Saturday, 10 October 2009

[WC Qual] Late draw seals ticket for Italy

Republic of Ireland 2-2 ItalyAlberto Gilardino scored a last-minute goal in reply to Sean St Ledger's own late effort as Italy confirmed their place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a 2-2 draw against the Republic of Ireland, who can now begin planning for the play-offs.

A win would have kept alive Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish hopes of topping Group 8 and the hosts flew out of the blocks in Dublin, going ahead after only eight minutes through a superb Glenn Whelan strike.

The world champions responded positively, though, and Mauro Camoranesi's 26th-minute header earned them a deserved equaliser. That looked to be the end of the scoring until St Ledger and Gilardino swapped dramatic late goals.

The Irish began at an impressive tempo, harrying Italy in possession and looking menacing in attack. Their positive start soon brought its reward as Liam Lawrence cut back a free-kick to Whelan on the edge of the area and the midfielder bent a fine effort into the top corner.

Aiden McGeady then sent a shot just wide of Gianluigi Buffon's left-hand post as the hosts kept up the pressure. However, Italy promptly worked their way into the game and Camoranesi drew them level shortly before the half-hour, powering in a header from Andrea Pirlo's corner.

The Azzurri were enjoying the majority of possession and Giorgio Chiellini went close from another Pirlo corner ahead of the break, after which both sides struggled to carve out any clear opportunities.

Vincenzo Iaquinta had a goal ruled out for offside and former Inter striker Robbie Keane went close at the other end, but there was no indication of the drama to come in the game's final minutes.

St Ledger dived to head in Stephen Hunt's free-kick with three minutes remaining, yet with the home crowd still celebrating, Iaquinta played in substitute Gilardino and the Fiorentina forward levelled matters once again.

The result ensures Marcello Lippi's side have an unassailable four-point lead over Ireland going into Wednesday's final qualifier against Cyprus in Parma and the Azzurri can start planning for the defence of their world title.

Trapattoni, meanwhile, will have to prepare his side for a play-off encounter next month with the aim to join his native country in South Africa next summer.

The seeded draw for the play-offs will be made on 19 October, with the two-legged ties to be contested on 14 and 18 November. The draw for the final tournament will be made on 4 December.

Group 8 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Cyprus 4-1 Bulgaria
Montenegro 2-1 Georgia
Republic of Ireland 2-2 Italy

Group 8 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 09 - PTS: 21
[2] IRE - PLD: 09 - PTS: 17
[3] BUL - PLD: 09 - PTS: 11
[4] CYP - PLD: 09 - PTS: 09
[5] MON - PLD: 09 - PTS: 08
[6] GEO - PLD: 09 - PTS: 03

Remaining Group 8 Fixtures:
Wednesday 14 October
Bulgaria v Georgia
Italy v Cyprus
Republic of Ireland v Montenegro

Group 1 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Denmark 1-0 Sweden
Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Group 2 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Greece 5-2 Latvia
Israel 3-0 Moldova
Luxembourg 0-3 Switzerland

Group 3 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Czech Republic 2-0 Poland
Slovakia 0-2 Slovenia

Group 4 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Finland 2-1 Wales
Liechtenstein 0-2 Azerbaijan
Russia 0-1 Germany

Group 5 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Armenia 1-2 Spain
Belgium 2-0 Turkey
Estonia 0-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

Group 6 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Belarus 4-0 Kazakhstan
Ukraine 1-0 England

Group 7 Results:
Saturday 10 October
Austria 2-1 Lithuania
France 5-0 Faroe Islands
Serbia 5-0 Romania

World Cup qualifiers so far:
Saturday 15 May 2004
South Africa (Africa 2010 Hosts).
Saturday 6 June 2009
Japan (Asia Round 4 Group 1), Australia (Asia Round 4 Group 1), South Korea (Asia Round 4 Group 2), Netherlands (Europe Group 9).
Wednesday 17 June 2009
North Korea (Asia Round 4 Group 2).
Saturday 5 September 2009
Brazil (South America).
Sunday 6 September 2009
Ghana (Africa Group D).
Wednesday 9 September 2009
Spain (Europe Group 5), England (Europe Group 6), Paraguay (South America).
Saturday 10 October 2009
Ivory Coast (Africa Group E), Germany (Europe Group 4), Denmark (Europe Group 1), Serbia (Europe Group 7), Italy (Europe Group 8), Chile (South America), Mexico (Concacaf), USA (Concacaf).

Source: UEFA

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