Little but pride at stake for Ireland
Italy v Republic of Ireland(7.45pm Irish time): As the sun sets on the Republic of Ireland's wretched Euro 2012 campaign, weary Irish fans have been gifted the best day of their stay so far as they gear up for one last hurrah.
In Poznan's Stadion Miesjki , where Ireland take on Italy in their final Group C game this evening, there looks sure to be a less prominent Irish presence than there was against Croatia eight days ago, with tickets being openly flogged around the city's old town this afternoon.
Those who turn up will no doubt carry on where they left off at the end of the demoralising 4-0 defeat to Spain in Gdansk, but whether they will have legitimate reason to do so remains to be seen.
Ireland have looked beaten off the pitch as well as on it since Spain broke records in crushing Giovanni Trapattoni's team. Ireland, who have been left with little to play for other than pride, face an Italian side for whom the possibility of progressing to the knockout stages is sure to be a powerful motivator .
Cesare Prandelli's side need to win by two goals and hope the other game between Spain and Croatia does not end 2-2 or in a higher score draw. A three-nil win for the Italians would consign Ireland to history as the poorest team in the competition's history, so one assumes there will be plenty of motivation to avoid that sort of ignominy.
</p> </center> <p/> <p/> <p>The problem, however, is that Ireland haven't looked anything like as solid as they can and offer little or nothing in attack because they are usually over-run in midfield. That looks sure to happen again tonight after Trapattoni reverted to the 4-4-2 starting line-up he named for the Croatia game by dropping Simon Cox and reinstating Kevin Doyle up front with Robbie Keane.</p> <p>The latter will not play his usual role of captain tonight, having offered the armband to Damien Duff, the man he made his debut with 14 years ago and who now stands on the verge of his 100th cap.</p> <p>It could also be his last. Duff said yesterday he had decided his immediate international future, but the pre-match press conference was neither the time nor the place to reveal the conclusion he has come to.</p> <p>He may not be the only one exiting the stage, with Shay Given hinting after the Spain game he was almost ready to give somebody else a go, while Keane and Richard Dunne are also considering their options.</p> <p>Those, if any, who decide to go would much rather that was done on a winning note, as would the manager, for whom a victory would ensure third place in the group and perhaps soften the stance of some his critics, who are getting more vocal by the day. <br/></p> <p>That result seems a stretch, though, after what we have seen of both teams so far. Just avoiding the record books for all the wrong reasons might have to suffice for Ireland at this stage.</p> <p> <strong>Republic of Ireland</strong>(v Italy): Given; O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward; Whelan, Andrews, McGeady, Duff; Doyle, Keane</p>