A draw may represent a fair result for the contest, but surely neither team can feel overly happy with the solitary point earned?
Assuming Spain beats Ireland in the late match Thursday, Croatia can advance to the quarter-finals with a 2-2 draw with the defending champions on Monday, and it won’t matter how many goals Italy can stuff past Shay Given in the Ireland net.
Italy, on the other hand, will be hopeful that Spain plays for the win, although with the final games in Group A happening on Saturday, it may well be that the world champions will want to merely play for whatever result guarantees them their favoured quarter-final matchup - the winners of Group C play the runners-up in Group D and vice-versa.
If Italy does become the odd man out next week, it will have no one to blame but itself. For the second time this tournament, the Azzurri have chosen to sit on a 1-0 lead, and for the second time they have failed to make it stand up.
But then it’s not like Italy hasn’t been there, done it and bought the T-shirt for that particular failing before. Four times in the past 22 years the Italians have exited a major international tournament after being unable to hold on to a 1-0 lead.
With the exception of the final of Euro 2000, when France’s Sylvain Wiltord unexpectedly levelled affairs in added time before David Trezeguet crashed home the golden goal winner in Rotterdam, the rest have all by and large been through their own misgivings. Yet somehow the Italians continue to hold firm to their tried and tested method of getting in front and then trying to hang on through to the final whistle.
Memo to manager Cesare Prandelli: It didn’t work then, and it’s not working now.
Italy now has one more chance to get it right, but if other results conspire against it, it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.Report Typo/Error