Italy v Ireland – Can the Irish repeat the historic 1-0 win of 20 years ago?

Ray Houghton scores the winner for Ireland against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, can Ireland beat the Italians 20 years later too?

Ray Houghton scores the winner for Ireland against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, can Ireland beat the Italians 20 years later too?

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 v Ireland Betting Odds:

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.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

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Can Fulham record another great escape?

Roy Hodgson's arrival as manager had a big part to play in Fulham's survival

Roy Hodgson’s arrival as manager had a big part to play in Fulham’s survival in 2008

 

On April 1st, Fulham were bottom of the Premier League table, eight points behind Norwich City. This weekend they host the Canaries at Craven Cottage, and a win will bring them within two points of Neil Adams’ side.

Bearing in mind Norwich’s final four fixtures are against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, Felix Magath’s Fulham have every reason to be hopeful. And they have previous, too, twice escaping the grasp of relegation right at the death.

 

Fulham v Norwich City Betting Odds:

Fulham win – 2.06

Norwich win – 3.40

Draw – 3.20

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

 

In 2006-07, Lawrie Sanchez’s Fulham side finished just a point ahead of relegated Sheffield United, but their safety was secured with a game to spare thanks to Clint Dempsey’s winner against an under-strength Liverpool side. However another rescue mission from the West London club is one of the Premier League’s most miraculous escapes.

The famed ‘new manager bounce’ of Sanchez didn’t last too long, and when Roy Hodgson replaced the former Northern Ireland coach the club was third from bottom. That is where they stayed for much of the season, later dropping to 19th and entering the second week of April six points adrift of Birmingham City and Premier League safety, with just five games remaining.

 

 

With six games to go, they also had the added obstacle of a Bolton side struggling after replacing manager Sammy Lee with professional last resort Gary Megson, but with a reasonably inviting run-in. The Trotters sat one place above Fulham, but four points behind Birmingham. For both to survive would require something quite remarkable.

Bolton did their job, taking 10 points from four games against sides in mid-table and going into their final game merely needing to avoid a record-breaking defeat against a Chelsea side who – by the 80th minute – knew that results elsewhere had ended their own title hopes. Fulham’s task, however was much tougher.

 

 

It began in Reading, where the home side’s run of 10 points from five games in March looked to have secured their safety. The Royals weren’t completely out of danger, but an impressive home record (eight wins was more than the number recorded by sixth-place Portsmouth) was working in their favour, and another victory at the Madejski Stadium was likely to confirm their safety. Fulham, meanwhile, had last won a Premier League game in September 2006 – that’s more than 30 games without a victory on the road.

But for whatever reason, something clicked that afternoon – goals from Brian McBride and Erik Nevland gave Fulham a 2-0 win, and, more importantly, hope. It was that hope which inspired them in their next away game, when overturning a two-goal deficit against Manchester City ought to have been impossible. But three goals in the final 20 minutes, including a dramatic stoppage-time winner from substitute Diomansy Kamara, meant survival was in Fulham’s hands.

Fulham were said to be “relegated at half-time”, but by the end of the game there was hope once more. “It won’t be easy but I’m just glad for the club, the players and the supporters that we have given ourselves hope,” Hodgson said.

 

 

 

The next week they welcomed Birmingham, whose slide had been far less sudden. The January arrival of Argentinean striker Mauro Zárate had helped the club keep their heads above water, but their luck would eventually run out.

McBride and Nevland were Fulham’s heroes again, and the latter would go down as a cult hero – his only two goals that season came in the games against Reading and Birmingham, while he won the penalty against Manchester City from which Danny Murphy equalised at the second attempt.

 

 

But they still needed one more win. Not just any win either, a third successive away win, after having only recorded two in more than 50 outings. And against a Portsmouth side that still had a chance of European qualification through the league, although their forthcoming FA Cup Final appearance may have provided a distraction.

They couldn’t rely on Birmingham or Reading dropping points: the former had a home match against Blackburn Rovers, while the latter travelled to a Derby side already relegated with a record low points tally. Predictably, both went into the half-time break one goal to the good. On the south coast it was still goalless.

Then, with 14 minutes left, Fulham won a free-kick a few yards inside the Portsmouth half. Everyone went forward for Jimmy Bullard’s delivery, and with defenders watching the likes of McBride and Brede Hangeland, Murphy made an untracked run from deep to power a header past Jamie Ashdown.

 

 

 

 

There followed a tense few minutes, with Birmingham adding a second, third and fourth and Reading doing likewise. But there would be no more goals at Fratton Park, and Fulham survived to set up several years of mid-table comfort.

The Cottagers have not finished any lower than 12th in the five seasons since, but this year they need to repeat the feat of 2008. Six years on from the heroics of McBride, Nevland, Kamara and Murphy, will West London be holding the likes of Bent, Dejagah, Holtby and Sidwell in similarly high esteem? If that is to be the case, it will all have to start on Saturday.

 

Betting Instinct Tip Fulham to win 2-0 is 10.50 at GR88.com

 

If any of this weekend’s Premier League games end goalless, GR88.com will refund losing Correct Score, Half-Time/Full-Time or Scorecast bets on that match, as part of its Nil-Nil Money-Back Offer. This also applies to top-flight games in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and to the Champions League. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

 

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of  sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.