The Republic of Ireland advances to the Last 16 for the first time in the UEFA Euro 2016 with a shocking 1-0 victory against Italy in their Group E final match courtesy of a Robbie Brady header. They finished third in Group E with 4 points.
Martin O’Neill’s side knew only a victory would secure them a place in the knockout stage in France but had difficulty in finding a way through the Azzurri’s defence throughout the game. Ireland looked more dangerous, particularly in the first half, but were denied a penalty for James McClean.
All hope was seemingly lost after they looked to have missed the boat when Wes Hoolahan scuffed a golden opportunity by sending the ball straight at the goalkeeper. However, just a few seconds later, Hoolahan headed a cross towards Brady whose stunning header in the 84th minute sent them into the Euro 16 bracket. That sparked mass celebrations from the Republic of Ireland players, bench and supporters under the closed roof at Stade Pierre Mauroy, which had largely been taken over by the boys in green.
Ireland was at the bottom of the group with a single point after having been defeated 3-0 by Belgium last Saturday. Their first match against Sweden had ended in a draw. With Jon Walters unfit and veteran striker Robbie Keane playing poorly these days, the only way the Irish could bolster their attack was by calling on Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy, who at times was prolific in the championship but had never scored in 20 games for his country.
But O?Neill went for a more ambitious approach by fielding Hoolahan who had managed only a single shot on target in their first two group games which had resulted in a goal against Sweden. It ultimately did pay off
as Ireland will now ?face the hosts France in the second round in Lyon on Sunday. Italy would join them too as they already held the top spot of Group E and would be facing Spain in the round of 16 in a rematch of the 2012 title match.
Here are some interesting stats you need to know:
- The Republic of Ireland has reached the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time.
- There were 40 fouls in this match, more than any game in the UEFA ?Euro 2016 so far.
- This was only Italy’s third defeat in 24 group stage games at the European Championship.
- Robbie Brady became only the fifth player to score for the Republic of Ireland at the European Championship, joining Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Sean St Ledger and Wes Hoolahan.