game that will see both sides find the net in search of ending their winless runs.
Back both teams to score in this evening’s Italy v Ireland World Cup warm up game at Craven Cottage @ 2.06 with GR88.com.