Ireland play Italy at Fulham’s Craven Cottage in London amid speculation that the 26,000 stadium could be half empty come kick-off. The pre-World Cup international friendly this Saturday, May 31, 2014 (11:15 AM Pacific), comes just two weeks prior Italy’s first game against England on June 14th in the FIFA Brazil 2014 World Cup.
As the Azzurri build up to their crunch meeting with England in Brazil, they will prepare with a tie against Martin O’Neill’s men. Since taking over the Irish, O’Neill and Roy Keane haven’t exactly set the world on fire, although it is a long-term project.
The Italians are going to the World Cup in confident mood, with Buffon recently proclaiming that his side are more capable than either England or Uruguay of going on to win the competition. The reality is that none of the three sides battling it out for qualification from Group D are likely to mount a serious challenge to win it, but certainly there is very little to choose between any of them.
Ireland Team News
Ireland are not in the best shape in terms of talent pool right now. McGeady, Hoolahan and McLean represent perhaps their most competitive aspect, but in truth the Irish aren’t in as strong a position as they were in 1994, and for the next 10 years after that.
For this game, Hoolahan will start off the front as he did for the Irish in their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Turkey. Shane Long may be fit to start having been substituted after 66 minutes against the Turks, and Jonathan Walters will be pushing for a start too having scored a consolation for his side.
Italy Team News
Prandelli is likely to field his strongest side for this game as the Italians look ahead to Brazil. Balotelli has the potential to take the World Cup by storm if he is in the mood, however he could also go missing for the entirety, you just never know what you are going to get.
Pirlo and Buffon give the Italians vast experience, while Cassano and De Rossi are two players that could also have a massive impact for the Italians.
Italy vs Ireland Republic Prediction
With Ireland still trying to work out their best side and method of playing, the Italians should come through the game with a decent victory. O’Shea will struggle to cope with Balotelli if he is on form, and with Pirlo pulling the strings from midfield, Italy should win comfortably. The Italy vs Ireland Republic international friendly will end in a 3-0 win for the Azzurri.
Italy vs Ireland Republic TV Schedule
The Italy vs Ireland Republic match will be televised on beIN Sports USA at 11:15 AM Pacific.